The MCC’s new president, Mike Gatting, intends to take cricket to China. If he succeeds it might be considered a greater achievement than leading England to an away Ashes victory, as he did in 1986.
It was to be another 25 years before England won another Test series in Australia but if Gatting can pave the way for the sport in China during his year of office, which starts tomorrow, he may leave a legacy to last 1,000 years.
“MCC is the best cricket club in the world, which does lots of things for people throughout the world because it can,” Gatting said. “It prides itself on trying to help people grow something that can be sustained, as it has in Afghanistan. Maybe we can try to go into China and get them started too.
“They love history, they love discipline, they love the honour that still exists in our game. I’m not suggesting they would be playing Test cricket, it may be only Twenty20, but their history indicates that it is exactly the right sort of culture.”
China and the Americas are considered to be the final frontiers for cricket if it is truly to become a global game played beyond its traditional Commonwealth territories. The International Cricket Council has long toyed with the idea of taking the game to new places but, as with Afghanistan, MCC may prompt quicker progress.
Gatting, who played 79 Tests for England and is already patron of Hong Kong Cricket Club, hopes to use that position to give him a foothold in the mainland. “I know a lot more about it than perhaps people think and it will be interesting to see what support we can get,” said Gatting, who is managing director of cricket partnerships with the England and Wales Cricket Board. “They are playing baseball there, football is there and cricket is an international sport with a lot of things the Chinese hold dear.”
Gatting insisted that MCC also had responsibilities closer to home. “MCC has been great at going into other peoples’ back yards and helping them to promote the game,” he said. “We have probably neglected our own back yard, Kilburn, Willesden, Islington, Camden. But hopefully it’s an ideal opportunity during my year to push cricket in the community around Lord’s.” From Camden to Shanghai, he may have run MCC ragged by this time next year.