Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller launched a podcast early in 2020 to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They’re no longer deprived of cricket, but still chat regularly about cricket topics with different guests each week – cricket writers, players, administrators and fans – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.
Annie Chave is the founder and editor of County Cricket Matters magazine and a regular contributor to Guerilla Cricket. Rob Eastaway is a writer, lecturer and cricket-lover who produced a clear and witty book explaining cricket’s mysteries called What Is A Googly? as well as several explaining the mathematics behind such everyday mysteries as why buses arrive in threes. They are joint trustees of a new charity called the Googly Fund which supports adult recreational cricket. They describe its origins, purpose and successes as the latest guests of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their cricket-themed podcast. In Peter’s unavoidable absence, Roger Alton replaces him as co-host.
They begin by reviewing the English season to date, especially the recent introduction of the Hundred competition. Annie attacks the scheduling which has sated this part of the season with white-ball cricket at the expense of red-ball and made it much harder for England to repair its Test match performance after the debacle at Lord’s. She also deplores the devaluation of the Royal London Cup (successor to the historic Gillette Cup.) However, she hails the exposure the Hundred has given to women’s cricket and the income it has belated given to its players. Rob expresses his concern that the Hundred could become the popular template of cricket as the form exposed on free-to-air television. He notes that live T20s matches, domestic and international, have never been shown on free-to-air television and may therefore be as unfamiliar to people under-30 as Test cricket. He wonders what the season will look like in five years’ time, and whether and how spectators will go on from the Hundred to discover other forms of cricket without free-to-air coverage of them and given the expense of being a live spectator. They both express concern about the loss of county identities in the new Hundred teams, especially for the counties not serving as hosts.
They hail the superb catch by a spectator at Hundred match at Headlingly – and suggest that as in baseball he and others like him should be allowed to keep the ball.
They praise the Hundred for explaining the proceedings to non-aficionados better than other forms of the game.
Rob describes his love of adult recreational cricket and his motivation for supporting it through the Googly Fund, especially his fear that recreational sides were getting older and squeezed out of fixtures by competitive league cricket. He and Annie highlight some of the clubs which have benefited and the various forms of help given, especially in the provision of kit for new, younger players who do not have any, and including support for umpires, scorers, ground staff and tea-makers.
One especially successful initiative targeted parents and carers of primary school children in South London and enlisted no fewer than 200 into returning to cricket or even taking it up. It has overcome the fear by some players of embarrassment over their performances, and has some special rules to guarantee a role in the game for everyone. Rob believes that this model could be rolled out across the country and the charity has launched the Primary Parent Challenge for similar groups based around primary schools with a minimum grant of £150 for start-up expenses. Annie hails the sheer enjoyment of the game being encouraged by the Fund, a quality which has led her recreational club (the Erratics of Exeter) to record numbers of members and as many as sixty matches a season.
Full details of the Fund, including how to apply for a donation or make one, can be found on googlyfund.co.uk It especially welcomes applications from under-represented and disadvantaged cricket communities, such as the refugee team it recently supported in Kent.
Rob has donated the royalties from his book What Is A Googly? to the Fund: the newest edition reflects the growth of T20 and women’s cricket. He describes his research into the origins of the term “googly” and some other arcane terms, and both he and Annie suggest the inevitability of replacing “batsman” with gender-neutral “batter”, despite its American baseball resonance. They both cite their least favourite modern cricket expressions.
There was not nearly enough time for Rob to explain the Duckworth-Lewis system for giving results to foreshortened matches. But he outlines the mathematical reasoning behind it and sets out his own idea for involving the umpires and captains to restore some of the human factor in resolving the match.
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Peter Oborne, Richard Heller
Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.
Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.
Oborne & Heller cricketing partnership
Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.
Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.
The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.
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