To begin at the beginning:

On a mild late-July day in 2013, a completely unanticipated lightening bolt struck the Whaley Bridge Cricket Club website. Its implications were wrought through a note of apparent discord. That ‘bolt’ was in reality the article, ‘Any Thoughts?’, which soon became the prime mover in a debate that was almost immediately closed down by its own maladroit polemic. The substantive subject of a putative decline in cricket, compounded by the inability or reluctance to adapt to contemporaneous circumstances, was all too quickly lost. This occurred, not because of the response from two stakeholders of a generation which seemed to stand accused, but as a consequence of an inability on behalf of the debate’s progenitor to adapt to the course of the discussion. What followed was a fortification of the indictments against that same age group which proved, in an absolute sense, heuristically vapid. The silence that followed was perfectly deserved.

Now, after very nearly a year, the debate shows signs of having matured. Instead of further polemic, there has come an article which could potentially rekindle the dim light of progress. ‘A Lesson in Demography’ does its author little disservice, but the capacity for development, expansion, and deeper analysis is readily apparent; the article’s strength, to use the modern technological vernacular, lies in extensive plugin-ability. For example, the issues of competing sporting and cultural interests, of social change, of managing amateur community organisations, of globalisation and its implications for amateur sport, and finally – and perhaps most important of all – the format of cricket in the DCCL, could each warrant a treatise in themselves. Indeed, it is as a response to kite-flying around the last issue that the debate has been reinvigorated.

Even more significantly, whether it has been the product of intent or of function, ‘A Lesson in Demography’ shows a significant willingness to engage with some of the methodological flaws which were identified in the immediate aftermath of the debate’s opening article. Gone is much of the didactic certainty of the whisky priest, replaced by a lucid certainty in the direction of the article’s self-contained argument. All this is to be received well, although it must be said that not all of the methodological holes have been filled. For instance, where in the latest article is the element that aims to demonstrate how the proposals included actually deal with the problems identified? If it cannot do this, then it has failed to make a point fundamental to its reason for being, so then why has it been written? If it cannot demonstrate, then how can it convince the open-minded or the dispassionate? If it cannot convince the dispassionate or the open minded, how can it make headway against the vociferously and diametrically opposed? If the article does not have pretentions in the direction of convincing either the opposed or the neutral, then why does the article exist at all?

I fear that ‘A Lesson in Demography’ may exist for the limited and ignoble intention of authorial prestidigitation. Certainly, for the closing comment, one can read: ‘I told you so’. All the great prestidigitators seize an opportunity to appear prescient post eventum. Perhaps we should consign its author to the ranks of the ‘future gazers’. Perhaps Mr Shaw has gone from being the Whaley Bridge Cricket Club’s Sir William Beveridge, to being its Nostradamus. I sincerely hope that this point is proved inaccurate by a measured and considered response. For the moment, however, I just cannot be Shaw.