Batsman’s Paradise

Published: 1955
Pages: 167
Author: Mason, Ronald
Publisher: Hollis & Carter
Rating: 3.5 stars

Batsman's Paradise

Ronald Mason – the man with the long word and the even longer paragraph – can be the most rewarding of all cricket book writers, provided you can commit to the journey.

With some paragraphs running close to a page and words such as adventitious, multitudinous, sophistry et al appearing every other sentence, it may be advisable to only read Mr Mason when either 100 percent lucid or with a dictionary close at hand.

An extremely well read man, often quoting Proust:

He who bends to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy.

Or Blake:

But he who kisses the joy as it flies
lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

And many others besides, Mason in this book makes an”attempt of an ordinary cricket enthusiast to penetrate to a glimpse at least of the nature of the fascinations which the game has for so many of his own kind”.

Ultimately, as Ronald Mason admits at the end of the book, he fails to explain what the fascination is and has to settle with simply describing it.

What does result though, is a fascinating insight into one man’s journey to becoming a cricket tragic.

We meet the cricketers he enjoys watching the most. And what a group it is – Hobbs, Hammond and Compton. His description of these players batting and the effect it has on him makes for top quality cricket reading.

One of the most entertaining parts of the book is the time Ronald Mason and an equally cricket-mad friend spent as junior members of The Oval. This membership entitled them full use of the practice wickets and access to the members pavilion.

We meet some eccentric members, the most intriguing of which is an elderly member who corners other members and tells them reverently about the brothers Walters, who played football for England but gave up the game because another brother died of injuries sustained during a match, and they did not want to upset their parents by continuing to play.

Why did he find the need to tell everyone about the good deeds of these brothers and why at cricket matches? I tried to research the brothers but could find nothing about another brother dying.

Mason is not above criticism, and is none too generous with is assessment of James Barrie’s famous “Allahakbarries” Bedouin eleven. I was a little upset with this criticism, but was close to boiling point when he described one of my favourite cricket poems* as “moral claptrap”… “culminating in the embarrassing utterances of Henry Newbolt”.

Surprisingly Ronald Mason had the manuscript for Batsman’s Paradise rejected by 11 different publishers, and finally gave up. Luckily the former Surrey captain E.R.T. Holmes read the manuscript and recommended the book to Hollis & Carter, eventually writing the forward for the book.


Henry Newbolt

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to -night –
Ten to make and the match to win –
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a seasons fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote –
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

The sand of the desert is sodden red,
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; –
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies in the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind –
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

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