March 2024: Letters to the Editor

Record-setting sons and founding fathers


This article is taken from the March 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Record-setting sons

Patrick Kidd (THIS SPORTING LIFE, FEBRUARY) writes with his customary sagacity about teenage sporting sensations and the difficulty so many of them have in sustaining early promise.

He mentions Vinod Kambli who at 16 was discussed in the same breath as his schoolboy contemporary, Sachin Tendulkar, but whose initially promising Test career was over within three years. Then again, Kambli still has India’s highest test match average (54). So not a total fail.

But might space be found here to recall another Indian cricket prodigy, Pranav Prashant Dhanawade?

In 2015, when he was 15 and playing in an inter-school tournament, Dhanawade set the record for the highest-ever score in a single innings in a recognised match, swatting 1,009 runs. His school declared on an also record-breaking 1,465 for 3.

Their opponents replied limply with innings of 31 and 52. Hopefully, rather than feel embarrassed, they have learned to dine out on their role in helping history be made.

Overnight, Dhanawade went from being the teenage son of a rickshaw driver to an international sensation. His state government paid for his subsequent education and cricket coaching.

But the high expectation was a hindrance as much as a help. “Every time I walked out to bat, I used to feel the pressure and that on occasions got the better of me. It became difficult for me as I lost focus at times and played a loose shot,” he admitted in 2021.

By then, Covid lockdowns had denied him — and countless other up-and-coming cricketers at the formative period of their development — two seasons of trials. By 2022, he was playing for Northwick Cricket Club in Cheshire. Age 23, his sights are still set on proving he was not a “one-knock wonder” and playing for India. But of this there is, as yet, no sign.

Dhanawade beat the record which had lasted for 116 years, set in 1899 by A.E.J. (Arthur) Collins, a 13-year-old playing in an inter-house match at Clifton College.

Crowds accumulated along with his profusion of boundaries over the course of his four days at the crease and prompted a report in The Times . He notched up 628 not out.

Aged 16, Collins joined the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (for whom he scored a century against Sandhurst) and played at Lord’s for the Royal Engineers.

His army career, however, took precedence. Mentioned in despatches, he was killed at the First Battle of Ypres on 11 November 1914.

Jeremy Barnett

Art for ale’s sake

I read with interest the article by Simone Hanna regarding the state of British pubs (THE SAD DECLINE OF LONDON PUBS ONLINE). I would agree that in older times, perhaps pre-Covid, pubs were more occupied and more likely to stay open until advertised closing times.

But now with increased prices of over £6 a pint fewer people are inclined to part with that kind of money. Gone are the times when offices cleared out at 5pm and the first call was “pub anyone?”

In Greenwich I have tried to buck that trend by doing my bit to breathe new life into my local boozer, the Duke of Greenwich, in the form of a cartoon exhibition. This has increased the footfall in the pub and now means an establishment that came out of the pandemic with empty walls has a new impetus and identity.

They now want to book more artists for their walls and have introduced an extended opening timetable to boot with an actual “happy hour”. Maybe it’s time to give pubs a new lease of life through art?

Pete Songi

Founding Father

I enjoyed Andrea Valentino’s article on Episcopalians in the USA (PREACHING TO AN EVER-DWINDLING CHOIR, FEBRUARY). A big problem must surely be the USA’s foundation myth of having been somehow created by English Protestants — the Mayflower, the Pilgrim Fathers etc.

How many Episcopalians, and how many Brits, can give the name of the oldest city in the USA? It is not in Virginia, Massachusetts or even Maryland.

The oldest city now in the USA is St Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565 by the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, many years before the arrival of Protestants from England.

Anthony Weaver

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