Rhubarb 2020

ST EDWARD’S r h u b a r b



John was in Segar’s from 1940 to 1945 and Head of House in 1945. He was The Times Cricket Correspondent from 1954 until 1988 and he was Editor of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack from 1980 to 1986. David Smart, President, talked to John, in March 2020, about his illustrious career, his thoughts on the game today and the friends he has made through his love of cricket.

You have spent your life travelling the world as a cricket correspondent – can you tell us a bit about your initial route into the sporting profession and your first official role? I have EW (Jim) Swanton to thank for that. Having taken a Diploma of Education at Oxford and intended to teach, he gave

me the irresistable chance of going to Australia with 1950/51 MCC (England) as a kind of general dogsbody, not least as a cameraman for the BBC. For this last job I took with me a 35mm Newman Sinclair movie camera and 20,000 feet of film, sending home weekly, by air, shots of the tour. This will sound an awful lot of film, but it allowed only perhaps five minutes of play per day. It was in fact the first time the BBC had sent home any film directly from an overseas tour – very different from today’s wall-to-wall coverage. It was through being on that tour that I made the contacts that led me into journalism and in 1954 to becoming the Cricket Correspondent of The Times . Before The Times I had two years with the Manchester Guardian , now the Guardian . The experience of watching cricket has changed beyond recognition in the last ten years, largely due to commercialisation. Do you think the draw of lucrative, short term T20 contracts might mean youngsters never learn the art of test batting? T20 cricket came after my time and when it was first introduced at county level was scoffed at, as much as by the players themselves as by the public. In fact, of course, it has been a worldwide attraction even to the extent of dominating the game. Even 50 overs a side cricket I viewed with cynicism, but that is now the format most public schools use, Teddies included. It allows a more genuine game of cricket than T20 and was first encouraged and introduced by Dennis Silk when he was the legendary Warden of Radley. With packed audiences at Lord’s and The Oval for evening T20 matches, is ‘The Hundred’ needed? Not to my mind. Even without it, cricket last year attracted some bumper crowds, admittedly with an Ashes series and the World Cup to augment them. I cannot see any beneficial difference between T20 and The Hundred, but I can certainly see some unhelpful ones.

John Woodcock playing cricket at Teddies


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