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Close, D'Oliveira and Packer - the three men at the heart of a cricket revolution

SPORTS BOOK OF THE WEEK

Cricket at the Crossroads: Class, Colour and Controversy from 1967 to 1977

Published by Elliott and Thompson

What’s it about?

The Swinging Sixties may have been notable for free love and psychedelic drugs and a new hedonistic pop culture but for the majority the Britain of 1967 was still essentially conventional and conservative, especially among its professional middle classes.

This was particularly true of cricket, which clung to the established demarcation lines of the class system as stubbornly as any area of society.  Until 1962, the annual match between Gentlemen and Players -- identifiable on scorecards by the position of their initials, before or after the surname – was still contested.  The fixture was a throwback to the kind of distinctions that set apart officers and the other ranks and domestic staff (downstairs) from their masters (upstairs) and the establishment cliques that ran cricket were not minded to challenge the traditional sociological order.

But outside the game the divisions were narrowing.  The line between working class and middle class was starting to blur and the economic dominance of the south was under threat.  There was a shift in cricket, too.  Where Surrey, led by the Charterhouse-educated England captain and amateur, Peter May, had dominated the County Championship in the 1950s, the 1960s was the era of Yorkshire, whose captain for much of the decade was the hard-nosed professional, Brian Close, whose roots were unashamedly working class.

Indeed, between 1967 and 1977, the decade that is the focus of Cricket at the Crossroads, the game experienced seismic change, propelled into a new era by three major crises.  Close, in fact, was the central figure in one of them, when his removal as England captain in 1967, despite a record of six wins and a draw from seven Tests, seemed to indicate that class prejudice was very much alive and well.  Less than two years later came the D’Oliveira affair, a significant moment in the breaking down of political apartheid in South Africa but one which again at times put the cricket establishment in an uncomfortable spotlight.  Finally came the emergence of Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket, moving the balance of power in the game for good.

Cricket at the Crossroads examines the personalities and attitudes that influenced this tumultuous era in cricket, using material drawn from original research and interviews to paint a vivid picture of the game in the 1960s and 70s, not only revealing what was going on behind the scenes as players sought to break the grip of the administrators, but setting it within a socio-economic context in a way not previously attempted.  It is a lively and entertaining read, for good measure.

Who is the author?


Guy Fraser-Sampson, who teaches at the Cass Business School in the City of London, has written a number of best-selling titles about finance and investment and his expertise is regularly sought in television and radio discussion programmes.  He has nurtured a love of cricket since he was a schoolboy, however, and his fascination with the influence of class and racial prejudices on the game in the 1960s and 70s led him to attempt to marry sporting and social history in his first cricket book.  A versatile writer, he has also won praise for Major Benjy, a novel written as a continuation of the Mapp and Lucia series penned by E. F.  Benson, and written with the blessing of Benson’s literary estate.

Buy Cricket at the Crossroads direct from Amazon

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