Given man

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Given man

Given man is a term that hardly ever occurs in modern cricket. Indicates an experienced player who temporarily joins a weaker team to make the match less predictable and encourage viewers to bet actively. As a rule, it is “borrowed” from guests. This is extremely rare these days, although it was common practice in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, especially in the framework of the Gentlemen V Players competitions.

The peculiarity of these games was the obviously unequal status of the participants: for example, the teams of Gentlemen were formed from amateurs, while only professionals played for the Players. The first matches took place in 1806 and, after a short break, began to be played on an ongoing basis. The Gentlemen V Players were one of the most popular first-class cricket series from 1819 to 1962.

Significantly, the Gentlemen V Players had their own class underpinnings: The players represented the bulk of the workers and received wages for their performances, while the Gentlemen, who belonged to the middle class and aristocrats, played cricket solely for entertainment. And although the Marylebone Cricket Club managed to systematize the rules of the game, clearly distinguishing between professionals and amateurs, the last one often received much more since there was virtually no control over additional costs. At the same time, at first, the Gentlemen often lost, which could not but affect the popularity of the series. There have been some attempts to equalize the players on the field – for example, by installing wickets of different sizes – but they all met with little success. The introduction of the Given man rule made matches less predictable and attracted the audience to the stands.

The Gentlemen V Players matches were played over three days. Most often hosted by Lord’s, The Oval and Scarborough. The last, in particular, was the site of the final commemorative game of the series in 1962. It is worth noting that the Given man rule allowed the Gentlemen to win in the first match of the series, which took place in July 1806. Having “borrowed” Billy Beldham and William Lambert, they won by 14 runs. Lambert’s contribution to the final result was so highly appreciated that the Gentlemen soon lured him away. And while the team had its stars (like Lord Frederick Bocklercq), this gifted batsman increased interest in the series as a whole.

There have been many ups and downs in the history of Gentlemen V Players. After a pause that ended with the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the matches resumed, but the fifth in a row timed to coincide with the coronation of the unpopular George IV, aroused reasonable suspicions. Having pulled ahead at the start, the Gentlemen literally dropped their hands and allowed the Players to increase their advantage, surrendering on the second day calmly. Public dissatisfaction was caused by the fact that the losers had enough resources to ensure a victorious result. During the first decades of the series, the Gentlemen more often won precisely due to the long bench. The situation changed only in the 40s when the success of amateurs gradually began to decline.

The growing popularity of test cricket and the success of competing series (eg, North vs. South) led to the gradual degradation of the Gentlemen V Players, which continued with varying success for several decades. Firstly, the system of social classes itself was transformed, and secondly, the previously considered unshakable rules began to be revised. The MCC ruled to abolish amateur cricket status in 1963, which automatically made all first-class players professional and made the Gentlemen V Players, which were replaced by one-day games, no longer worthwhile. At first, the MCC was still considering the possibility of reviving the series with its subsequent reform, but it was decided to focus on the new Gillette Cup in the end. Public opinion was divided on this score, with some traditionalists mourning the “end of an era.” At the same time, many cricketers, notably Fred Trueman, hailed the cancellation of the Gentlemen V Players, which they saw as a “useless anachronism.”

From 1806 to 1962, 274 matches were played, 125 of which were won by the Players, and another eighty ended in a draw.

It is interesting: one of the most famous and popular Given man in cricket history was William Gilbert Grace. He simultaneously played for the Gentlemen of the South and the Players of the South in the summer of 1865. His transition to the camp of Gentlemen allowed the latter to noticeably increase the level of their game and ultimately defeat a more skilled opponent.

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Nisha Bhavani
Author: Nisha Bhavani Position: Cricket Expert
Other articles by this author: - Hook - Uppish - Irani Cup All articles by this author

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