Storm Clouds gather over Grace Road as Hoggard Strikes

Leicestershire v Surrey, Grace Road, County Championship, day 1 (24 August)

Storm clouds gathering –

 as Hoggard strikes (to remove one of the Surrey openers) –

According to most sources – the Guardian, for instance – Chairman Must Go Says Hoggardand Cricinfo, which suggested that Red Hoggo was planning a sitdown protest on the pitch – it should have been an interesting day at Grace Road today.  The various newshounds in attendance must have been a little disappointed by the lack of drama, although I dare say there must have been a bit of an atmosphere in the office.

The gist of the story is that Hoggard had presented a letter to the Board, with the support of Coach Tim Boon and – apparently – the other players, the groundstaff and most of the administrative staff, “demanding” the removal of Chairman Neil Davidson.  This follows on from the resignation of Chief Executive David Smith (K.D. Smith, the one-time Warwickshire batsman), who cited interference by Davidson in matters of team selection.

I find this all a very sad situation.  Davidson I’ve always had time for, because of his robust defence of the interests of the smaller counties.  Smith seemed to be a genuine cricket man (unlike the previous incumbent, who struck me a suit pure and simple).  I like the fact that I’ve more than once seen Smith at Fairfield Road.  There seemed – and indeed seems – to be little difference between their philosophies: both, for instance, are in favour of  (and are now claiming credit for) the policy of reducing our reliance on Kolpaks and developing home-grown players instead (which is now – clearly – bearing fruit).

The point at issue, according to Davidson, seems to be whether the Chairman has the right to interfere in team selection if he feels that misguided selections are effecting the team’s performance in the one competition that he feels to essential to the financial stability of the club – 20/20.  Hoggard’s action appears to suggest that there are wider issues of managerial style involved.

At the Members’ Forum I attended, Davidson criticised Smith for making public the detail of what had been discussed between them.  Hoggard has now made the same complaint about Davidson, claiming that the contents of his letter were not intended for public consumption.  

With some misgivings, I signed the petition that was being circulated to call an Extraordinary General Meeting of the members and propose a motion of no confidence in the Chairman, not least because I felt that the grounds for refusing the previous petition (which I hadn’t signed) – that the last two pages hadn’t had the proposal on it and that it hadn’t been presented at the Company Secretary’s office in Nottingham – struck me as fairly spurious.  I did stress, as I did so, that this didn’t necessarily mean I endorsed the vote of no confidence.   

I suspect that, unless you have some first-hand experience of the parties involved (which I do not) the truth of all this is hard to discover.  We shall see what we shall see, but – as I say – all very unfortunate, particularly given the general optimism at the start of the season.

And the cricket?  Hoggard took early wickets while it was raining (which it did – on and off – for the first hour), then Ramprakash scored a century.  In years to come I can imagine some theoretical nippers leafing (or scrolling) through their Wisdens and saying “this Ramprakash – he must have been quite a player.  The last man to score a hundred centuries!”  and me replying “Ah yes – I saw the last of them, you know.  At Grace Road”. – (which it may possibly have been).  But I really can’t remember a thing about it, beyond the fact that he never really looked like getting out.

A curious fact, worth noting, is that both teams’ ex-England stars (Hoggard and Ramprakash) had the squad number 77 on the back of their shirts.  I think this must have some kind of mystical significance, and – as the two 77s clashed – I was rather put in mind of the following hit from 1977 by the reggae group Culture.  Perhaps the brooding, apocalyptic feel of the song might also be appropriate, in light of the goings on behind the scenes at Grace Road.

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