As Tip O’Neill, 55th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and when playing on his home turf no mean wicket keeper, famously opined, “All cricket is local.”
Rishton is a town of 3,000 households and 7,000 souls situated on the old road between Blackburn and Burnley, now by-passed by the M65. It feels like time itself has by-passed this community, but it was the first place to weave calico on an industrial scale. and was therefore once at the leading edge of a technological revolution; a Silicon Valley of its day.
The figures on a old pavilion proudly proclaim that they founded their cricket club in 1891. The cricket ground is shielded from any prying eyes passing down the old road by a substantial red bricked wall which continues to protect the intellectual property of the Club down Highfield Road.
Those like Third Man who shun the main entrances of grounds, and take a pride in seeking out long disused side gates with their rusting turnstiles forever free to turn, will be doubly rewarded by walking down this road, because at its end is to be found a perfect example of the urban scoreboard.
In its time this relic has displayed the feats performed on this field by Viv Richards, Michael Holding, Johnny Wardle, Alf Valentine, Gupte, Ken Higgs, Alan Donald, Duncan Fletcher, Jason Gillespie, Kumar Dharmasena and, not forgetting our old companion, the roving Sydney Barnes.
Despite being the Lancashire League Champions no more than four seasons ago, Rishton last Sunday suffered their sixteenth consecutive defeat and are in a sorry way.
But this does not inhibit the community that meets here, drinks here, plays here and brings its children to learn the game here.
There maybe a lesson in Rishton for ‘big cricket’. It needs its stars, but it also needs to maintain a careful balance provided by players from the community. Like the good mild sold in the club bar, there has to be a specific gravity provided by local players.
The jetting in and the jetting off of overseas players in so called County cricket disturbs the balance. But more disruptive is the transfer of the ambitious home grown player from the county that has nurtured him to another that has ‘bought’ him.
Third Man once stood first slip to Tip and they discoursed away a happy afternoon on the importance of seeing this from the community’s point of view.
“In the end, TM, I want to know my heroes got where they got from the same place I started. If they don’t, well, it just ain’t cricket.”
Third Man has reported his conversation with Tip O’Neill in a Super-Hari sense of the word ‘reported’. As many of Hari’s elders have been quick to remind the naive reader, he is young, inexperienced and will soon get the hang of creative reportage, when that is he frees himself entirely from the chains of the factual.