An Indian Summer of CricketArchie Mac |
Author: McGregor, Malcolm
Publisher: Barillier Books
Rating: 4 stars
Movie critics used to annoy me, with their “we have seen this all before and although well made there is nothing new or innovative in this film”. After reading too many cricket books (well at least according to the wife) I finally understand what the movie critics are on about. I crave the cricket book which is innovative or approaches the topic it deals with from a new angle, rather than the same old arguments and discussions, no matter how well written the book may be.
Well An Indian Summer of Cricket is not only a book which is superbly written, it also breaks new ground in cricket literature. It compares cricket to war and politics as well as a dissertation on the future of Test match cricket, and although some of the comparisons are tenuous the author’s arguments at least make you think.
Malcolm McGregor is well qualified to evoke both politics and the military in his cricket writing, having been a soldier for much of his working life, starting as a cadet at the Royal Military College, as well as having an extended stint in the political arena. His connection with politicians leads to some interesting encounters during his story including one with the Prime Minster of Australia.
Julia Gillard is not the only famous person we meet during McGregor’s travels in pursuit of the Indian team as they tour Australia. We also meet Roger Bannister of sub four minute mile fame plus other former politicians and a number of current and past Test cricketers.
Although the majority of the book is set during the Indian Test tour of Australia in 2011/12, and despite the title this is not an easy book to define. It is part autobiography and part one man?s journey from a young cricket tragic to an old cricket tragic with a 20 year gap in between when he lost his love of the game.
The author blames his lost connection with the game on the “ugly Australia” phenomenon which culminated in the last gasp win against India at the SCG in 2008, when cricket writer Peter Roebuck called for the sacking of the then Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, because of “Punter’s” team’s behaviour. It seems odd that McGregor did not find offensive the antics of Lillee, Thomson and the Chappell brothers in the 1970s, or if he did why he continued to support the original ugly Australians.
The catchcry from the seventies when Kerry Packer’s media arm PBL marketed ODI almost exclusively to the detriment of Test cricket was the imminent demise of the latter. The future and possible extinction of Test cricket is a recurring theme throughout An Indian Summer of Cricket. The author’s main arguments against Test cricket’s continuance are globalisation, the dominance of the shorter forms of the game and the possibility of the next generation of players putting the honour of playing for their country behind making easy money in India playing for nondescript, multicultural teams. It is hard to imagine the Ashes series, which have involved at least five Tests in Australia every few years – apart from a couple of world wars – since 1894/95*, ending in my life time. Perhaps hindsight will prove me wrong.
Hindsight is often mentioned by McGregor and he is quite self-deprecating about his early predictions at the start of the 2011/12 series that India would win. A four nil whitewash was the result for the hapless Indians and McGregor is at his best recording the lows he felt – he decided to support India throughout the series – and the rest of the Indian media contingent who had all harboured hopes that India would win their first ever series in Australia.
The end of the book consists of a revelation that would be akin to predicting a Test team would be dismissed for zero in both innings and the same bowler would claim all 20 wickets and be right. I wonder if movie critics are tempted to disclose the major revelations in ground breaking films, as I am tempted to do in An Indian Summer of Cricket which is definitely a ground breaking cricket publication.
In a coincidence, which McGregor reminds us Carl Jung does not believe in, the author lives in the same city as the “Mac”, so I shall hopefully be able to track him down and secure a signed copy of this book. I shall also congratulate him on a fine debut as a cricket author. I just hope all cricket lovers will purchase a copy of An Indian Summer of Cricket as it deserves to be read by all true fans.
*yes I know there was a three Test series in the seventies but the Ashes were not up for grabs.