Abhishek Mukherjee, cricketsoccer’s prolific writer, brings to you the words, verbal or written, almost never intended to be pathbreaking quotes in the history of cricket in this fascinating series…….
Chronicling the most significant events in the history of cricket – or of any sphere of life – is an arduous task. The first Test is obviously a significant event, but by that definition, the first of anything is significant. Every change in law is important, as is the first ball bowled on, say, Sri Lankan soil, or the first international win for the astonishing Afghanistan side.
No. We shall take a safer approach on these pages, putting together the most significant quotes in history. These will not include eloquent phrases penned down by the greatest cricket authors; neither will they contain tongue-in-cheek sledges, or narrations of some of the greatest moments in history.
These are words, verbal or written, almost never intended to be pathbreaking quotes. Some of them, however, led to history; some became part of history, and some others are so synonymous to landmark events that it is often impossible to separate the events.
To begin with, we shall go back to the 16th century, to perhaps the first known usage of the word ‘cricket’ in any form. But before we embark upon that, we shall go back another three centuries to a wardrobe account of the son of Edward I (Longshanks). It mentions that his son played “creag et alios ludos” (“creag and other games”) at Westminster and Newenden.
This entry was dated March 13, 1300 – but that is according to the Julian Calendar. The Gregorian Calendar (what we have been using since 1582) will put the date on March 19, 1301.
Some historians (Rowland Bowen among them) have theorised that this ‘creag’ might have been cricket. However, that is not the accepted opinion.
In A Social History of English Cricket, Derek Birley has suggested that ‘creag’ could have been an archaic form of ‘craic’, a word for “enjoyable social time”.
Peter Wynne-Thomas, too, has rubbished the idea of ‘creag’ being a form of cricket, referring to the evidence as ‘flimsy’ in The History of Cricket from the Weald to the World.
What, then, was the earliest mention of cricket?
Let us refer to a hearing at Guildford Court on January 17, 1597 (according to Julian Calendar; 1598 by Gregorian) regarding a dispute over a plot of land between a school and the town of Guildford.
In The theory and practice of cricket, from its origin to the present time, Charles Box mentions that the plot was “A Garden withheld from the Town” with an area of “about an acre and a quarter”.
The school in question was Free School, Guildford, Surrey (later Royal Grammar School), founded in 1509 with the intention to “make a free scole at the Town of Guildford”. The school was moved to its current location in High Street in 1552.
John Derrick, a Queen’s Coroner of Surrey and a former student of the school, said the following in his statement: “Being a scholler in the ffree schoole of Guldeford hee and diverse of his fellows did runne and play at creckett and other plaies,” The statement can be looked up in the Constitution Book of Guildford.
The spellings, of course, have evolved over centuries, but this ‘creckett’ is universally accepted as a variant of cricket.
Derrick was 59 at the time of his testimony, which puts the date of his involvement at “creckett and other plaies” at around 1550.
One can only speculate what other games Derrick and his friends used to play. Archery, perhaps; or fencing.
There is little doubt, however, if ‘creckett’ was indeed cricket, it was almost certainly played by boys with no known involvement of money. Clergymen would later take to the sport, often to the level of obsession.
Professional cricket was still decades away.