An intoxicating combination of adrenaline and alcohol can be seen as largely responsible for the foundation of I Zingari on 4th
After victory in a game against the school side at Harrow, William Bolland, Frederic and Spencer Ponsonby and R.P. Long had dinner at the Blenheim Hotel in Bond Street. Agreeing that much of the enjoyment of their victory stemmed from the fact that all eleven of them were amateurs, the friends decided that it would be sensible to found an amateur wandering club.
Without a home ground, the club would rely on the generosity of its hosts, but would not further trouble them to provide any ‘professional’ bowlers, as was the custom at the time. There followed a long discussion as to the format of the club and its ‘Rules and Regulations’; some, such as the decree ‘That the Entrance be nothing, and the Annual Subscription do not exceed the Entrance...’ still provide the basis of the spirit of the club; others, such as ‘That all directions connected with the game may
be conveyed in the French or Italian languages,’ have rather fallen by the wayside...
During what must have been an increasingly circuitous conversation at the Blenheim Hotel, and having availed himself of a substantial amount of claret, R.P. Long drifted off into a ‘vinous slumber’*. When the conversation eventually turned to a name for this fledgling club, he deigned to murmur ‘The Zingari, of course.’
The next day, this became ‘I Zingari’, much to the continued confusion of defenders of the definite article and Italian purists. The Officers of the club and its first twenty-one members were informed of their inclusion the following day. That first season of 1845 saw two two day fixtures, one lost and the other won by an innings and watched by a crowd of 2000 with a ‘capital band which played during the whole day and with its lively polkas excited even the grave and sturdy yeomen.’
Rule 15 of the ‘Rules and Regulations’ stated: ‘
That the Colours of IZ be Black, Red and Gold.’ The ‘History’ continues: ‘Members are reminded that ‘Out of darkness, through fire, into light’, is the foundation on which the Colours of IZ are built. It is most important that the Colours should always be worn showing the Gold at the top.’
While the true origin of the colours remains shrouded in mystery and R.P. Long’s somewhat hazy recollections of various meetings with Spanish gypsies, the importance of wearing the colours in the correct fashion was pointed out to Rockley Wilson by an elderly member of IZ in 1936:
‘Do you always wear the colours upside down?’
‘Only in the year the King dies.’
Rarely has the issue of sartorial elegance been so deftly sidestepped.
Rule 16 states:
‘That a Twenty-two may be selected as Candidates, who, Sibenesegesserint, may be hereafter elected.’
In the early years of the club, ‘Si Benes’ were usually friends of the Governor and became Candidates when very young, earning promotion at an indeterminate moment with no ceremony. Today, the process is much more open, even though a Candidate should not ask to be proposed or discover who has proposed him – any member may propose a candidate, but he must be seconded and then play out a ‘Si Bene’ season in which a minimum of three games should be completed.
Match managers’ reports and performances are then taken into consideration before a ‘Si Bene’ is approved for promotion, ensuring that the strength of the club is maintained: on occasion throughout its long history, the advancing age of the fielders and the friendliness of the bowling ‘attack’ has attracted some constructive criticism!
With a fixture list of thirty highly competitive matches, the club is in rude health but constantly seeks members of high calibre.
This summarises the spirit in which I Zingari cricket is meant to be played:
If absolutely unable to keep the ‘Promise to play’, give timely notice to the head of the Eleven you disappoint.
Sacrifice self – Consider the interests of the Club – Your circle of real friends will considerably increase.
Keep your Promise – Keep your Temper – Keep your Wicket up.
*Members are politely reminded that ownership of ‘The History of I Zingari’ by R.L. Arrowsmith and B.J.W. Hill
, from which the above is gleaned, is compulsory.