Collector’s Eye

Published: 2021
Pages: 998
Author: Niaz, Nauman
Publisher: Boundary Books
Rating: 5 stars

To write successfully, so I am told, it is important to avoid using the same word too often. As advice goes that has always struck me as worth remembering, and as a rule I always try to follow it. But on the other hand my day job has taught me over the years that, just occasionally, rules are best ignored. So I will preface everything else I have to say about Collector’s Eye by declaring it to be a remarkable book, written by a remarkable man, about a remarkable collection.

To anyone reading this review in Pakistan Nauman Niaz needs no introduction, but what prompts those who know him to reach for their favoured superlatives when describing him is less well known elsewhere. For the uninitiated therefore I can advise that Nauman is the face of Pakistan cricket, until very recently heading and anchoring the national broadcaster’s coverage of the game.

Against that background it is perhaps not surprising that Nauman has written extensively for newspapers and, given he is the official historian of Pakistan cricket, contributed to the literature of the game on that subject. Equally unsurprising is that in his youth Nauman was, albeit short of First Class level, a decent cricketer.

What justifies the remarkable tag for Nauman’s life is his ‘other’ occupation. That despite his hugely successful media career he has qualified as a doctor is impressive in itself, that having done so he has gone on to continue in that calling, and to become respected throughout the world in his specialist area of endocrinology is what really marks him out.

And his book? It is further evidence that the man will not turn his mind to anything unless he can do it as well as it can possibly be done. Nauman has not, as far as I am aware, any history in publishing but he has nonetheless managed to produce a book that it is difficult to find fault with on any level. It is beautifully designed, superbly illustrated with a myriad of photographs and produced on high quality paper. That he had available to him the expertise of Boundary Books obviously helped, but in truth almost all of the hard yards were put in by Nauman himself.

But of course the impact of any book stands or falls on its content. Its writer and the quality of its production can only take it so far. Genius and polymath that Nauman is at the end of the day it is what is between the covers that elevates Collector’s Eye to another level, as in just shy of 900 pages spread across two volumes Nauman showcases the memorabilia collection that he has acquired over many years.

Most collectors take an interest in all aspects of the game’s memorabilia, but in our own endeavours the twin limitations of space and available funds restrict most of us to particular areas. For Nauman however neither of the usual considerations seem to trouble him unduly.  Extensive sections of his museum cover bats and equipment, clothing, painting and ceramics, as well as my own pet area, books and the printed word. Most stunning of all however is the cache of more ephemeral items, photographs, cards, almost all of them signed, and many other signatures and autographed items going way back into the nineteenth century.

The majority of Nauman’s 898 pages consist entirely of photographs, in full colour, of the choicest items that he has. There is however far more to Collector’s Eye than imagery as the two volumes go far beyond a man simply showing off his prized possessions. There is a significant autobiographical element, and the items photographed are gathered together in segments of a few pages each, a way of presenting the images that enables Nauman to set out his summary of the player, tour or issue that he is concerned with, as well as his own thoughts on his treasures and how he acquired them.

The subjects that Nauman tackles are many and varied but, generally, focus on the past and particularly the ‘Golden Age of the late Victorian and Edwardian era. He does, not unreasonably, devote some space to Imran Khan, but generally eschews anything that takes his reader much beyond 1970. Given that so many living and current international players from across the globe come into Nauman’s orbit, both professionally and on a personal level, I have little doubt that he must have at least a Volume III in mind, and maybe more.

In his autobiographical passages Nauman’s story is inevitably one of almost constant success, but he is also a man who has had more than a glimpse of his own mortality, and the occasional references to his ongoing battle with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma are thought provoking ones. Is it a help or a hindrance that his training will give him a thorough understanding of what his body is doing to him, and what his treatment is doing to his body? Is that in some way related to why parts of his narrative are written in the first person and some in the third? In any event Nauman’s writing is, much like the cricket of some of his countrymen, characterised by an appealing and highly effective eccentricity. 

At this stage I could now highlight a selection of Nauman’s chapters and wax lyrical for a few paragraphs about what they contain, but I doubt that would take us any further, so I will close now with the answer to the most important question, how can a copy of Collector’s Eye be sourced?

As far as that one is concerned there is, as is so often the case, good news and bad. The bad is that Boundary Books sold out of the books within days of their arrival. On the other hand the good is that more copies are currently on their way to Stanford in the Vale, and although there is something of a queue there should be enough copies to go round. So, if anyone does not already subscribe I would suggest they immediately take the opportunity to register and sign up for Boundary Books’ e-Alerts. Not only will they then know as soon as Collector’s Eye is back in stock but, conceding that none of us will ever have a collection to rival Nauman’s, they will also receive a steady stream of opportunities to part with their hard earned and acquire some high quality items of cricketing memorabilia.

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