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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambledon Club

Guest Speaker: Lord Ian MacLaurin, Baron MacLaurin of Knebworth

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Lord MacLaurin was Chairman of Tesco and Vodafone, and then from 1997–2002, Chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). He played cricket at Marlborough School and for Hertfordshire in the Minor Counties Championship. He is currently Chairman of the Sports Honours Committee, and from October 2017 – September 2018, President of MCC.


Our Chaplain, The Reverend David Brown, said Grace.

Apologies for Absence: Frances & Derek Sherratt, Terry Johnson, Verity Crump, Roger Gibbons, Robin Brodhurst, Alastair Lack, Joe Stansbury, Christopher Moger, Peter Ryder, Julian Lawton-Smith, Clive Barnett, Mike Coeshott, Martin Davey, Chris de Mellow, Andrew Bruce, Ralph Simmonds, Stephen & Dudley Green, Mike Gordon, Keith & Anthony Mason, Ian Duke, Grayston Burgess, Robert Brooke, Nick Coletta, Alan Rayment, Elizabeth Lloyd, Peter & Margaret Jenkins, Nick & Gillie Twine

The President:

1. The President welcomed all members and their guests, and our speaker, Lord MacLaurin

2. A Hampshire supporter kindly donated a Richard Hadlee cricket ball which was later raffled off and raised £60 for youth cricket in line with our Club projects.

3. The President reminded members about our normal Club raffle for a free lunch.

The Speaker and date for our next meeting: Dennis Amiss on 27 October.

After the main course, the President spoke to the members about the Club Constitution and the new GDPA Regulations. The Constitution had been send out to members and a few issues were highlighted. A final version will be produced and to be agreed by members present at our next luncheon in October. Both will then be uploaded onto the Club website.

The Steward: The prize raffle of a free lunch was drawn and won by Peter Parsons. After deduction of expenses, £200 was raised for Hambledon youth cricket.

The President: Committee Elections took place and the President invited approval en bloc for existing committee members. All members were in agreement.

The Toasts: The President asked members to be upstanding for the traditional Toasts: The Queen’s Mother; The King; Hambledon Club; Cricket; The immortal memory of Madge. Dave Allen asked members to toast the President.

The President asked the members to welcome Lord MacLaurin.

Thanking us for our invitation, Lord MacLaurin began by noting the historic significance of our venue and the club’s purpose. It was one of the many invitations received as the President of MCC, but one he could not refuse, and was delighted to accept.

He introduced his talk by signalling his intention to speak about cricket’s future, and the MCC’s commitment to standards in the game. He noted that while we hear “too frequently that cricket is at a crossroads”, in the recreational game, where there might be fewer clubs, the standard of the game remains high. Meanwhile, cricket more than other sports, keeps reinventing itself and he suggested that it is very hard to predict where we will be in ten-years-time. Despite a generally optimistic and positive message, he shared some worrying recent reports that today’s children are turning away from the game because it takes too long – and they were referring to T20 format! In such a context, Lord MacLaurin suggested that no one has “a monopoly of solutions” and urged us all to be supportive of attempts to improve our game, when based on research, whatever those findings might be.

He then recounted his involvement in significant developments in the professional game during his time at the ECB, including the adoption of coloured clothing for limited-overs matches. When the ECB circulated the counties with a list of possible colours, more than one county responded by crossing them all out, writing underneath “white”. There was also the moment when they lost the sponsorship of B&H and carried out research which came up with the first proposal for the T20 format, after which he (Lord Maclaurin), visited the counties where he met much pessimism and suggestions of “degrading cricket” with the plan seen as little more than an extended “beer match”. Eventually, he won sufficient support from counties and their Chairmen, including a notable shift by Durham, and the new competition began in 2003, leading to 340,000 new people going through the gates of their local county grounds. He added, “look where we are now” with the IPL and Big Bash, although added his concern that we might be too late in England with the city-based tournament planned for 2020. (His talk was before the emergence of proposals for ‘The Hundred’). He urged us to stop talking about “change, which is always an emotive word” preferring the terms “improvements and developments”, which he added are never proposed for sinister reasons.

He spoke then about the MCC, describing his winter trip to Australia and visits to Melbourne and Sydney where he was reminded of the strong associations between those grounds and the MCC who first toured there in 1903. He suggested that over the years MCC representatives, not least their captains, will have made many speeches; and ranging more widely through our game’s history he told us of the Maharajah of Vizianagram, India’s captain on their UK tour in 1936, of whom it was said made more speeches than scored runs on the whole tour. The captain agreed that perhaps that was so, and there had been lots of speeches but he had added, “not as many as the numbers of Rolls Royce I have in my palace in Bengal”. (In fact, he scored 33 runs in four completed innings in the three Test Matches; England winning two, with one drawn.)

Lord MacLaurin then described how their playing representatives have carried MCC’s influence abroad “communicating the goodness of cricket” and impressing on those who play “the importance of upholding the dignity of the game” passing it down through the generations. He suggested that the MCC link cricketers all over the world bringing an “entirely wholesome” benefit to the game and the spirit of cricket. He noted how until recently the Spirit of Cricket was not defined, was not visible, but rather it was “taken for granted that matches would be played in a spirit of fairness and honesty”. Today, whatever the format, “it is still basically the same game”.

After his talk, Lord MacLaurin responded to questions, expressing concern that the winter’s Test series between two fine teams, Australia and South Africa, took place in front of small crowds. He was not convinced that four-day Tests had real potential, since many good games last five days.

He responded to a question about ‘sledging’ that some of it undoubtedly “goes beyond the pale”, not least citing a couple of examples by Australians, but suggested that when the umpires hear it, they should act. He added, cricket “should be competitive” but should always be a gentleman’s game.

With regard to the County Championship, he suggested that the split into two divisions was now “past its sell-by-date”, preferring the model of three conferences which was originally proposed under his ECB Chairmanship in the document Raising the Standard. He believes this would ensure regular ‘Derby’ Matches and provide time for coaching to get players up to the highest standard. He added that this system would avoid the best players being head-hunted by the wealthy First Division counties.

Through applause, the President thanked Lord MacLaurin for his most informative talk; sent thanks to the management and staff for their efforts on our behalf; and reminded guests to pay on their way out. AOB: None

Newsletter 39: 17 March 2018

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