Cricket trad and mod
Sir: Brushing aside the tears aroused by Mr Simon Raven's gallant defence, both splendid and forlorn, of something or other (15 March), one is able to see a little further into the murk surrounding the ugly and mean destruction of Brian Close by the mcc. The alacrity with which the gentlemen in authority fell over themselves to jump at the opportunity of restoring the something or other which Mr Raven believes himself to be defending was dismaying and breathtaking in its bland refusal to take into account the facts and the overwhelming weight of public opinion.
Now, however, one sees more clearly: these gentlemen must actually have believed the sort of twaddle which Mr Raven produces as a supposed assessment of the situation in the first two paragraphs of his article. The facts had nothing whatever to do with New England spit- ting on Lord Hawke's grave nor with New Age toughness and ruthless tactics (the ruthlessness was all on the side of the MCC).
One fact is that Close has proved himself to be far the best captain of a team that we can find just now. Another fact is that however lyrical one may become about the series now being played in the West Indies, Sobers's team is not the force it was.
What is so unpleasant about the snide deni- gration of Close by so many gentlemanly writers is their total refusal to take note of his true character and the strong, admirable and positive qualities he has so frequently shown. Mr Raven claims that Close is not worth a place in the England team as a player. This suggests that cricketing ability is judged by whether a man is a good batter or a good bowler. But what about a good fielder? Close's brilliant and courageous example in the field transformed a poor England fielding side into an alert and effective one. Then again, the contribution to be made by a captain is sufficiently important for a man to be chosen for that alone (and after all Close is a pretty good all-rounder by any standards). Close as captain, besides being a shrewd, mature and masterful tactician, has shown powers of leadership enough to satisfy the most misty-eyed ex-public schoolboy.
There is, finally, his unflinching determina- tion. Mr Raven has evidently forgotten, but
many others haven't, how Close defended
England at Lord's against Hall and Griffith at their fiercest. The fact that Cawdrey had retired from this onslaught with a broken arm might have broken Close's spirit. But it didn't. Apparently the humiliating dismissal last sum- mer very nearly did. But not quite—as many opponents of Yorkshire (those stubborn Nor-
themers who are almost the last to hold out against the frenzied 'brighter cricket' which Mr Raven rightly deplores) will discover during the coming summer months.
Gordon Wilson St John's Vicarage, 14 Dane Bank Avenue, Crewe