Monday, August 10, 2015

Mike Brearley on Socrates and C.L.R. James

I first paid tribute to the former England cricket captain Mike Brearley in 2007:
When Brearley became England's captain in 1977 it was almost as though Jonathan Miller or Michael Frayn had been put in charge. Brearley was a representative of liberal North London in an age when cricket was still run by the Establishment. 
He was part of a more enlightened tendency within the game which embraced such figures as John Arlott and the Revd David Sheppard and had its finest hour when South Africa objected to the selection of Basil D'Olivera for England's 1968-9 tour. 
Cricinfo describes Brearley's test career as follows: 
His first spell leading England was between 1977 and 1979-80 when he won acclaim for his captaincy even though his batting was often criticised, and his Test average of 22.88 showed that he was not good enough to hold his own as a batsman. But after Ian Botham failed as his successor, he returned in 1981 with England trailing to Australia and guided his side to a remarkable 3-1 series win before retiring again. 
This is a fair summary, but tells only half the story. Brearley was an outstanding young batsman and was selected to tour with England as early as 1964-5. He suffered a horrible loss of form and was not chosen for any of the tests in South Africa that winter. 
After that he took up an academic career, lecturing in philosophy at Newcastle. He played for Middlesex only outside term time like an old-fashioned amateur. 
I was studying philosophy at York during Brearley's first spell as England captain, and we were proud, if a little disappointed, to learn that he had once applied for a lectureship in our department and been turned down. 
In the early 1970s Brearley devoted himself to cricket full time. He became Middlesex captain and forced his way into the England team as a batsman. Then Tony Greig's dalliance with Kerry Packer was revealed and he inherited the England captaincy.
Here he is speaking at the Beyond a Boundary conference held in honour of C.L.R. James - Trinidadian marxist intellectual and cricket writer - at the University of Glasgow in 2013.

If you don't fancy an hour-long lecture, try the questions at the end. There is a lot of interest to cricket fans there.

1 comment:

Hywel said...

What elevates him in my mind is his opposition to the 1970 tour when an aspirant England player with his career ahead of him. Circumstances in which a lot of people (and it's not easy to criticise them for this) kept their criticism muted so as not to jeopardise their potential career.