Cricket DreamingStuart Wark |
Author: Barry Nicholls
Publisher: Brolga Publishing Pty Ltd
Rating: 4 stars
A quick count has revealed that there are nearly two hundred (193 to be exact) different books each individually rated by the Review Team for CricketWeb. And if there is one lesson that we have learned over time, it is that you usually run away screaming from self-published works. While it is accepted that some great books are mistakenly rejected by all the mainstream publishing houses, it is normally a pretty good sign that a lot more work is required before it reaches an appropriate standard. However, every now and again, a book comes along that defies that trend. Happily, Cricket Dreaming – The Rites of Summer by Barry Nicholls is an example of this rare event.
Nicholls is a former school teacher and journalist in the mediums of both radio and newspaper. He was also a very handy cricketer with Kensington in the Adelaide grade competition. His book reviews both his own cricketing journey as player and coach, and the wider impact of the main matches and personalities of the 1970s and 80s. Nicholls covers the main themes of the period from the perspective of a bit-player who briefly glimpsed the inner workings of the game at the highest level, without ever quite reaching those heights personally.
Happily the book is largely devoid of any spelling errors, statistical blunders or even simplistic omissions. This achievement is a rarity in modern publishing. Even more joyously, Nicholls is able to write coherently and sustain the interest of the reader throughout the 199 pages. He reflects upon the changes in the game over the past 30 years, and examines the rise of new phenomenon such as 20/20 matches and ‘limited edition’ memorabilia. The book is presented as a memoir, however, at times it reads more like a series of unconnected essays. This is the only significant flaw with the book, as there is a lack of continuity between the chapters that is slightly off-putting.
I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by Cricket Dreaming. Its production values are perhaps not up to the standard of the main publishers, but it doesn’t lack for much in comparison. It is a well written, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable book. This was the first time I have read a work by Nicholls, however, I will certainly purchase any further cricketing books he produces. There is a brief but tantalising chapter regarding the former Test cricketer Edgar Mayne that showed Nicholls’ considerable potential for producing a dedicated biography on one of our former greats. I will watch with interest to see Nicolls’ follow-up books.
For those who grew up in the 70s and early 80s this book will bring back – as the name suggests – dreams of playing for Australia, and memories of amongst other things; Dougie Walters hitting Bob Willis for six to bring up his ton off the last ball of the day, or Kim Hughes, down on one knee, driving the mighty Windies fast bowlers through the covers on a brute of an MCG pitch. A pitch that these days would, in all likelihood be described as too dangerous, and result in an investigation, or at least condemnation.
It was not just the two innings mentioned above that bring back memories, it was the authors reminiscences of listening to radio broadcasts or watching TV from England of the Ashes and the inaugural World Cup. These were the days before you could set the video recorder and go to bed and watch the rest of the match the following day.
Barry Nicholls captures the brutal innings of Clive Lloyd in that first World Cup of 1975, and reminds us that the whole competition lasted just two weeks. He also writes about the 1981 Ashes series, which took place while he was in England, he reminds us that even now almost 30 years later, all the Australian cricket fans who remember that series still avoid reading, watching or even thinking about it.
The descriptions of past matches and experiences are vividly depicted and thought provoking, the book is easy to read, the author possessing a flowing style. This is the type of book you intend to read a quick chapter and find yourself reading half a dozen, as the kids’ whinge for their dinner.
Apart from the descriptions of past matches and heroes, the book, while not being eclectic as such, covers a number of different cricketing subjects; from Barry Nicholls’ favourite Australian writers on the game (and it was good to see some of CWs favourites amongst the list), to some fascinating fresh information on forgotten old-time cricketers Edgar Mayne and Bill Whitty.
The author also provides heartfelt memories of the aggressive opener Les Favell who was taken at a relatively young age, and the tragic loss of Ben Hollioake. Again the information and anecdotes provided on both will be unfamiliar to the vast majority of readers.
It is the fresh information and unique prospective that the author consistently produces in the book, that raises this publication above the average, and makes it recommended reading for all cricket fans.
The only disappointment with this book was that although the author was kind enough to send me a copy to review, I forgot to ask him to sign it first. If I am fortunate to receive a copy of his next book which I believe will be a biography of former Test wicket keeper Barry Jarman, I will be sure not to make the same mistake twice.