The Phil Edmonds Middlesex bowler, once more overlooked for a winter tour, talks to Robert Steen in The Guardian. Frank Keating said how little pride he felt watching South Africans like Lamb and Smith bat for England. Coming from Lusaka, how do you react to such an attitude? England former cricketer Ted Dexter was born in Milan, Colin Cowdrey in India. These were two of England’s foremost postwar batsmen.
It’s only a bit more obvious because these guys today speak with a South African accent. It’s only a question of degree. If a player is eligible under the four-year qualification rule, and he’s good enough, he should be selected. We live in a world of expediency and hypocrisy. You don’t kick sand in Mrs. Gandhi’s face, when she’s accepted you on a tour of India, by going off to South Africa as soon as the tour’s over.
I’m not saying that the likes of Graham Gooch and John Emburey were wrong in going — the money was there —but they obviously didn’t bargain for the gravity of the consequences. They thought they might be banned for a year, but not three. Off Spinner, John Emburey is a little bitter, but the money alleviates the bitterness a little. It’ll be interesting to see how the other nations react when the ban is lifted, and the players return to Test cricket. (I don’t think the selectors will bear a grudge.)
This threatened split between the ‘white’ and ‘black’ cricketing nations will never happen, though. It’s naive to imagine Australia, England, New Zealand, and South Africa setting up on their own. Australia must pander to the Third World for trade purposes. It’s all these naive cricket writers talking rubbish again.
Sharjah World Cup
If you’d been offered a contract, would you have gone to South Africa? Yes. I’d have made sure the money was right, though. They did ask me, via John Emburey, but no concrete figures were forthcoming. I’ve never had an England place to put in jeopardy, but they never came back to me. What I am surprised about is that the Middle Eastern gents haven’t come up with any offers.
Phil Edmonds went out to Sharjah to play. There’s a magnificent cricket field there (and one proposed in Dubai). They love the game and, seemingly, have the money to make an attractive bribe to the players not to go to South Africa. People like Asif Iqbal (Pakistani Ex-cricketer) are working out there, yet nothing has happened since England played in Dubai in the spring. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a mini-World Cup played out there in the next five years. TV scheduling would be easy, with the time differences.
Do you think there’s too much money in cricket?
Laughing, too much, the difference between Test players’ and county players’ wages is too great. I had a scheme going at Middlesex in 1978, with Brearley, Radley, and Emburey, whereby all the compensation the county received due to our absence on Test duty was paid to the rest of the players because the differential in earnings was, and is, ridiculous. Because of my back injury, I’m losing £1500 (plus potential bonuses) per Test, yet am I a worse bowler than I was three weeks ago? Perhaps that’s an argument for a squad system?
Players still struggle financially for half the year. The remedy is simple: exploit things on TV more, i.e. change the BBC charter to allow advertising. Yet, as soon as you mention that, the county committees always take it to an extreme, suggesting that cricketers will be out there totally covered in advertising symbols. It doesn’t have to be that way. I see no reason why bats cannot be used for advertising.
I reckon it’s going to be a long process, but grounds have got to be developed on different lines. Totally commercial. The field in the center should be used for sport all year round and office blocks could be erected around the grounds, making the cricket totally subsidized.
What about a four-day County Championship?
I think Bob Willis is mad. He obviously hasn’t thought it through. Better players will only emerge if pitches improve, and I don’t think that four-day cricket will be accompanied by better pitches. I think the idea has only come about because we went to Australia and got whipped (a) because we selected the wrong players and (b) many of our best players were ineligible.
There are more fast bowlers around now than there have been for years. Players must be adaptable to strike the right blend between one-day and three-day cricket, but I can’t see any improvement taking place through four days, because of the deterioration of wickets.
Henry Blofeld wrote your ‘obituary’ as an England player the other day. You’ve often been badly treated by the selectors. Why? Because, as in any other business or game, you’ve got to get on with the powers that be, to tug the forelock. I’m so naive — I don’t think that if I tell someone to off, they’ll take it to heart and hold it against me for all time. Must be my arrogant colonial nature (laughs).
I didn’t give enough respect to the authority Mike Brearley felt was due to him. This has caused me a lot of grief. Yet you both came from similar educational backgrounds, captaining Cambridge and all. It ended up as a clash of personalities and was the reason I’ve never been Middlesex captain. I think I should be in charge. I should have hidden my feelings and given it the old ‘Yes, Mike’, but I didn’t, and I ended up not playing for England.
What part, alongside your business interests, does cricket play in your life? The only reason I play cricket — apart from enjoying it so much — is that I haven’t fulfilled my potential yet, the reasons for which are partly because of Brearley (about whom I’m slightly paranoid), partly my own lack of character in not understanding and not standing up to him. I came here as a young fellow, offering to bat and bowl all the time, then after three or four years, I was still the No.5 bowler.
Phil Edmonds bowled well this year, aggressively. Likewise, I’ve basically taken 80 wickets in two months. Since Mike’s departure, I’ve been more relaxed. I tend to get my own way with the fields I want —Mike never understood them. He always wanted to place fields according to the way he batted — blocking, stopping the single. The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. Mike Gatting has done a good job as captain of Middlesex, hasn’t he?
We’ve got a marvelous side! It’s easier to captain good players on a good side. I’m reconciled, in the short term, to playing under someone else, but whether my ambitions will be achieved here is another matter. Loyalty among cricketers is greater than that among footballers. Only because of this institution called the benefit. Mine’s coming on OK, but I need all your pound notes, readers!
He said: ‘I didn’t give sufficient respect to the authority Mike Brearley felt was due to him. This has caused me a lot of grief’
The ownership of this article is to WISDEN CRICKET MONTHLY – NOVEMBER 1983. It is published just to share the cricketers’ thoughts and knowledge to recall the memories.