One of the true joys of cricket is the shared experiences it provides. We all endured the pain of the super over at Lord’s last July, collectively held our breath as time ticked away at Edgbaston in 2005 and in Port Elizabeth earlier this year, and all know what it’s like to fall in love with the game for the first time.
In our new ‘Barmy Army meets…’ series, we’re speaking to members of the cricketing community, be it players (past and present), broadcasters, writers, or just fans in the public eye, to discuss a variety of topics relating to the game – and, of course, we will be looking to involve our members as much as possible.
This week, we spoke to Andy Carter, the author of Beyond the Pale – a book about early Black and Asian cricketers in Britain between 1868 and 1945.
Starting with Australian Aborigines, waves of players came over from Britain’s colonies to play the game during the period and the book examines how these pioneering cricketers not only changed the sport but helped to shape national identities and pave the wave for multi-culturalism in the UK.
We spoke to Andy about his personal relationship with cricket, his thoughts on the current England team, and discussed his book – particularly in relation to last summer’s World Cup heroes…
How did you become a cricket fan?
“I can almost remember the exact date. I went away on a school trip to Wales when I was about 13 or 14 and we were staying in this big old house with a big flat lawn area. It was June, so there were nice long evenings and every day we’d go out and have a game of cricket. I got hooked on the game then really.
“It was 1975 and when I got back from the trip I spent the following summer glued to the Test match all day because back in those days they were on the BBC for free.
“I had an uncle who was a bit of a fan and used to take me on trips to Lord’s or the Oval to watch games. When I was a bit older, I got a Saturday job as a cricket scorer for Sainsbury’s staff team, it was better than actually working in a supermarket all weekend!”
What was the motivation behind writing the book?
“I have played in work teams and the like since but never really been absorbed in cricket in the same way as I was in my teens. Coming back to it to write this book was almost an accidental process, I was doing a Masters in public history at the time and one of the lecturers said they wanted somebody from the group to take on the task of doing a cricket-based product.
“Quite by chance I discovered some Australian Aborigines had come on tour to England in 1868 and I thought it was a really unusual story.
“That led me to realise they were kind of trailblazers for other cricketers from the Empire. Some Parsee doctors came over after that, then eventually there were the first West Indies tours to England, and then you get this whole tradition of Indian princes coming over and playing.
“It’s an interesting series strung together. Specifically, it is about Black and Asian cricketers coming to Britain. All these people’s lives and the way they interacted with English people and English people’s reactions to them. So, it is about cricket but it is also really about Victorian attitudes to class and race.”
‘Beyond the Pale’ is available from Amazon, Troubador and most major book retailers.
A key feature of England’s World Cup win was the diversity of the team. Would you say that the diversity of the players to have played in and interacted with the English game has been important to the way it’s developed?
“Yes but I think it is surprising in a way that it has taken England so long to get such a diverse team.
“It is interesting to look at the different curves at which that integration has taken place in English sport.
In a way, cricket has lagged behind both football and athletics after having a much better start. It has taken a lot longer to come to fruition but I think it is really encouraging to see the England cricket team as it is now. I think it is very positive to see the diversity they have at the moment.”
What are your thoughts on the current state of the England side?
“I think England are on the way up. They’re in a good place. I think we are at a stage where over the next five-year cycle I would see them as being one of the top two or three teams in the world.
“I think England are in exciting times but it would be nice for the game to widen its appeal at the lower level so that we have strength in depth to continue that boom with. It does tend to be cyclical and it would be nice to have a conveyor belt of young players coming up.”