In 1848, unfettered by so-called ‘political correctness’, two teams of Greenwich Pensioners, resident at the Royal Hospital for Seamen in Greenwich, took part in a spirited, and well-received, two-day cricket match at the Priory Ground in Lewisham. The names of the teams are, hopefully, self-explanatory, but all the players were retired Royal Navy sailors, who had lost their respective limbs in the cause of duty and, hence, found a permanent home at the Royal Hospital.
In what I suspect was meant as a nod toward camaraderie but also respect for the service of those involved, the match was met with a positive reaction, and depending on how you perceive it could even be said to be ahead of its time. Of course nowadays sporting events for those with certain physical limitations are rightly heralded as inclusion and necessary in rewarding achieve just as they are in the able bodied. The paralympics was of course a recent brilliant example of showcasing sporting achievement in those with additional challenges.
Gone are the days where cricket had a narrow appeal. Branching out beyond the physical, cricket has been dragged into the modern age in varying regards. Take for instance ‘The Hundred’. This new format aimed at appealing to new audiences achieved just that, selling over 500,000 tickets, and reaching a TV audience of 16 million+. Not only that, 57% of those tuning in had not watched live cricket this year. The key to its success was to involve both mens and womens teams (from various major cities across the country – making it more diverse). It’s a 100 ball tournament and all signs are that it’s bringing a new and younger audience to the sport, which can’t be bad. Of course Cricket already holds mass appeal all around the world, from the UK to India, as sites like https://crictips.com/ attest to, so hitting on new angles to keep things fresh and interesting is key to continued interest.
The aforementioned One Arm and One Leg cricket match appears to have been something of a ‘jolly’ for the Greenwich Pensioners, each of whom received an allowance of ten shillings, not to mention free transport to and from the Priory Ground. Eating and drinking were high on the agenda, with a generous lunch and dinner served before and after each day’s play and, at the end of the match, both teams marched off, with musical accompaniment, to the Bull Inn in nearby Shooters Hill.
While the players cut a dash in their distinctive veterans’ uniforms, their age and infirmity led to a rather comical, if good-natured, encounter, in which extras made a significant contribution to the totals in all four innings. The One Arm XI bowled 43 wides and the One Legged XI 30, while Mr. Sears, who batted at number five for One Legged XI, top scored with 15 in the second innings. All told, the One Arm XI made 50 and 41 and the One Legged XI made 32 and 44, although the batting was as bad as the bowling, with 21 ducks in the match, including five pairs for the One Legged XI.