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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambledon Club

Guest Speaker: Mike Grenville Griffith

Mike Griffith is a former English first-class cricketer, who played for and captained sussex County Cricket Club. A middle-order right-handed batsman, he also kept wicket occasionally. Mike was born at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, the son of the Sussex and England wicket-keeper and cricket administrator, Billy Griffith. He was educated at Ludgrove School followed by Marlborough College and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He played first for Sussex in 1962, then for Cambridge University for three years from 1963, winning his blue all three years. In 1968 he succeeded Jim Parks as county captain during the season, and continued as captain until 1972. He stood down from the captaincy after 1972. He took part in several lesser cricket tours, none of them including representative cricket. He also played frequently for the MCC sides. He was the President of MCC for 2012–3.


Our Chaplain, The Reverend David Brown, said Grace. The President, Douglas Miller, welcomed all members and their guests. Apologies for Absence: Terry Bell, Andrew Bruce, David Buckland, Grayston Burgess, Roy Clarke, Bernard Frowd OBE, Mike Gordon, Neil & Jilly Jenkinson, Terry Johnson, Ann Knott, Alastair Lack, Chrissie Marris, Dick & Lesley Orders, Glynis Osborne, Nick & Gillie Twine, Geoffrey Willis Prize Draw: Members were reminded to put their place names in the containers provided for the prize draw for collection by Dave Allen, standing in for our absent Steward. Next Speaker: David Allen, former England and Gloucestershire off-spinner. Dubai 19 tour: Our members were informed that the Dubai 19 tour was abandoned due to lack of funds. With regard to our sponsorship for Sarah, her father said she has now been selected for the Hampshire Women’s winter training squad so some additional batting coaching would be of benefit and asked if we would be happy to donate the money towards 1 to 1 coaching. We advised that the club’s constitution does not permit donations to individuals, but once coaching is set up through an association, or has taken place through such, we will pay whatever bills are incurred, up to the £200 (invoices to be supplied). He will keep us informed.

Other administration reminders: 1. Outstanding cash subscriptions were requested by the Treasurer. 2. Ties: Please see Stephen – at a cost of £15. 3. Payment for lunch: Cash & Cards only - cost £27.50. 4. Cancellations policy reminder: members cancelling within 24hrs of the event will be charged at the full cost by the B&B management. 5. Computer access: members will find minutes and other information on our website. 6. Members’ publications can also be advertised on this site, plus any other interesting news which may be of interest to other club members. Please contact Lou by phone or email with the details.

Committee Elections: All committee officers were voted in unanimously: Douglas Miller, the President – 1st Stephen Saunders, 2nd Andrew Renshaw Stephen Saunders, the Treasurer – 1st Douglas Miller, 2nd John Young Lou Allen, the Secretary – 1st Roy Birch, 2nd Brian Scrimshaw Dick Orders, the Steward – 1st Dave Allen, 2nd Ashley Mote Prize Draw in support of Hambledon Youth Cricket: The customary draw, won by Brian Ford, raised £315. After deductions of the prize draw, speaker’s expenses, and the sale of 8 club ties, £352.50 was raised for Hambledon Youth. 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. Charles Wilkinson asked members to toast the President. The Speaker: The President welcomed Mike Griffith to the Hambledon Club. Mike thanked the club for being invited to speak about cricket at this famous Hambledon location, “even more famous than some say of Lords, which is celebrating a 200-year existence as a ground.” He described himself as feeling lucky to meet other members of the club who have worked hard to keep up the traditions of the Bat & Ball, and trusted these will continue forever. Mike was aware of a great number of Hampshire cricket supporters present, and recalled playing at the United Services ground in Portsmouth when Ted Dexter captained Surrey, and Hampshire’s captain was Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie. Ted, on this occasion, left Hampshire with a declaration, which was thought too difficult for them to score runs, unless you were a player like Ted Dexter, so Colin, who was generally willing to go for anything, decided unusually that Hampshire would not go for the runs. Ted took umbrage at this and at teatime he was seen departing with his cricket bag and television, which he took everywhere, and Sussex had to field for the last session of that match with only ten men! Mike then spoke of the high standard of the club’s past speakers, such as Robin Brodhurst (speaker 2013), the son of Podge Brodhurst who taught at Winchester, as did Robin’s grandfather, Harry Altham. Mike recalled cycling from Marlborough College to Winchester College to have tea with Harry, who was a legend when Mike was growing up, and also to be coached by George Cox at Winchester before he became the Sussex coach. George had been a famous Sussex cricketer, making many centuries for Sussex, but he never played for England. During his time at Sussex he also scored many ‘ducks’ in his career and used to say that if he got all his ducks chronologically he would have spent one whole season playing for Sussex and scoring nought! Mike mentioned Murray Hedgcock (speaker 2011), another MCC member and a good friend, and the world authority on PG Woodhouse. Mike revealed PG was his godfather, and said this was his main claim to fame! He said he wasn’t a natural speaker, nor always comfortable with making speeches during his year with the MCC, but when short of inspiration he would go to PG! Mike said, “PG should really have written the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ message, which forms the preamble to the Laws of Cricket, because he wrote the famous words on golf which is always worth repeating: Golf is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is a man who will serve you faithfully and well.” Mike spoke of MJK Smith (speaker 2012), another hero of his, who played both cricket and rugby for England. While MJK had been an MCC committee member, had he not been in the north of England, would have been elected President. He also marvelled over the fact that MJK was never injured throughout his cricket and rugby career, requiring not one orthopaedic operation in the whole of his life. As President of MCC in 2013, Mike enjoyed the annihilation of Australia at Lords. It was a glorious time and was a wonderful experience with the Queen visiting on the first day of the Test. However, a slight hiccup occurred when she was introduced to the players and their array of support staff. Not only could Mike not pronounce the name of the Sri Lankan match referee, but when she asked him what the team psychologist did, he couldn’t tell her! Apart from MCC members quibbling over the size of the seats, joking aside Mike said there were some tricky times during his period in office. A proposal to build flats at the end of the ground for an enormous amount of money was turned down in favour of retaining the character and ambience of the ground, which he believed was the right way to go. Whether wickets are prepared for home advantage, as were most other grounds around the world, was another consideration Mike offered. However, he said it was fortunate that the longest serving employee at Lords, the grounds-man Mick Hunt, will have none of it, and with competition heating up, Lords also has to bid for matches like any other Test ground in the country. With regard to arguments between players and referees during play, Mike said he was “absolutely mad keen that we avoid getting like soccer as this is one thing that puts cricket and rugby apart: there is no arguing with the umpire.” During his presidency, Mike did invite one of the leading umpires in the world, Australian Simon Taufel, to give the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, which takes place every year at Lords. He feels that Saturday afternoon umpires should go to enjoy the game just like the players do and it would be a shame if some umpires get put off umpiring if they aren’t enjoying it. Mike is interested to know what is going on in India and recommended a book that won the cricket writers’ Cricket Book of the Year, The Great Tamarsha by James Astill. Apart from incredible statistics, the book is about India from an Indian cricket perspective, and describes the resources available to them as a country, while for political and economic reasons cricket’s global health is ignored. In comparison, he cited New Zealand, a country that can compete in Test Matches with India with a population of only 6 million people! Mike said he was lucky enough to be introduced to first-class cricket at Cambridge University, and was the only wicket keeper to have played at Lords where both first and second slips had got first-class honours degrees. One was Mike Brearley who went on to captain England, and who once asked Geoffrey Boycott what he might do to improve the performance of the England team receiving the reply, “Well, you could always let me bat for you!” Mike’s first introduction to what Yorkshire was all about came from his university teammate Richard Hutton, a Yorkshire man who went on to play for England. Being a bit of a sprinter, Mike felt that the only way he could score any runs in first-class cricket was to run quick singles between the wickets. However, Richard was very reluctant to run Mike’s quick singles so he went up to Richard between the overs and asked would he be most awfully kind if he could call him for quick singles, and Richard replied, “It’s all right for you, you’re only out here for ten minutes, I plan on staying all morning!” Mike was surprised that Douglas had invited him to speak, so presumed he wasn’t at the match when he first captained Sussex at Hove. After consulting the bowlers, who advised him of the really seaming wicket with no problem to bowl on, Mike decided to put Gloucestershire into bat first. At tea, Gloucestershire were 320 for 2! As they came off for tea, a Sussex member siting in the pavilion shouted, “Griffith, why don’t you get a job at Tesco!” On the current England cricket team, who were just back from the disastrous Ashes winter when Mike spoke, he felt that the players live their life in a sort of bubble with no outside consultation, turning only to coaches and playing with bowling machines. He suggested they should be much more accountable. In considering the question of whether the captain or the coach is the most important person, he feels it unfortunate that the captain’s role has become more debased. During the 2012 second Test in India, Mike recalls staying in the same hotel as the players when at 7 a.m. the players were taking breakfast at the time when numerous coaches filled with an array of coaching staff left for the ground. It appeared even then that the players were leaving everything to their support staff. Mike posed a number of ideas for consideration: What is happening to cricket? Which is the best version that you watch: 20 overs, 40 overs, 50 overs, Test matches? What do you enjoy most? What should we concentrate on? Mike said the balance between the different forms of cricket is becoming an increasingly difficult conundrum. He suggested that the batsmen are dominating the bowlers, and a recent discussion with a bat manufacturer revealed that in five years time, the bats will get 15% better then they are now. Should this become a worry when presently watching 20 overs matches where one can see how far batsmen can hit the ball? Whether the MCC, who control the laws of the game, will do something about this, he didn’t know. Nonetheless, Mike said that cricket is thriving, and quite well run in this country, better than most other sports, and although some may quibble, he believes the ECB is doing a good job. However, he teased his audience with the thought that there are too many Test grounds so all Test matches should be played at Lords! He is also interested in whether cricket should be an Olympic sport as this is the only way it will get into countries like China, but the ECB is against this because it will impinge upon the UK season during June and July. He then spoke of his optimism in women’s cricket which is on a roll, and considers Sarah Taylor and Charlotte Edwards good enough to play in first-class cricket, and praised their influence, and the ECB’s achievements, in generating interest in schools through the charity, A Chance to Shine. In summing up, Mike said that he felt he had not adhered to the Bertie Wooster’s school of public speaking, when Bertie said to his fiancés, “I will not keep you long!” However, Mike had enjoyed it immensely, and thanked the club for asking him to speak about the various aspects of the game. Through appreciative applause, the President again thanked Mike for coming to speak to us. The president also thanked the Bat & Ball management and staff for looking after us well. Any Other Business: None Next Meeting: 11th October 2014 Prior to concluding these Minutes, it is with regret to inform our members that our Autumn speak, David Allen, passed away in the Spring. Taking his place on 11th October is Tom Rodwell, Chairman in 2009 of Cricket for Change (C4C), a UK charity established in 1981 to provide support for young disadvantaged people to be able to take part in cricket events. Programmes include providing cricket facilities, training, disabled access to cricket, establishing cricket projects in deprived inner-city estates and providing coaching and practical support for other charities internationally. His 2012 publication is, Third Man in Havana: Finding the Heart of Cricket in the World's Most Unlikely Places, forward by Courtney Walsh.

Newsletter 31: 29 March 2014

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