Sixty years ago, on Friday 20 July 1962, I was at the final day of what would turn out to be the final Lord’s cricket match between the Gentlemen and Players. Up until the end of the 1962 season, English first class cricket was played by a mixture of paid professionals (Players) and unpaid amateurs (Gentlemen), and every year a team from each category played a three day game at the home of cricket, as well as a later match at the Scarborough Festival. So on this particular Friday a small group of boys from my school travelled up to London where we bought scorecards, watched the game and hung around at the close of play for long enough to get autographs. I dutifully filled in my scorecard with a stubby pencil and at the end of the day had it signed by one of the most recognisable figures in the amateur team, Rev David Sheppard, sometime captain of both Sussex and England, who went on to become Bishop of Liverpool.
1962 was the year in which sport began to change as the amateur tradition started to fade. Earlier in July, Rod Laver had won Wimbledon and before the season was out would turn pro. He capped off his career by winning the US Open and thereby completing the Grand Slam. This surely speeded up the process that brought in the open era in tennis just six years later. Athletics followed, the Olympic tradition of only allowing amateurs to compete was largely devalued by the combination of sponsorship and surreptitious payments in the west and the blatant use of state subsidy in the Soviet bloc. Restrictions began to be relaxed in the 1970s. Rugby Union took a lot longer.
Somewhat surprisingly, cricket prefigured these other sports. The process to abolish amateurism had already taken several years and gone through various committees before being ushered in by a vote of the Advisory County Cricket Committee on 26 November 1962. (The whole event is documented in Charles Williams’s book, Gentlemen and Players, Phoenix 2013, which is an entertaining read.) The last ever Gentlemen v. Players match (which actually took place at Scarborough between 8 and 11 September 1962) had been played.
Edward Craig, who played for the Gentlemen, is interesting in that he appears to have decided not to pursue cricket as a possible career. He scored 1000 runs at an average of 42 in his first year at Cambridge when he was just 19 and was first selected to play for the Gentlemen. Mike Brearley went up to Cambridge in the same year and also scored 1000 runs. In those days he was a wicket keeper batsman. Craig, who went on to have a distinguished career in philosophy at Cambridge, ending as Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy, is discussed in this 1981 Cricinfo article by none other than John Arlott.
For the record, the line up in the September match at Scarborough, the last ever Gentlemen v Players, was as follows:
Gentlemen: Tony Lewis, Roger Prideaux, Mike Smith, Ray White, David Kirby, Alan Smith, Richard Hutton, Colin Drybrough, George Richardson, Richard Jefferson, Ossie Wheatley.
Players: John Edrich, Norman Horner, Bob Gale, Ken Barrington, Brian Close, Albert Lightfoot, Derek Morgan, Barry Knight, Geoff Millman, Fred Trueman, Tony Lock.