Born to Bowl

Published: 2004
Pages: 224
Author: Miller, Douglas
Publisher: Fairfield Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

Born to Bowl

I love reading books about county cricket, especially those featuring cricketers with a brief or non existent Test career. The reason I think, is that I know considerably less about the county championship and those cricketers who make their living plying their trade in the Old Dart.

Of all the lesser lights that did not quite make the Test cricket ranks, the brightest is Don Shepherd, the man who has claimed more first class wickets then any other bowler, but who never received the call to represent his country at the highest level.

The reasons for this are many and varied, from being a contemporary of Jim Laker to playing for a lesser county such as Glamorgan. London biased is often trotted out as an excuse from the smaller counties, but also having the player who has scored the most first class runs and never being selected for a Test in Alan Jones, Glamorgan seem to have a compelling case.

The author Douglas Miller has left no stone unturned in putting together the life story of one of the nicest of all cricketers. Nice is an often over used verb but it fits the subject perfectly, as, all of those Miller interviewed seemed happy to testify.

It takes a little time to become use to the writing style of the author, as he tends to jump from one interview to a quote from the subject to a personal opinion of his own, this necessitated occasionally having to read a paragraph a few times to follow the story, and even more occasionally a shake of the head from this confused reader who was forced to move on regardless.

This is a minor criticism, as the book will charm much more then frustrate, as you follow the fortunes of the Welsh cricket team, from the occasional hiding to the toppling of the Australians on successive tours of England, to the winning of the county championship, to the mundane of giving up their Sundays to play in benefit matches for their fellow pros. Although they were not paid for these matches they were sometime seemingly not appreciated by the benefactors, as this amusing story about Tom Goddard suggests:

‘when they say they want pints,’ he told the landlord, ‘they mean halves.’

Don Shepherd was that rare breed who changed from a fast bowler to a quickish off spinner, this seems to be the one area that the author deals with rather perfunctory, which is a little disappointing, as I would have loved to know why, and did he have doubts and what did the club and his captain think. As his captain was the legendary Wilf Woolmer, the conversation may have been interesting to recount.

The book is from the publishing house of Stephen Chalke: Fairfield Books, a name quickly becoming synonymous with quality publications, Born to Bowl is no exception, and should be read by all cricket fans.

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