County Cricket Matters Issue 12Martin Chandler |
Author: Chave, Annie (Editor)
Publisher: County Cricket Matters
Rating: 5 stars
In these days of massive ECB support for the less than universally popular 16.4, the pyrotechnics of Bazball and the end of the second Elizabethan Age there is little that is certain in life but, after twelve quarterly issues all appearing bang on time, we can say for sure that County Cricket Matters has become a beacon of stability, fighting the corner of the forms of the game we all love and entertaining us at the same time.
As has become the norm Annie’s editorial is followed by an interview, and the subject of that in CCM12 is the legendary West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding. Not unnaturally that impassioned plea of Holding’s from the unsettled summer of 2020 is covered, as are Holding’s years in county cricket and his views on the subject now. Not everything Holding says will find favour with CCM’s readership, but we cannot ignore the views of a man who has without doubt fully earned the respect he now commands.
The other two ‘big beasts’ who contribute to CCM12 are Vic Marks and David Lloyd. Marks is one of my favourite writers, engaging and entertaining and a man whose prose is quite unlike that of anyone else. Sometimes reading even the best writers can be hard work, but with Marks I always feel that I am not reading at all, more that I am sat in the pub with him listening to what he has to say. On this occasion Marks holds court on the differences between professional cricket as played in the third decade of the 21st century, and back in the 1970s and 1980s when he plied his trade on the field.
As for ‘Bumble’ I have to say that the fact that I know he loves the county game does not make his views on its future any more appealing, although worst of all is the fact that he is probably right. On the plus side he at least sees a future for eighteen counties, and I for one am rapidly approaching a stage where I will be content with anything that preserves that, even if we do have to put up with three divisions and only ten red ball matches each summer.
Anyone put in a sombre mood by the advice of Messrs Lloyd and Holding would do well to turn straight to Dan Whiting’s contribution, The Streaming Revolution. For obvious reasons interest in the County Championship has never, except perhaps in the late 1940s, been capable of being measured by the number of spectators who actually attend matches. Now that it is possible to watch any of the matches from anywhere that has an internet connection the true level of interest in the county game is becoming clear.
A further cause for optimism is the piece by student journalist Oliver Lawrie. The subject of this is Luke Hollman, a man who I must admit I had to look up on www.cricketarchive.com. He has just turned 22, and over the last two summers has made a promising start to his career with Middlesex. An all-rounder who has done well across all formats it turns out Hollman is a red ball enthusiast, so amen to that.
Player profiles are always welcome, and there are two in CCM12, all the better because they are not of ‘the usual suspects’. The first is a look at the short career of a Yorkshireman who, besides enjoying a long career in academia, played 16 times as an amateur for Gloucestershire between 1936 and 1938. The writer is my fellow Redingsensian Dennis Butts, who could do a lot worse than turn his article into a much fuller monograph on the subject of a man he clearly knew well.
Ken Suttle of Sussex made almost forty times as many as First Class appearances as Tyler, and toured the West Indies in 1953/54 without ever playing a Test. Suttle I did know something of, but the distinctly shabby way in which he was treated by his county at the end of his career was not something I knew of. As with Tyler a much longer look at Suttle would be welcome, and perhaps the Sussex Museum might get in touch with writer Ollie Park?
Not too far away from a profile is David Windram’s look at the phenomenal rise this summer of Matthew Potts. In part a celebration of Potts achievements Windram also looks at the downside, the irony of a county so badly treated by the ECB then being caused different problems by being denied the services of a vital member of their team due to the needs of the national side.
There is a strong Derbyshire presence in CCM12, two of the county’s loyal aficionados contributing articles. Writer Greg Watts gives a little of himself in his effort, the main purpose of it though is to extol the virtues of Dave Fletcher, BBC Radio’s Derbyshire commentator. And then there is John Stone, who also references a commentary team, in the context of Derbyshire’s defeat by Sussex this summer after they had denied the opportunity to invite the Martlets to follow on. There follow some more general musings on the subject of latter-day captains so rarely enforcing the follow on.
A bit of history? Not so much as in some past issues, but Anindya Dutta contributes an interesting comparison between the English summers of 1911 and 2022. Both summers saw superb cricketing weather, the county game at a crossroads and a visit from an Indian touring team.
CCM has often, as is only to be expected, featured the women’s game, and in CCM12 podcaster Alexandra Pereira looks at the 2022 summer. Hopefully CCM13 will feature a follow up in light of how the season finally pans out, with perhaps some impressions of the topsy turvy T20 series with India which I have followed with interest over the last few days.
One thing I have been delighted to note as CCM matures is an increase willingness to look at cricket’s greatest resource, its literature. There are two dedicated reviews in CCM 12, one by Annie on the subject of James Mettyear and Patrick Ferriday’s Field of Dreams, and the other by Mark Sands on Paul Edwards’ Summer Days Promise, splendid books both.
But that is not all. There is also my favourite essay in the entire issue, that of Stephen Wagg that is inspired by a fine quartet of recent books. Two are Duncan Hamilton’s, his biography of Neville Cardus and A Last English Summer. A third is David Kynaston and Stephen Fay’s look at the lives of Arlott and Swanton, and the last Michael Henderson’s That Will be England Gone.
Having read all four I can confirm they are excellent books, a basic sentiment with which Wagg agrees. That said he sees something in them that I certainly failed to spot. But then Wagg is a retired professor, and author of Cricket: A Political History of the Global Game 1945-2017, a title which gives a clue to where he is looking at the books from. It is a great shame that Wagg’s own book is an academic text with a price tag to match, as if his contribution to CCM12 is anything to go by it must be an engrossing read.
Finally there is a welcome return in CCM12 for Craig Tranter’s quiz. In the past I have generally struggled with these, and set about this one with some trepidation. The fact that the theme was the County Championship over the last fifty years undoubtedly assisted me, as I have no doubt did my practice last weekend with Stephen Chalke’s most enjoyable new book and, for once, I did rather well. On the downside at the time of typing this review my progress with Princely Entry’s crossword is, to put it bluntly, pathetic.
So a rating for CCM12? The problem I have is that having given five stars to each of the previous eleven I don’t really have anywhere to go, but if pushed to do so I would have to express the view that this one is the best yet.
CCM12, and all the previous issues, can be purchased here.