Anyone But England

Published: 1994
Pages: 273
Author: Marqusee, Mike
Publisher: Verso
Rating: 2.5 stars

Anyone But England

I wanted so much to enjoy this book, as I had heard many good things, and it had proven to be very popular, being re-released and enlarged in 2005, with a number of reviews comparing it favourably with the classic Beyond a Boundary.

In the end I was quite surprised that anyone enjoyed this publication; it reminded me of a court case in which only the prosecutor was given the opportunity of presenting his case, and just to be nice he would then give a few little bits of testimony for the defendants. As if to say: ‘I will save the defense the trouble and the court time, my Lord, by presenting their limited case as well as that of the prosecution’.

Marqusee time and again would give his case and then would often refute all of what he said by agreeing with the prevailing methodology. One example will suffice, on the subject of the introduction of coloured clothing:

“What was remarkable in the arguments that ensued was their sheer moral fervour….E.W. Swanton, backed by younger pundits such as Scyld Berry, waged a fierce campaign….which he argued, sullied the ‘dignity of the game'”.

“Whites are among English cricket’s premier ‘invented traditions’. As late as the 1880s cricketers took the field in a riot of colour”.

Marqusee after explaining that this was not a real tradition, then writes “but it was not only the crusty old traditionalists who found coloured clothing distressing. Whites were one of the first things that attracted me to cricket and I mourn their loss on Sunday as much as anyone”. He brings up the old chestnuts of Apartheid being sanctioned by the English, but again fails to mention some of the positives, such as the England coaches who went to South Africa in the winter who helped out with the coaching of young black cricketers.

The author also implies racist dealing with West Indies, Pakistan and India cricketers, but again only presents one side of the case, and does that in an extremely biased manner.

There seems to be no startling discoveries or theories on the malaise of English cricket, instead he tells us that it is governed by landed gentry. I think that is common knowledge, and his solution? “English cricket, like the British economy has to be reconstructed from the bottom up”. Somehow I can’t see that happening, or if it does it will coincide with world peace, and my team Luton winning the Premier League.

I really enjoyed some of the authors writing on his journey from Baseball to cricket and ultimate love for the game. It should also be said that the book is well written, by an obviously talented writer.

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