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Lord’s Cricket Ground to stop hosting Varsity Match

This year will see the final cricket Varsity competition played at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The first of these games was played in 1827 and has continued since then every year aside from the interruption of World Wars I and II, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Lord’s is seen as the foremost location for Cricket in the United Kingdom.

This move has been made by the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), who control fixtures at Lords. The MCC wants to, “Broaden the scope of the fixture list.” It aims to make the play of cricket at such a prestigious stadium more accessible. Lord’s is widely regarded as ‘The Home of Cricket’. The club now recognizes the need to improve the demographic of players at Lord’s, and to widen the appeal of cricket. It hopes this move will demonstrate that sporting talent and ability can come from all backgrounds, and is not limited to those in the top institutions.

Harry Clynch in his Spectator article, questions whether this move successfully achieves the intended goal. The varsity fixture has, thus far, not been replaced. It has just been removed from the fixture list. Without a replacement, the removal of the match will result in a narrower variety of cricketers playing Lords. Hence, Harry Clynch suggests this is an MCC plot to avoid potential claims of ‘elitism’. This move follows some recent critics, such as Sebastian Shakespeare from The Daily Mail terming the MCC ‘elitist’. It has also often been deemed old fashioned and slow to make change.

However, this change could be disappointing for aspirational, budding cricketers at Oxford and Cambridge. Playing at the storied setting of Lord’s is considered a significant achievement. Future players will not have the same opportunity as their predecessors.

Despite this, Cambridge and Oxford University cricket teams have spoken in support of the plan. Cambridge University Cricket Club stated it, “Enthusiastically welcomes the MCC decision to make way in following seasons for a wider range of people to realise their ambition of playing at Lord’s.” This recognition of the need for wider accessibility to the nation’s premier opportunities coincides with Oxford and Cambridge motives to widen their access programmes recently.

For Clynch, the author of the piece in the Spectator, this response is concerning.  According to him, it highlights a wider issue; “[the] sad tendency we have in modern Britain- that of denigrating our own leading institutions.” He terms this an example of, “Self-degradation,” on the part of the nation.

Last year Vanessa Picker, former England captain, spoke out in a protest against a lack of gender inclusion at Lord’s, something the ‘Stump Out Sexism campaign’ highlighted. Cambridge and Oxford had only ever played men’s teams during this annual tradition. A demonstration was held outside Grace Gates before the men’s varsity game last year calling for a women’s varsity cricket game at Lord’s. Protestors pushed for the traditional Oxford v Cambridge men’s match to be put on hold until this opportunity became available for the women too.

This year, for the first and last time, there will be a women’s varsity game played at Lord’s. The last Lord’s varsity will be on June 27th 2022. The men and women will play two separate T20 double-headers.

Image credit: Yorkspotter, CC SA-BY 4.0

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