When it comes to cricket, what's the use of a dead sparrow?

The MCC votes today on whether to accept women members, but do they want to join?
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The Independent Online
THERE are three things that everyone knows about cricket: England aren't very good, it's often rained off and Marylebone Cricket Club does not allow women members.

Today the MCC is voting whether to admit women into its august membership. Early indications seem to suggest that, despite the efforts of its go- ahead committee, the old farts will have the last say and women will be bowled out once more.

It's not surprising. A call once went out at Lord's. "Is there a doctor in the house?" A member had had been stung on the tongue by a bee, a potentially life-threatening situation. The doctor however saved the man with prompt action. "Is there anything I can do for you, Doctor?" the grateful member gasped. "Actually I'd love a tour of the members' pavilion," she replied. The MCC refused. It might have set a precedent.

So even if by some Damascene conversion, the two thirds majority needed to make this momentous change agree to accept women, would women really want to join a place like that? Like Groucho Marx, if asked, I'd reply that I didn't care to belong to any club that had accepted me as a member.

Actually I think women are kept out of the MCC so that we don't realise how boring it is. This is a club, after all, where your average member is a 57-year-old man. You have to wait around 20 years to get in (which insures that the average age will remain on the high side). And one of their most prized exhibits is a stuffed sparrow "bowled out by Jehangir Khan in '36, old boy". (Still, I suppose that's better than most of the England team could achieve now).

And on top of that you go there to watch one of the most bizarre games ever invented. History has it that the game was invented by shepherds (who had presumably found counting sheep too stimulating), although the real success arrived in the 18th century. Since then the game has become riddled with rules and code words and Ian Botham.

I suppose that the true reason that the English took to the game was because whenever the colonies looked like getting good at it, they could suddenly say something like, "You haven't got a silly midoff so we'll have to start the Test again"; "Yes you may have more runs but we've got more wickets"; "The referee's decision is final and he went to Eton, so you're out. "

Of course this doesn't happen any more. We may have won one Test Match the other day but England's dismal performance is as perennial as washed out bank holidays and Lord Irvine's obsession with interior decoration.

Except that's not quite the case. Women's cricket is doing well. We held the World Cup until December and are regarded as one of the top four countries. More and more women are reading the monthly magazine published by Wisden, the cricketer's bible - in the last year alone numbers have almost doubled.

So maybe it's not the case that we should be fighting to get into the dreary old MCC. We should be starting up our own exclusive club instead, preferably right next door. We could have something in better taste than those garish red and yellow colours. We could be part of a club where people actually won things instead of having to whinge about the pitch the whole time. And then enjoy watching the men outside pathetically begging to join. To be kind maybe we'll toss them out a couple of sparrows. Let's hear it for the WCC!

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