I am grateful to Richard Hobson, the new chairman of CWC's own Cricket Book Award sub-committee, Richard Whitehead, Lawrence Booth, Alan Gardner, Will Macpherson, Dan Norcross and Graham Morris for joining me as 'event hosts' at the function, which was entertainingly MC'd by our own Vic Marks in his capacity as head judge of the Cricket Society/MCC award panel.
Emma John, another CWC member, gave an excellent, well-received and witty address to a packed Long Room in her role as keynote speaker.
CWC's Mike Selvey was a member of Marks' judging panel, and former CWC chairman Patrick Eagar spoke briefly to the room about being the subject of Christian Ryan's book 'Feeling is the Thing that Happens in 1000th of a Second', which was on a shortlist of six alongside Pearson's winner and 'A Clear Blue Sky' (Jonny Bairstow and Duncan Hamilton), 'In Sunshine and Shadow' (Stephen Chalke), 'Edging Towards Darkness' (John Lazenby) and 'Democracy's XI: The Great Indian Cricket Story' (Rajdeep Sardesai).
Mark Baldwin, CWC Chairman 18th April, 2018
PARKY GIVES OUT THE GONGS AT LORD'S EVENT
Sir Michael Parkinson, President of the Lord's Taverners and a long-standing member of the Cricket Writers' Club, was at Lord's on March 12 to hand out the ECB's Domestic Cricket Journalism Awards for 2017.
The awards ceremony took place in the Pelham's Restaurant, at the top of the Warner Stand, and was linked to a special reception – hosted by the Taverners – for Essex County Cricket Club, winners of the 2017 Specsavers County Championship, and the Lancashire Women's team, winners of the 2017 Royal London Women's One-Day Cup.
The Cricket Writers' Club, which actively supports both the ECB's Domestic Cricket Journalism Awards and the ongoing work of the Lord's Taverners, was represented by Mark Baldwin, chairman of CWC, and Peter Baxter, who was part of the judging panel for the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Domestic Cricket Broadcaster of the Year Award.
For the past two years, CWC has made £2,500 available from Club subscriptions to go towards the prize fund for the Regional Newspaper of the Year award category, in a bid to highlight the help needed to maintain standards of domestic cricket coverage in hard-pressed regional titles.
Pictured in the slideshow above are the winners (or their representatives) receiving their awards from Sir Michael, who spoke beforehand in a Q&A with Chris Cowdrey about his lifelong love of cricket and the importance of cricket writing and other media coverage to the overall health of the game.
Colin Graves, the ECB Chairman who was present at the event, said: "County cricket has been honoured to have our champions invited to Buckingham Palace to receive their medals from the Duke of Edinburgh, the patron of the Lord's Taverners, since 1973.
"That era had to end when it was announced last May that His Royal Highness would not be carrying out public engagements from the autumn – fittingly, on a day when he was here at Lord's.
"So congratulations and thanks are due to the Lord's Taverners and everyone else involved in finding an equally fitting way to recognise the 2017 champions. Sir Michael Parkinson's deep love of cricket is well-known, and I know the players of both Essex and Lancashire appreciated his presence at the event. Sir Michael was also an ideal man to present the ECB Domestic Cricket Journalism Awards.
"County cricket journalism has suffered two sad losses in recent days, with the deaths of the former BBC Kent reporter Neil Bell, and the Yorkshire cricket correspondent Dave Callaghan. The amount of tributes to both these men has underlined again the superb coverage that county cricket receives from the BBC, and the genuine affection for the journalists and commentators who provide it.
"We at the ECB are consistently grateful for that, and we send our condolences to their families and friends. They will be missed and remembered in the forthcoming season."
CWC SPRING BULLETIN 2018
Chairman's Message Mark Baldwin writes:
Like the old British Empire, the sun never sets on The Cricket Writers' Club and many of our members have spent this winter criss-crossing the globe. I hope they have enough energy left when the fast-approaching domestic season starts up again in April.
CWC's administration also continues apace during the winter months and there is still more business to be done before our 2018 AGM on Wednesday April 25 at Trent Bridge. This also doubles as the club's early-season social, following the excellent lead of last year's Edgbaston gathering, and I hope to see as many members as possible – and especially those based in the Midlands and the North – in the Boundary's Edge suite on April 25, from 12.30pm. The AGM will begin around 2.00pm.
Items on the agenda include a redrawn club Constitution, which needs to be ratified by members (it will be circulated to every club member ahead of the AGM), and full details of this year's Annual Lunch, which is to be held again at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge following the signing of a new two-year deal with the venue. This year's Lunch will take place on Tuesday October 2, so please get that in your diaries along with the AGM date.
A full Committee meeting is scheduled for early March, at which a number of important decisions are due to be made, and there are also various sub-Committee meetings next month. I am hoping that further detail about the future structure and financial health of the club can be reported to the AGM.
In the meantime, I am grateful once again to Gemma Wright, our Handbook Editor, for all her hard work in ensuring the 2018 edition is getting itself ready for printing in late March and circulation to all members in early April.
Many thanks, too, to the continued efforts of the secretarial team of Alan Gardner, Will Macpherson, Bruce Talbot, Vithushan Ehantharajah and Julian Guyer, to Marcus Hook, our Treasurer, and to the members of the various sub-Committees whose work is vital to the continued efficiency of the club's week-to-week administration.
Lead Secretary's message Alan Gardner writes:
With the days getting longer, Siberian winds whipping across the land and a ruckus brewing about balancing the game's three formats, it can surely only mean one thing: a new season is almost upon us. Well done for making it through the winter months, whether that was dealing with cold, miserable conditions in the UK, or hot, miserable conditions following England down under (ODIs aside).
The main job of the secretarial team over the winter involved redrafting the constitution – largely streamlining and updating various sections, as well as fully incorporating all the awards organised by the Club – in order for it to be voted on at this year's AGM. A fair bit has changed in both the game and the way the CWC is run since the constitution was last looked at in 2012, so hopefully, once it has been put to the Committee, our changes will meet the approval of the Membership. This is also a good opportunity to send a reminder about how to propose new Members, which should be done in time for the Committee to access candidates ahead of the AGM. Details of the process can be found at the following web address, but please feel free to contact me directly with any questions: http://www.cricketwriters.com/how-to-join.html
It has been an enjoyable ten months in the job as Lead Secretary and the new system seems to be working well. My thanks, as always, to the chairman and my fellow secretariat members for sharing the load. I look forward to handing over to the safe hands of Vithushan in due course and seeing the addition of a suitably substantial name to the CWC honours board.
From the President David Warner writes:
For those Cricket Writers' Club members who are with England in New Zealand the 2018 domestic season will still seem to be in the far distant future, but for those of us who have endured a long English winter it will feel to be just around the corner.
If you are likely to be covering cricket at the newly-named Emerald Headingley in the Spring, then be prepared to look out on to a much changing scene.
No sooner was last season over than a massive redevelopment programme got underway affecting both the cricket and rugby grounds. The South stand of the rugby ground was quickly demolished with the new structure rapidly taking shape and at around the same time the shared North-South grandstand was bulldozed.
Because it was sandwiched in between two very expensive playing surfaces and with extremely cramped conditions in which to work, the stand took around eight weeks to flatten instead of what would have been three weeks or so in more normal circumstances.
Fortunately, reasonable weather has meant the redevelopment work is on schedule and the foundations for the North-South stand are now in and the steel work was able to begin on February 19. Huge amounts of concrete have been pumped into the foundations and one section alone was filled with 250 tonnes.
The floors are expected to start going down at the beginning of March and the stand will then start to work its way up and towards the building which once housed the old pavilion, the two structures eventually connecting.
It will take 20-plus weeks to get the stand assembled, so hacks covering Yorkshire and England from the Press Box in the Carnegie Pavilion will have plenty of other action to watch as well as from the cricket. The aim is to have all the work completed in time for the 2019 season when the ground will stage an Ashes Test and World Cup matches.
It is a rapidly changing game and I wish you all well in covering it throughout the 2018 season. Finally, try to make it if you possible can to the CWC Annual General Meeting at Trent Bridge on April 25. Attendances were up last year when it was held at Edgbaston and let's hope we can go on building up numbers this time.
Treasurer's report Marcus Hook writes:
Thanks again to all the members who paid for their ticket(s) for the CWC annual lunch well in advance. It helped the Club's cash-flow immensely, as the venue insists on payment in full prior to the event. Ticket prices for this year's lunch will be announced in due course.
Books Richard Hobson writes:
Having repIaced Stephen Brenkley as chairman late last year, my first job was to put together a group for the 2018 award. Murray Hedgcock and Tanya Aldred have agreed to continue - which I really appreciate - alongside newcomers Richard Whitehead and Raf Nicholson. There's a good mix of youth, experience, writers, historians and academics, plus myself. Trevor Bond and Andrew McGlashan have stepped down this year. Brenks was keen to have a regular flow of panellists and if anyone wants to come on board in future, let me know.
At the moment, the panel operates more by convention than constitution. The ‘year' runs from July 1 to June 30 and contenders must be a piece of original cricket writing. Annuals (e.g. Wisden) and anthologies (e.g. Wisden at the Oval) have not been considered eligible, but I can see a case for admitting both and will have a bigger think about this before we start to consider 2019.
Brenks deserves a special mention. He established the award in the first place, then chaired the panel for its first 11 years. Last year alone, he read 38 cricket books in the line of duty (as well as pleasure). Anyone listening to his speeches at the dinner/lunch would have recognised his diligence.
Lunch sub-committee report Mark Baldwin writes:
The Lunch sub-Committee is due to meet on March 19 and, with subsequent approval from full Committee, is planning to outline all details for this year's Annual Lunch at the AGM on April 25. Ticket prices, menu choices etc. will hopefully be ratified by AGM attendees, as is necessary, and this detail will be circulated to all club members immediately afterwards.
If, however, you want to go ahead and reserve your place at this year's Lunch, which takes place on Tuesday October 2 at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel, Knightsbridge, then please contact Shilpa Patel in the first instance. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lord's Taverners Impact Report 2017 Mike Hartwell writes:
The Lord's Taverners are creating more opportunities than ever before for young people from deprived areas and those with disabilities to engage in cricket and sport in their local communities.
Last year, the charity invested £4.4m in new equipment, facilities, resources and the significant expansion of all its cricket programmes across the UK. More than 300 schools play Table Cricket across 30 county boards, its Disability Cricket programme is now being delivered in London, Birmingham and Manchester with a further three locations set to be active by the end of 2018, while Wicketz is now delivered in 13 locations across the UK with more to come.
In 1981 a young British Airways stewardess, on a stopover in Dhaka, looked around at the squalor and the street kids and decided she wanted to do something. The upshot, with the support of the airline and many colleagues, was the Sreepur Village, opened in 1989. It is home to hundreds of destitute mothers and their children, and orphans as well, and has brought hope and chances - and sometimes university degrees - to generations of kids who would have otherwise had nothing.
Cricket has played a big part in Sreepur's life, particularly for the girls; one former villager is now close to selection for the Bangladesh women's team. England's cricketers first visited Sreepur in 1998; five years later a boy in a T-shirt and shorts peppered Andrew Flintoff with tennis-ball bouncers; in 2016 the girls' team met the players in Dhaka.
Sreepur's fund-raising speciality has long been its Christmas cards, hand-made by the mothers, and sold in the UK. In 2010 The Guardian's money pages alerted the public to the fact that most charity cards only gave 10% of the proceeds back to the charity whereas the Sreepur cards offered 100%.
However, Sreepur now faces unprecedented difficulties: BA no longer flies to Dhaka and so that connection is fading; the price of rice has rocketed; and, of course, the pound no longer goes as far as it did, even in Bangladesh. The funding the girls' team has had for professional coaching is now in jeopardy.
Alternatively you can donate via https://www.sreepurvillage.org/This site also gives details of The Big Give, which runs for a week from midday GMT next Tuesday. In that period all donations to Sreepur will receive matched funding that will double all gifts.
Many thanks and Happy Christmas.
MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN
Stephen Brenkley has completed a splendid and dedicated spell of 11 years as chairman of the CWC Book Award sub-Committee. It is entirely down to Brenks' energy and vision that this Award has gone from strength to strength since 2007, when it was launched in large part because of Brenks' desire that the Club should have a cricket writing award for cricket writers. Remarkable that the Club didn't think of that one before, isn't it? I know Brenks is rightly very proud of the work he and his many sub-committee 'helpers' have done in establishing this award over the past decade, and that he is delighted that Richard Hobson has agreed to take over from him as chairman of the Book Award sub-Committee. As Brenks has done for its first 11 years, Hobbo will be rounding up a small panel to debate and discuss the identity of the 2018 CWC Book Award which will be announced at next year's Annual Lunch. Very many thanks, Brenks, for all you've done and many thanks, too, to Hobbo for taking on this role. Talking of the CWC Annual Lunch, the 2018 version will take place on Tuesday October 2, again at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge. ECB, MCC and PCA have already been consulted about the date, which we hope will not clash with any other end-of-season events being planned. Please mark the date in your 2018 diaries - assuming, that is, Father Christmas brings you one in your stocking.
Mark Baldwin, CWC Chairman 9th December, 2017
TWO BOOKS FOR THE XMAS LIST
CWC members Colin Bateman and Colin Evans have books out in good time for Christmas.
The former CWC Chairman, Colin Evans has penned 'Farokh - The Cricketing Cavalier', a 208-page biography of the former India and Lancashire wicketkeeper, which includes 32 pages of images and forewords by Sunil Gavaskar, Sir John Major and Jeffrey Archer; and a front cover portrait by the artist Christina Pierce.
Evans says: "Farokh and I worked together on this book for 12 months. He reckons I'm a 'facts and figures' man which is surprising because, as many ex-colleagues and cricketers would attest, I could never have been accused of that during my time as a reporter!" Publisher Max Books (www.maxbooks.co.uk), Epworth House, 34 Wellington Road, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 7BX. Normal price £12.50, it is offered to members at £9.99 (including p and p). Orders direct from Max Books on line or by post. Cheques payable to Max Books.
Meanwhile, Colin Bateman has had his first novel published. Bateman says: "Many said that much of my journalistic work was pure fiction but this most definitely is. The first novel is finally out after a painful three-year gestation period. 'A Dreadful Trade' is what I would term a thriller, a bit of a whodunit, but not a cop novel. It has nothing to do with cricket, but don't let that put you off.
"If you would like to support a poor, struggling author (there is a reduced price of £9.00 for CWC members), please get in touch via email email@example.com"
WILLIAM HILL EXTEND CWC SPONSORSHIP
Following a meeting with Rupert Adams and Tony Rushmer, attended by myself and David Fulton on behalf of CWC, I am delighted to announce that William Hill have extended their long-running sponsorship of the Cricket Writers' Club into 2018, on the same financial level as before. This is excellent news for the club and I am sure I speak for all members when I reiterate how appreciative we are of William Hill's continued support.
As ever, I urge members to mention William Hill odds - and speciality bets - whenever relevant and appropriate in copy. These odds, as all members know, are sent out regularly by email and, additionally, Rupert Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org) is always available to give any further information that is required with regards to Test, ODI, T20 and domestic cricket odds, or speciality bets.
Mark Baldwin, CWC chairman 24th November, 2017
HARESFOOT BREWERY TOUR
CWC sponsors Haresfoot Brewery are running two exclusive brewery tours of their new site in Chesham in November. Those who book a tour can learn about the brewery's history, and the tour is followed by a tasting session with food also provided.
The tours are perfect for individuals, couples or small groups, and take place on Friday 17th November at 7.30pm and Saturday 18th November at 2pm. Please go to Haresfoot's brewery website to book (www.haresfootbreweryshop.com).
Haresfoot's range of beers and speciality ales will also be available to buy during the event, including the CWC Ale, All-Rounder.
CHAIRMAN'S AUTUMN MESSAGE
What with the Ben Stokes Affair, the Oval Arrow, the Nat-Meg and the England Women's World Cup triumph, plus the return of Essex and the one-day heroics of Notts Outlaws, Jimmy's 500 and much else besides – plus the little matter of an upcoming Ashes series – it has been a summer of hard toil for cricket writers and cricket's media. Then again, ‘twas ever thus!
As for the Cricket Writers' Club, we have made what I believe are significant strides towards bedding in the new-look administrative structure. It is my intention, as Chairman, to return the Club to a situation in which the secretarial officers are clearly seen to be running our week-to-week affairs, supported of course by the Treasurer, Chairman and other Committee and sub-Committee members.
In the first three years of my chairmanship, from April 2014 to April of this year, much of the Club's administrative work was left to myself and especially to Wendy Wimbush in her long-established and hugely dedicated multi-roles. On Wendy's retirement from active frontline duty, back in March, we as a Club were required to address the question of how to keep things running without Wendy's hand on the tiller, as it were.
It was never going to be an easy task, but I am delighted that Marcus Hook, as Treasurer, and Shilpa Patel, on the Lunch sub-Committee, have stepped up with marked success to their new roles and that, on the secretarial side, Alan Gardner has quickly proved himself an excellent Lead Secretary for an initial period up to April 2018. As explained, and agreed, at the AGM at Edgbaston in April, Vithushan Ehantharajah will get his chance to experience the Lead Secretary's role in an initial year from next April, followed by Will Macpherson from April 2019 to April 2020.
By then, all three will have a better idea of how the Club runs itself, and its ongoing issues, and I am confident that Alan, Vish and Will – supported throughout by Bruce Talbot and Julian Guyer as assistant secretaries – will then be in a strong position to agree among themselves how best to take the secretarial side of the Club forward into the longer-term. All three of them will, I hope, be at the heart of the Club's life for many more years to come.
From my perspective, it is pleasing to see the five-man secretarial team successfully, and efficiently, carrying out the Club's administration this past summer and, by sharing the workload, I hope it has not proved too onerous for any of them. My thanks go to all five for their input so far, and their adaptability in making the new structure work.
The Annual Lunch, on October 3, was another notable success, with an attendance of 270 and almost all of our award winners being present on the day. I have received very many messages, from members and guests alike, saying how much they enjoyed the occasion and this, of course, reflects hugely on the efforts of the Lunch sub-committee, of Shilpa and Marcus in particular with regards to table planning and ticket sales, and to David Fulton for another brilliant performance as MC. Well done to all those Club members who supported the Lunch, and to the many who also brought along guests.
As a result of its success, the Lunch sub-Committee and full Committee have already acted quickly to secure the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel as our Annual Lunch venue for another two years. We have signed-off on a deal which means we can hold both the 2018 and 2019 lunches at the hotel, on the same all-inclusive rate. This is a fine result for the Club, and I am once again grateful to Dominic van den Bergh for his help in negotiating this new two-year deal on our behalf.
Since the Lunch, the Committee have met to discuss various ongoing issues, and it will meet again in the Spring. Alan Gardner and myself – plus other members of the secretarial team and Committee – have also met to begin a re-drafting of the Club Constitution. This will be circulated to all members ahead of the AGM next year, once full Committee have passed it, for adoption at the AGM which, to remind everyone, will be held in April 2018 at Trent Bridge (date TBC).
Mark Baldwin, CWC chairman 30th October, 2017
XTC - THIS IS POP
Charlie Thomas, latterly of Sky Sports News and a long-serving CWC member and former Fleet Street Wanderers ‘all-rounder', would like to inform all Club members about the upcoming screening of two more music documentaries in which he has been involved in producing.
Many members will have seen films produced in recent years on 10cc and UB40 and Charlie informs us that his latest documentary, 'XTC - This Is Pop', goes out on Sky Arts on Saturday October 7th at 9.00pm, featuring Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, Spinal Tap), Stewart Copeland (The Police) and Clem Burke (Blondie), plus of course XTC themselves.
A further film about Fairport Convention follows in November, featuring Steve Winwood, Ian Anderson, Rick Wakeman and original member Richard Thompson, who is an avid cricket fan and, despite living in LA these days, still follows England's fortunes on Test Match Special.
Mark Baldwin, CWC chairman 25th September, 2017
ESSEX DOUBLE UP AT THE CRICKET WRITERS' CLUB'S AWARDS CWC LUNCH - JUMEIRAH CARLTON TOWER, LONDON 3RD OCTOBER 2017
County champions Essex won even more silverware - both Cricket Writers' Club Player of the Year awards.
Batsman Dan Lawrence, 20, won the prestigious CWC Young Player of the Year award and Jamie Porter is the CWC's County Championship Player of the Year.
First presented in 1950, and one of the oldest such honours in cricket, the Young Player award, which by tradition is won just once in a career, is restricted to England-qualified players under the age of 23 on April 1.
Lawrence, 20, made 761 Championship runs at 44.76, including three centuries.
The first Essex player to win the award since Ravi Bopara in 2008, he said: "What a season it has been. I am pleased to have played my part in this wonderful triumph.
"As a young player it is great to learn from the likes of Alastair Cook and to have him in our side during the season has been a huge boost.
"There is no reason why we cannot progress from here and be a force again in future years. The coaching staff have been incredible with their support and motivation for the side.
"I am thrilled to have won the award to cap off a season to remember."
Porter is the sixth winner of the CWC County Championship Player of the Year award, which is presented in association with William Hill.
The 24 year-old was the Championship's leading bowler, with 75 wickets in 13 matches at just 16.82 apiece.
"I am really pleased to have been chosen for the award by the cricket writers after a remarkable season," he said.
"It may shock some people but at the start of the campaign a number of lads in the dressing room said we can win this and to our credit we have played some great cricket.
"I have huge respect for Chris Silverwood, who has done a remarkable job as coach.
"I am obviously pleased with my season and the wickets I have taken. I have been able to learn from bowlers like David Masters, who has now retired. We now have a fine crop of young players and the future is bright."
Rupert Adams, media relations manager for William Hill, said: "Jamie's impressive feats have been one of the highlights of an exceptional season for Essex.
"His fine bowling was undoubtedly a key factor in Essex securing the title. He is, therefore, a very deserving recipient of the County Championship Player of the Year Award.
"William Hill is delighted once again to partner with the Cricket Writers' Club in presenting this award. It is the sixth year we have done so and the list of winners underlines the award's growing stature."
Three other CWC awards were presented at the club's annual lunch at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, as well as the inaugural Lord's Taverners Disability Award, which was won by England Learning Disabilities captain Chris Edwards.
Tammy Beaumont was presented with the CWC Women's Cricket Award by Clare Connor, the director of England Women's Cricket.
She succeeds the award's inaugural winner, Charlotte Edwards, after helping England win the Women's World Cup for the first time as its Player of the Tournament and leading scorer.
Her 410 runs included 148 in her record 275-run partnership with Nat Sciver against South Africa.
"It's been a crazy year, that day at Lord's will stand in all our memories for a long time and it's great to see everything that has come out of that," she said.
The CWC Peter Smith Award, made "for services to the presentation of cricket to the public", was presented to David Graveney by David Gower, its inaugural winner in 1992.
A former captain of Gloucestershire and Durham, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association and chairman of the England Test selectors from 1997-2008, Graveney is currently president of the PCA's Benevolent Fund.
"What I do now is probably the most rewarding [of my roles in cricket], being able to help a lot of cricketers who haven't had the best of lives in terms of post-playing," he said.
The CWC Derek Hodgson Book Award winner is Steve Neal for Over and Out: Albert Trott: The Man Who Cleared the Lord's Pavilion.
"It says a lot about openness and fairness that a complete outsider with no record of writing about cricket before can win this award," he said.
"A big thanks to Pitch Publishing for taking a punt on the book."
RALPH DELLOR 1948-2017 BY STEPHEN LAMB
"We commentators avoid clichés like the plague!" One of the earliest quips I heard from Ralph, which helped me to like him and get to know him better. He has been an integral part of my life for the past 17 years. We were both approached in 2000 by CricInfo, then a fledgling Internet company inflated by the dotcom bubble. At the outset our respective roles were so unclear that neither of us was certain who was boss. Although Ralph's seniority was eventually confirmed, he was never - as all who knew him would attest - particularly boss-like. I had met him fleetingly in the early 1980s, while he was doing work for BFBS and I was making a tentative foray towards a broadcasting career. His name was already well-known to me, primarily on account of my interest in cricket, and his presentation of the Sunday League on BBC2, but also through his contributions to Grandstand, Test Match Special and Match Of The Day. His knowledge of sport was broadly ranged, but cricket was always the jewel in the crown. In addition to broadcasting - his voice and style were amongst the very best in the business - he wrote for the Telegraph, authored, ghosted and with me co-authored several books, and coached, amongst others, the Norwegian national team.
Our CricInfo careers were largely concurrent, and the company Style Guide includes sage advice on commentary from Ralph that would help to launch anyone in practicing the art. As with many dotcom companies of the time, shoal waters were soon hit and the Wisden takeover in 2003 prompted Ralph to suggest to me, rather to my surprise, that we might form our own company. Sportsline Media Limited's accounts since record work for the BBC, ECB, MCC and others far too numerous to list. Recently and entirely appropriately, Ralph was the "Voice of Lord's" on the public address at cricket's home. He commentated on several matches in this summer's Women's World Cup, and members may well have seen pictures of him at the toss in a couple of games. Of course they show a seasoned media performer, but his essential good character outshines all else.
Never was that more apparent than in his stage show, successively entitled "Sticky Wicket", "Rain Stops Play" and "In the Box", performed at theatres the length and breadth of the country. In the good company of former England players, Ralph would expertly chair a discourse on the game and its current ups, downs and eccentricities, teasing out anecdotes which his guests somehow managed to make seem original, even if they'd been trotted out many times before. Ask Aggers about John the Baptist! I attended several of these gigs, and found Ralph in his element. Valiant enough to tread the boards, scrupulously well-informed about current cricket affairs, and always alert to humorous potential, he performed quite brilliantly. I invariably sensed the audience's appreciation, periodically manifest in the form of cakes!
Ralph was a fine bowler, to whom I am proud to have kept wicket in one game. His medium pace was waspish, and heaven only knows how many deliveries he sent down, for Essex teams in the county of his birth, to England players on overseas tours, or in many games for The Cricket Writers' Club. A recent letter of engagement gives a flavour: "I remember your nibbly medium pacers causing havoc in CWC matches. Are you still trundling in?" Ralph's reply: "Let me pick you up on one point, vis the reference to my 'nibbly medium pacers'. I think you are mixing me up with someone else, because I bowled with naked pace that terrified the batsmen. No, now I come to think of it you're right ...the only batsmen terrified were at the non-striker's end. Terrified that they might not get the chance to cash in on the buffet at the other! Unfortunately I have had a succession of knee and back problems that have resulted in being out of action for a year or so - the result of bowling 20,000 overs too many!"
Ralph's passing was way, way too soon. Although he had been told that his prostate cancer was incurable, he was positive in his approach to the treatment required to give him as much time as possible. The sepsis that he contracted in the early stages of chemotherapy was unspeakably cruel, and shockingly curtailed his life. For me, professionally, it seems like the amputation of a limb. But I can still treasure the unexpected quips, not all of which I latched on to quickly enough. One of my own before signing off. We never had a crossword, cryptic or otherwise.
Grief, over the ages, can be measured by affection. I have not felt such sadness since my dear father died, and there are reasons. My relationship with Ralph developed, from distant admiration, to professional esteem, to joyous communication when I had the chance to commentate with him, to an entirely fulfilling business partnership. Over the past 14 years, we have spoken pretty well every working day. We clicked. Ralph gave me the best of my professional life, and I was extraordinarily fortunate to know him. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family.
TED CORBETT 1935-2017 BY COLIN EVANS
Ted Corbett was a resourceful and highly skilled journalist. The merest whiff of a story quickened his step and he could write lucidly in any style whether for tabloid, 'quality' or magazine. He had a light, almost elegant way of keying, his fingertips hovering over the board as he leaned back slightly to appraise what he had just written.
Ted worked for several national newspapers in the UK while his reports for The Hindu and Sportstar made him one of the most respected and widely read cricket writers in India. Writing a considered piece for an Indian audience required subtlety and a knowledge of how the English language was used on the sub-continent. Ted constructed his material with great care.
He was passionate about journalism, sport - cricket particularly of course - and life in general. In 2016 doctors told him he had little time left but he turned up at the Cricket Writers Club 70th anniversary lunch, wheeled in by Jo, and gave me his usual greeting: "So, what do you know?" - the traditional Corbett prelude to a round of gossipy stories and anecdotes, often conducted on the back row of the Lord's Media Centre or maybe over dinner in an Italian or Thai restaurant on Finchley Road, bottles of good beer or wine at hand. On this last bitter-sweet occasion in the Merchant Taylors' Hall, he was as phlegmatic and as good humoured as ever, joking about life expectancy and sell-by dates etc.
A loyal and long-serving member of the CWC he earned a warm round of applause at a well-attended AGM in 2004 when, as the outgoing chairman, I suggested the Club might have to become more political. There was a moment's stone-cold silence. I realised immediately I was on very thin ice. Ted rose to his feet. Aha, I thought, Corbett will rescue me. But to increasingly loud murmurs of 'Hear, hear' and 'That's telling him' Ted proceeded to dismantle my proposition, reminding us all of the Cricket Writers Club foundations and its raison d'etre. Unrehearsed, articulate, spirited but never aggressive, it was a superb little speech and one which I appreciated as much as anyone else. When he had finished and the handclapping had subsided, Christopher Martin-Jenkins stood up to congratulate him. "I could not have worded it better," said CMJ and you could not wish for higher praise.
Ted, who was 82, worked for the Daily Herald, the Sun and the Daily Mirror before becoming cricket correspondent for the Daily Star. After leaving the Star in 1989, Ted, in conjunction with his partner Jo King, set-up a sports agency, Cricket Direct and continued to write a column for The Hindu and Sportstar into his eighties.
Ted began his career as tea boy at the Yorkshire Evening Press and not only wrote about cricket, but also rugby, football, athletics, golf and snooker. He also took many an aspiring sports journalist under his wing, opening doors and giving them encouragement.
After his retirement, last year, Ted told the SJA website: "Now it is time to slip on the fireside slippers and watch the cricket on the telly. I followed England for 300 Tests and 500 one-day internationals and, like Fred Trueman, I am bloody tired after all the effort."