Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Kids Are All Right?

Yesterday, Yorkshire broke the record for fielding the youngest ever First Class player. Bearing in mind the fact that literally millions (maybe not millions but a fair few thousand) players have played First Class cricket over a couple of hundred years, and that the previous record was set in 1867, this is a fairly extraordinary feat. Well, sort of.

Barney Gibson, who was born 15 years and 27 days ago, was picked for Yorkshire's game against Durham University. Legally, Gibson cannot drive a car. He cannot have a drink. He can't smoke. He can't have sex. He can't join the army. And in most professions, he can't even get a job. Yet here he is playing first class cricket.

I don't want to judge Gibson on his keeping or batting, mainly because I haven't seen either. And I don't want to be too harsh to the poor lad, just because I'm bitter because I wasn't playing first class cricket at 15 (I've come to terms with the fact I'm unlikely to play first class cricket at any stage of my life). But he does appear to be in the middle of a pointless publicity stunt from Yorkshire.

Gibson seems a fairly slight lad, which is perfectly normal for a 15 year old. He's not one of those teenagers who clearly were fed some sort of steroid from a young age who have a beard, pierced ears and a kid. While he may be some child prodigy while facing other 15 year old bowlers, I'd hazard a guess that he simply isn't ready to face proper adult bowling at first class level. While I could go on to talk about Yorkshire having a duty of care to Gibson (which they probably do), I won't, mainly because it's fairly irrelevant.

What is relevant is his age. 15 years and 27 days. Young enough to break a record. This game between Yorkshire and Durham Uni is at best pointless, and at worst a waste of everyone's time. So why not liven it up a bit by breaking a 144 year old record? Gibson almost certainly isn't ready for first class cricket, but if it helps generate a nice news story and a bit of attention for a game which would otherwise have slipped under everyone's radar, then why not pick him? But would he have played were he another 102 days older (old enough to not break the record)?

The fact that the previous record stood for 144 years shows that it won't be beaten anytime soon. So Gibson will more likely than not have to carry the mantle of "youngest ever First Class cricketer" around for the rest of his career. I don't know Gibson, so I don't know how he'll deal with the tag, but what I do know is that young cricketers attempting to make their way in the game need as little distraction as possible. How Gibson will deal with the added pressure is yet to be known, but chances are that it won't help. Gibson may go on to captain England and do all kinds of cool things in cricket, but the selfish decision from Yorkshire has put the spotlight firmly on him and giving him an unfair disadvantage. Which I think is a shame for the lad, because instead of being able to do normal 15 year old things like playing FIFA or drinking cider in the park, he's going to have to learn how to give an interview without saying "at the end of the day I just want to let my cricket do the talking".

Plus, university games shouldn't be first class, so the record should be reversed.

And finally...

A video of Barney Gibson batting back in 2009. He was 13!

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