Forget Eton. This Mumbai team should play Harrow at Lord’s

The first thing I do is turn my watch upside down. India is five-and-a-half hours ahead of the UK, so the trick does the conversion for you. Well, sort of – a time like 11.40 works perfectly (becoming 5.10), but anything on the half hour leaves you guessing which number the short hand should be pointing to. Still, it feels appropriate, because I learned it from Christopher Martin-Jenkins on Test Match Special, and cricket is the reason my son and I are here. Our first match is in Jaipur, where the Rajasthan Royals host the Delhi Capitals. Ever since I was Barney’s age (14) I’ve wanted to visit this country

County cricket needs Bazball

It’s freezing cold and everywhere is flooded, so it must be the start of the county cricket season. Surrey, last year’s champions, head for Old Trafford on Friday, in what should be a three-sweater day, aiming to make it three titles in a row. And who would bet against them? It’s a superb tournament, the county championship, much more than just an opportunity for elderly gentlemen to spread their wings with a sandwich lunch. But it could certainly do with some reforms. This goes against a lot of current thinking, but why not revert to three-day matches with a points system heavily weighted against draws? This would provide considerably more

The improbable genius of John Venn

There aren’t many mathematicians who can claim to have bowled out Australia’s number one batsman. But then John Venn, who died 100 years ago today, was no ordinary scholar. Born in Hull and brought up in Highgate, he was also an Anglican priest – the ninth consecutive one in his family – with a magnificent Victorian beard. He won gardening prizes for his roses and white carrots. He was a keen advocate of women’s rights. And as the founding father of Venn diagrams, still the world’s most beloved tool for representing set-relationships, he can probably boast greater name-recognition than any other modern mathematician.  Next time you’re in Cambridge, pop into Gonville and Caius

Where did all the good English football managers go?

It’s not easy for most right–thinking people to care much about golf and golfers apart from gasping in wonder at the size of their bank balances. Right now the Saudi–backed LIV tour and the American and European tours are making occasional grunts of peace towards each other. Soon the various professional golf bodies will have so much money they will be able to club together and buy Saudi Arabia. But what you can be certain of is that no one has ever watched a LIV event of their own free will or is ever likely to, despite the presence of some of the world’s best players, like Jon Rahm, Bryson

Sometimes rugby can be the most exciting sport of all

After the failure of Bazball – ending in England’s dismal capitulation on the cricket fields of India – let us give thanks for the emergence of Borthball in front of the Twickenham faithful. And it certainly was much needed: Steve Borthwick’s England rugby team had apparently been trying to convince us that they really weren’t very good at the game before donning Superman cloaks last Saturday to give a classic fooled-you performance against Ireland’s dogged champions. Playing fearlessly with speed, adventure and aggression, this young(ish) England side produced one of the greatest games of the century. Playing with speed and aggression, this England side produced one of the greatest games

Farewell to rugby’s King John

You couldn’t miss the heartbreaking irony of one of the greatest rugby players who ever pulled on his boots passing away just as the latest tournament was getting under way featuring 18-stone behemoths smashing into each other. Barry John, who retired at 27 and died last Sunday at 79, could have walked through brick walls and emerged unscathed. Was he the finest fly-half ever? He was certainly the most beautiful to watch. He played just 25 games for Wales and a handful for the British and Irish Lions, including the 1971 tour of New Zealand when he helped them to their only series victory against the All Blacks. It was

My sporting questions for 2024

Could this be the year when England’s men win their first international football trophy for 58 years? After all, they have the best striker in Europe in Harry Kane and the best attacking midfielder in Jude Bellingham, both of whom are being treated like Wellington and Nelson at their respective clubs BayernMunich and Real Madrid. This should be about time too that pundits admit that the way Bellingham lit up the European Championships in Germany makes him, at the very least, Bobby Charlton’s equal. If he is not Sports Personality of the Year in 2024, something very odd must have happened in the space-time continuum. If Bellingham is not Sports

How sport helped shape the British character

Faith in state planning was central to Harold Wilson’s pledge to modernise Britain. It was his rhetorical vision of a country guided by strategic foresight and ‘forged in the white heat of technology’ that helped him win the 1964 election. But Wilson also displayed the same attachment to planning in his personal life. Back in 1934 he joined the Port Sunlight tennis club, not because he was interested in the sport but because he felt it would provide the right environment to approach one of its young female members, a shorthand-typist called Gladys Baldwin. Unlike his ‘white heat’ agenda, the policy worked. After a lengthy courtship, during which Gladys dropped

The horror of finding oneself ‘young-old’

It’s a familiar tale. Midway through life’s journey, Marcus Berkmann woke to find himself in a dark wood, where the right road was wholly lost and gone. Without a Virgil to guide him through the trials and torments of middle age, he composed a bestselling memoir based on his experiences, A Shed of One’s Own – not so much a divine comedy as a mildly amusing stocking-filler. In his latest book, Still a Bit of Snap in the Celery, he realises he has entered a new age category: the so-called ‘young-old’. It’s easy to picture the delight on the sleepy faces of many a grandparent this Christmas as they wake

Stuart Broad would make a great politician

And they said Test cricket was in its death throes! This epic, attention-grabbing, emotion-wringing Ashes series ended in the last minutes of the last hour of the last session of the last day of the last match: who could ask for more? England have had a number of very good captains since Mike Brearley took voluntary redundancy from the job (for the second time) in 1981, but Ben Stokes has really measured up to his illustrious predecessor over the past six weeks of mesmerising sport. They are cut from very different cloth: Stokes is more intuitive than Brearley, who was perhaps more cerebrally attuned to the needs of leadership. Broad

I sledged Steve Smith for England

In this summer of sporting dramas, every patriotic sports fan likes to think he’s done his bit to help. I went up to Manchester with my brother last Thursday and in the evening we found ourselves in an Indian restaurant with the England wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow at the next table. I feel sure it was Edward’s and my manly cries of ‘Good luck, Jonny’ as he left that helped him bat so brilliantly for his 99 not out. Though I suppose it could have been the vindaloo that fired him up. My major influence on the Ashes series came a few days earlier, when I bumped into the Australian all-time-great batsman

Stress Test: some cricket fans can’t cope with the Ashes

The current Ashes series is proving a once-in-a-generation classic, one of those contests that cricket fans spend decades dreaming about. How are some of those fans reacting? They’re refusing to watch. I’m talking about the ‘I just can’t stand the tension’ brigade. The ones who, when the run chase gets down to 30 with three wickets left, run from the room shouting: ‘It’s no good, my nerves won’t take it.’ They pace up and down, fingers in ears, determined to avoid learning the result until the match is over. Only then do they creep back in and discover the news. It’s madness. You wait years for the drama of a

Roger Alton

Cricket, tennis and the Women’s World Cup: what a summer 

Great sport needs great rivalries, and that is why anyone with a pulse must celebrate being in the throes of an unrivalled confluence of extraordinary sporting occasions right now. As commentators grind on about what a bad place the world is in – ignoring the far worse places the world has been in over the years – a few hours spent watching the magnificent Wimbledon final between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic is just the sort of high-octane thriller we all need, as well as a ringing endorsement of the qualities of man. And now there is the fourth Ashes Test of a brutally close series, and the closing stages

The insidious creep of plastic glasses

It was the afternoon of the first day of the second Ashes test at Lord’s. In the brief lull between overs, the camera panned, as it often does, to a recognisable face in the crowd: Jacob Rees-Mogg. The traditionalist Tory presented exactly as you’d expect: Savile Row suit, tie and cufflinks. But there was one wrong note: he was drinking from a plastic glass.  Say what you like about Mr Rees-Mogg – and people do – but one attribute that I think we can all agree he possesses in abundance is that he’s in touch, almost viscerally, with his own sense of how things should be done. And this sense,

If you thought Lord’s was rowdy, get ready for Leeds

Shouldn’t we all just calm down a bit after Lord’s? Once prime ministers decide to intervene, you know things have gone too far. Rishi Sunak has made it clear he wouldn’t want to win a match that way apparently, which feels very much like Tony Blair’s decision to wade into the case of Corrie’s jailed heroine Deirdre Barlow. Mark you, that really was important. So… was Jonny Bairstow out after being stumped by sharp-eyed Australian keeper Alex Carey? Undoubtedly. Should the Australians have withdrawn their appeal? Possibly, because Bairstow had good reason to think the over was finished when he moved out of his ground. But had England gone on

In defence of Australia

What a week it has been for cricket. It began with that scalding ICEC report on the ‘racist, sexist and elitist’ state of the game in England. This report was commissioned by Ian Watmore, briefly the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, as a kneejerk reaction to Azeem Rafiq’s accusation of institutional racism. The report was presided over by Cindy Butts, who has been an activist for Black Lives Matter and perhaps has an axe to grind. As it stands, the report is devastating for English cricket, but much more needs to be known about the way in which it was put together and about the credentials of

Why we all need an Ollie Robinson

It’s a long way from Edgbaston to Karachi, but that’s where my thoughts were turning after Australia’s last-gasp victory in an unbearably tense, always thrilling, wonderful Ashes Test on Tuesday. Ominously for England, Australia’s three best batsmen, and the three best in the world, misfired simultaneously over five days. But they still managed to win. Oh well… Anyway, we were at the Sind Club ground on a cricket tour to Pakistan. It hadn’t been that long since the Sri Lankans had been shot up in Lahore so there was still a bristling police presence at our game, reassuringly unsmiling blokes wielding very large submachine guns. Pakistan being a country where

Is Uefa just useless – or is it worse than that?

It’s not clear how many readers of this journal will be affected, but anyone planning a stag weekend in Prague ought to steer clear of the first week of June. That’s when the city hosts the Uefa Conference League final at the 20,000-capacity Eden Arena, home to Slavia Prague. The finalists are West Ham – average home gate a 60,000 sellout – and Fiorentina, average gate 25-30,000. Which raises the question: is Uefa just utterly useless or is it worse than that? This game could have filled Wembley twice over; now it’s like holding the coronation in a parish church Both finalists have been allocated 5,000-odd tickets, with the remainder

The joy of slow sport

Fans of long-form sport, rejoice. April is here, and it is our month. Not only does it see the first four-day matches of the county cricket season, it’s also when snooker stages its world championship. Long-form sport is always the best. A four-day cricket match (five for Tests) has way more scope for drama than a T20. And the snooker at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, where even the shortest match is the best of 19 frames, gives space for the twists and turns that characterise true sporting excitement. Both games have sought to recruit new fans in recent years by offering shortened versions. Cricket has gone from 50-over games

How cricket came to Corfu

If you are ever at one of those dinner parties where the company is competing to slag off the iniquities of the British Empire, counter with the two words: ‘Corfu’ and ‘cricket’. Although never an actual colony (but rather a British protectorate), Corfu and the Corfiots are that rare thing – unashamedly Anglophile. There are several good reasons for this, not least including the British creation of the island’s celebrated university and Corfu town’s water and sewerage system. But for some, the protectorate’s greatest gift was cricket. This year Corfu will be celebrating the bicentenary of the coming of the game to the jewel of the Ionian Sea – making