THE coldest week of the year, and so, naturally, our thoughts
turn to cricket. Although play in the 65th season of the Church
Times Cricket Competition does not start till May, now is the
time when captains start booking up fixtures and players start
blocking off dates in the diary.
The competition is not, in any way, experiencing a crisis. And
yet, in many ways, it mirrors the fortunes of the C of E. In recent
years, we have seen a slow decline in the number of dioceses able
to field a team. Each year, one or two dioceses come into the
competition, but usually more drop out. Something has to be
In the absence of an official report from an Archbishops'
Council task force, the Editor consulted a group of interested
clergy cricketers at the end of last year.
The first thing that emerged was an overwhelming affirmation of
the value of playing. The competition led to fitter, less stressed
clergy; it encouraged networking within dioceses and across church
tradition. It enhanced diocesan identity, and provided sources of
good publicity. Most of all, it was a source of joy (see panel,
The Editor was enjoined to communicate this message to bishops
and senior diocesan clergy, not just for their own benefit, but
also to encourage them to become recruiting officers for their
Another point made early on was that increasing numbers of women
are playing. Thanks, in part, to the success of the England women's
team, cricket is no longer seen as an all-male sport.
Here are the other main points:
More dioceses needed
These are the teams that took part last year: Birmingham,
Canterbury, Carlisle/Blackburn, Chester, Chichester, Coventry,
Exeter, Gloucester, Guildford, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln,
Liverpool, London, Manchester, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, St
Albans, Salisbury, Southwark, West Yorkshire & the Dales,
Winchester, and Worcester.
If your diocese is not on the list, it might just be that the
Great Selector has chosen you to organise something. Do you feel
the call? (NB: reading this article constitutes a call.)
What to do: simply email the Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org,
to express your interest and be put in touch with a captain or
secretary in a diocese near by. They will tell you things about how
to get your bishop's endorsement, the value of the bishop's PA, how
to use diocesan networks, how to source a friendly ground, etc.
If dioceses fear that they cannot raise a full team, they might
contemplate combining with a neighbouring diocese, as Carlisle and
Blackburn have (and, of course, Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and
Wakefield have in a very real sense).
Rule change to help new sides
Under current rules, each side can contain up to three
non-clerical players of any denomination, as long as they are
full-time church workers or hold a bishop's licence (e.g. Readers).
From 2015, for their first season only, this restriction
is waived for teams newly entering the competition. Thus, in
theory, a new team could be wholly made up of lay workers, or
Methodists - just for this year.
Other rule changes that might be pertinent
Hitherto, a player could play for another diocesan team only if
his or her diocese was not putting a team into the competition. In
future, any cleric can play for any team that will have him or her,
but must stick with them for the whole season.
Shorter games: from now on, all games will consist of 40 overs.
Only the final will be 50. If, in advance, or even on the day,
captains wish to negotiate a shorter game, especially owing to
distance or weather, this will be permissible. Forty overs remains
the norm, and also where there is disagreement.
Not rules, but to be attended to
The Editor inherited a strange north-south divide. Teams in the
south tend to play on Mondays, teams in the north on Thursdays.
Taking a lead from the Synod of Whitby, he thinks that this should
be ironed out, and that the tonsured tribes from the south should
prevail - not just because there are more of them, but because it
means that we can get match reports in time for that week's
Second, teams say that the more they play, the easier it is to
get a team together. Counter-intuitive, but true. The Editor
suggests blocking out Mondays in late May and June. He also
recommends that non-Church Times Cup Mondays be spent
playing secular teams or those of other faiths.
Third, distance is an object. This year we will attempt
to compile a list of neutral grounds, so that travel can be
Fourth, the Editor would like to hear from any interested
umpires who would be prepared to make themselves available, for a
Fifth, the larger dioceses might consider entering a B team in
the competition, perhaps to play in a neighbouring group.
Time is of the essence
The Editor would like to fix the groups by mid-February at the
latest, so that fixtures can be arranged. He would therefore
welcome volunteers, suggestions, etc., by Monday 9 February.
Established teams can pencil in fixtures if they wish, but there is
a possibility that the groups might change substantially.
THE value of sport, its relationship with
faith, the potential clash with secular sporting culture, and how
Jesus might play are all explored in a video of a panel discussion
that took place just before the historic match between a Vatican XI
and the Archbishop of Canterbury's XI last September. It lasts a
little more than 15 minutes, and is well worth watching: bit.ly/faithsport