These were indeed cricket’s darkest days, when the hallowed halls of the Lord’s pavilions came under the control of the grey arm of the Soviet Union’s ‘Cricket Comintern’ after the successful storming of the Grace Gates by the crew of the Battleship Protemptkin.
That dark period ‘as the stormclouds gathered’ is shrouded in mystery; unsurprisingly almost all records of that time have been expunged from the Lord’s museum and the M.C.C.’s archives. Little physical evidence remains to remind us of those days, the hammer and sickle wind-vain that stands were an effigy of old father time allegedly once stood, the Borscht and Boiled Cabbage Soup still served at the Lord’s Tavern to this day, and English cricket’s interminable reliance on five-year plans, these small things are all we have.
Until now that is, because Professor Günter Simmermacher chief lecturer in Cricket Archaeology at the Alabama Institute of Reactionary Studies in Mobile, has unearthed a telling document hidden in a rare 1937 issue of Wisden, the last to be edited by Leon Trotsky.
It appears to be a portion of an early draft of a speech given to the MCC Presidium by England’s head coach, Joseph Stalin himself. The draft, annotated by Stalin’s own hand, gives a chilling insight into M.C.C./K.G.B philosophy, and solves perhaps one of cricket’s greatest mysteries. How was it that England did not lose a single game under Stalin’s guidance? Well having read this new evidence we can say we now have a new and valuable insight. For though we know that Stalin knew relatively little about cricket (though a good deal more than those charlatans who style themselves ‘Sky TV commentators’) he was by anybody’s standards, a world-class disciplinarian.
Read on my friends, read on…
“…by which time his batting average had dropped below 40, so I had him executed.
Moving on, if the objectives of the current five year plan are to be achieved production of the T34 cricket bat must be ratcheted up to meet demand from the newly occupied cricket lands of Finland, Lithuania and all those ‘stan countries’ <pause for three minutes of polite laughter> as I like to call them, down south. To that end I was reading the Q1 production report of the ‘Novosibirsk Glorious October Revolution Cricket Bat and Jock-Strap factory’ just yesterday, and I have to say comrades it made depressing reading.
“During the period January 1 to march 30th, the factory produced 1, 387, 492 T34 cricket bats, however on testing 97% of them were faulty and were scrapped according to plan.”
Well frankly comrades this just isn’t good enough. It goes without saying that I have ordered the execution of the Heads of Production and R&D, and their replacement will be the first task of the new Head of Personnel who will himself replace the previous H.R. chief who you will remember was executed last month after the ‘cult of the wrong personality’ fiasco.
If nothing else these production failures have put a strain on the supplies of willow from the collective willow farms in the Caucuses, which are unable to keep up with factory demands. I know that Comrade Lysenko has some unusual and innovative theories about how willow tree production can be increased, and I await the results of his experiments with interest. As indeed will his wife and children, who I have ordered executed if production does not meet factory requirements.
This brings me on to the unfortunate story of the demise of Comrade Trueman. Many of you I know, were confused by the decision to terminate our Captain given that England had not lost a single game under his leadership. I have to tell you comrades that his death was the result of an amusing communications mix-up! I had stated in a memo something to the effect of “The Captain’s plans must be executed forthwith”; unfortunately Comrade Beria somehow missed be the word ‘plans’ and went ahead with organizing a firing squad for all our squad captains. An unfortunate administrative error I’m sure you’ll agree. As a result I have removed Comrade Beria from the team selection committee. I have also removed his teeth.
Sadly I have to report the departure of Comrade Trotsky, who has taken an unexpected leave of absence, and is even as I speak on a freighter to Mexico. I have to report that Comrade Trotsky has left his job at Wisden without proper authority, so I can assure you he will shortly be receiving a visit from our friends in the NKVD.
<Insert ‘ice-pick’ joke here, and await compulsory five minute standing ovation. Order execution of anyone not laughing. >
Finally Comrades, I know you are all keen to start on your bowls of Mrs. Bedser’s excellent Borscht and Boiled Cabbage soup, so I will briefly run over management changes at the Moscow State School of Leg Breaks and Googlies. As you know last month we had to execute fifteen…”