Club Cricket Conference

Tuesday, 28th September 2021

Whither Goest Wandering Cricket?

By Richard Edwards

13th May 2021


As the rest of club cricket scrabbled around for answers to the questions posed by the pandemic, the role of wandering cricket – a staple of the recreational game for almost 300 years – remained largely unspoken.

Now, though, huge progress is being made to ensure the long-term future and stability of a form of the game that involves thousands of cricketers each summer and, in many ways, maintains the very best traditions of English cricket.

The Wandering Cricket Association is the brainchild of Richard Wilson, who fell under its spell some time ago and knows better than most the quintessential English magic that wandering teams spread up and down the country every summer.

Until now those clubs had no central body representing them. Now, as progress towards the launch of the WCA builds, it’s hoped that the building blocks have been put in place to ensure its future stability at a time when uncertainty reigns. 

During a year when the Hundred will introduce another brand new format to the sport in this country, it’s also a reminder of a gentler time, when declarations – some sporting, some not – formed the bedrock of the English game. 

“Wandering cricket needs to maintain its place in the recreational game and it needs to be understood more as well,” says Simon Prodger, managing director of the National Cricket Conference. 

“What it also needs, like all forms of cricket, is more participants to some degree or another.

“It’s an interesting environment – it’s the last bastion of the old formats and traditional form of cricket. 

“A whole generation of cricketers are growing up that have never played declaration cricket and are completely lost when invited to do so.

“One of the things Wandering Cricket espouses and strives to provide is the opportunity for more people to engage this wonderful form of the game. It embodies the old fashioned values that have been largely lost to league cricket.”

It’s worth remembering that until the 1970s, the thought of any kind of league cricket being formed was anathema to the psyche of those who played the game on a Saturday, Sunday and, frankly, whenever an opportunity presented itself during the week as well.

Some of the famous names in cricket, including the likes of I Zingari, which was formed in 1845, and the Free Foresters, which played its first match just 11 years later, are known throughout the world. Both appear on the bucket list of many cricketers in the recreational game and therein lies the beauty of the wandering game, these aren’t clubs for players who dutifully turn up at net sessions – they’re institutions that most people would give their eye-tooth to play for. 

Wilson is just one of a huge number that have fallen for it almost endless allure.

“I discovered Wandering Cricket fairly late in the piece,” he says. “I was a league cricketer and a friend of mine ran the members side of the Lords Taverners, called the Bucaneers. He was short of a couple of players because they only have seven members at the time.

“The game was against a well known British Army Regiment and he asked me if I wanted to play. I said, ‘of course, I do, I didn’t even know that this was a thing, getting the opportunity to play these kind of people!

“I went and played and when he stood down from looking after the side I took over the team and went on a big recruitment drive.” 

As a man whose day job involves the construction industry, Wilson was no stranger to bringing in youngsters and attempting to get them on the straight and narrow. He used the same principles to swell the club’s numbers from seven to almost 400. 

If that extraordinary achievement wasn’t enough, he saw an opportunity to formalise the governance of the wandering game and create an organisation capable of supporting one of the sport’s most diverse memberships.

Challenges still clearly remain, but the hope is that the WCA will offer a window into a format which could easily have been in peril were it not for the hardwork of people such as Prodger and Wilson.

The latter is well known for involving not just those involved in the matches themselves, but those watching on from the sidelines. Elderly gents celebrating birthdays have been whistled up from the boundary to bowl an over or two and youngsters from America have been given the opportunity to bat on some of the most stunning grounds in England.

It’s not cricket that the average club player would recognise, but that only makes it all the more special. Wandering cricket is there to be cherished and protected. 

The hope is that the WCA will enable that to happen.    

1 Comments

Posted by: Andrew Woolley

May 17,2021 15:33
Fascinating article
At www.stjamescc.org.uk
We play weekly Saturday declaration games throughout the summer
We are always looking for opponents

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