An Eye on CricketArchie Mac |
Author: Haigh, Gideon
Publisher: Wilkinson Publishing
Rating: 4 stars
There are a few minor typos in this book.
There are no photos in this book.
There is no index included in this book.
OK, there ends the criticism for An Eye on Cricket. What remains is a beautifully written and information laden work. All the pieces have been previously published, mostly in The Australian newspaper, and apart from one article written in 2012, the vast majority were penned in the last two years. Typically each article is 3-4 pages in length.
The book is divided into three sections:
Part 1 – Cricket Gallery. These are typically short pen portraits of cricketers on the edges of international selection or legends of the game. Richie Benaud, Max Walker, Shane Watson and Chris Rogers, are just a few of the well known players covered. As is typical with Haigh, you will learn more about these champions in a few poignant pages in An Eye on Cricket than slogging through an entire biography. The Walker piece just shades that on Benaud as the standout in Part 1 – but it would be easy to list a dozen that are in the top bracket of cricket writing.
Part 2 – Matches and Despatches. I found the match reports in this section superbly frustrating. Imaginably, due to space constraints and balance, Haigh shares only a day or two from recent Test series involving Australia. So we may have the first day coverage from the Test in say Cardiff, and then perhaps the match wrap up of that Test. Such is the ‘hook’ from the day one coverage you will want to read Haigh’s thoughts on day two, but alas we move on to another day from another Test and the frustration begins again.
How someone did not collect Haigh’s efforts from the recent Ashes series in England and combine them into book form makes you despair for the future of the cricket tour book. If writing of the quality of Haigh cannot sell enough copies to turn a profit from an Ashes series then the tour book must be endangered. It should be noted that the Ashes is only one of many series covered in Part 2. The most recent World Cup and Australia’s series in India plus many other matches are included.
Part 3 – Conspiracies, Cock-Ups and a Tragedy. This is the ‘heavy stuff’ – where Haigh dissects the bigger cricket picture. He tells it as it is too. The ECB and CA both cop a serve, although the BCCI is, especially and rightly so, in the cross hairs of Mr Haigh’s censorious pen. The money grabbing and shunning of all other cricketing countries by the ‘big three’ is dissected as is the neutering of the ICC.
The other main controversy dealt with is that between CA and the ACA (players union), which at one stage threatened the cancellation of the recent Ashes series. Haigh is firmly on the players’ side in this dispute and again pulls no punches when it comes to expressing his opinions.
When warranted, players are also liable to receive censure from Haigh. Even legends of the game such as Sunil Gavaskar are not safe. The original “Little Master” (well he’s actually the second of three to have that epithet bestowed), was censored for backing the current Indian Test captain in a dispute with Australian captain Steve Smith. “When Gavaskar was in his cricketing pomp, one marvelled that such a small man could be such a champion. Now one marvels that such a champion can be such a small man”.
Haigh still manages to lighten the heavy load that cricket politics can dump on the narrow shoulders of the average cricket fan. In the midst of dissecting the CA versus the players dispute he shares that his own team, see The Vincibles (Many a Slip), will be involved in a cricket final. I wonder how they went?
The Tragedy in Part 3, is that of Phillip Hughes, and just when you think there is nothing more that can be added to this tale, Haigh somehow manages to bring a fresh tear to the reader’s eye.
An Eye on Cricket, is yet another great read from the undisputed best extant writer on the game. It’s a joy from start to finish. Even the cover is thought provoking. It features a caricature* of a reposed Haigh learning on cricket bat and in a nod to his love of Victor Trumper (he named his cat Trumper) the famous Beldam pic is subtlety included.
*Author Peter Lloyd, (see review of A Sporting World) who has written a much more comprehensive review of An Eye on Cricket for the next edition of the quality publication Between Wickets, tells me that the front cover was drawn by Gideon Haigh’s teammate from South Yarra CC, artist John Scurry.