• Investec Ashes 2013

Swann unhappy about Billy the Trumpet ban

George Dobell and David Hopps
July 9, 2013
Billy Cooper, complete with trumpet, failed to save England from a Test series defeat against Pakistan in the Middle East in 2012. © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

England's players' plea to Nottinghamshire to lift the ban on the Barmy Army trumpeter, Billy Cooper, in the first Investec Test at Trent Bridge, has encouraged hopes that the county might yet relax its stance at the eleventh hour.

Graeme Swann said he spoke for the England team in saying that it was "a real shame" that his home club would not allow Cooper - nicknamed Billy the Trumpet - to play as the England side consider him "the unspoken 12th man."

"The players are all in favour of Billy blowing his trumpet wherever we are," Swann said. "He is the unspoken 12th man for us when we are on tour and in big series at home, so I think it's a real shame he's not allowed to play here."

The feeling among England's players has been strong enough for ECB officials to broach the matter unofficially with Nottinghamshire to see if a compromise can be reached ahead of the start of the Ashes series.

Nottinghamshire have long contended that their blanket ban on musical instruments is stated on match tickets and, that being so, they could face requests for refunds from supporters who object to Cooper's playlist.

The ECB, however, is thought to have some sympathy with Cooper's commitment to England's cause - as well as respect for his professional playing ability.

Compromises so far floated include Cooper playing from the balcony of the Trent Bridge Inn behind the ground, something which Nottinghamshire could not control, or even an official guest spot during an interval. Neither solution would recapture the feeling for England players that he plays when they most value it, during good times or bad.

As a Nottinghamshire player, Swann might have been expected to have an influence on the decision. But he admitted that he had tried to persuade the authorities to no avail.

"I know all the team are behind Billy the Trumpet," Swann said. "The Barmy Army are a massive part of the English team. Nottingham have their rules as Lord's do. It's a shame in this day and age they can't bend them for such a big event but so be it, it's not my decision.

"We don't make the rules, we have just got to go out there and play our cricket now it's been decided it's not the right thing to do and I think that's real shame. I have tried to have my say but I have been batted down."

A poll carried out by ESPNcricinfo on the County Cricket Live blog attracted more than 500 votes with only 15% opposing Cooper being allowed to play his trumpet at Trent Bridge.

Nottinghamshire have also pointed out that Cooper was also been refused permission to play his trumpet at the 2005 Ashes Test when England secured victory on their way to regaining the Ashes. Since then, though, his presence has become a more recognisable part of England's Test scene, at home and abroad.

The club aims to identify more with the traditional Test atmosphere at Lord's in contrast to other Test grounds such as Edgbaston and Old Trafford and believes that this policy is justified by ticket sales. The match is sold out for all five days.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.