Cricket in a Multiracial Society

Published: 2021
Pages: 169
Author: Morgan, R
Publisher: ACS
Rating: 3.5 stars

Books about aspects of the history of cricket have always been plentiful, something that is inevitable given what an interesting subject that is. With a few honourable exceptions however those books have tended, entirely understandably, to concentrate on the game’s development in its main centres. Publishers are businesses after all, and cannot be criticised for keeping a careful eye on sales figures.

Fortunately for readers the relative ease with which books can now be self-published means I have had the pleasure in recent years of reading some excellent books on the game in Canada, the USA and Afghanistan. Earlier this year a major publisher took a chance on one of these books, and the result was the even better Evita Burned Down Our Pavilion. Cricket outside the Test playing countries may not be big business, but it is a fascinating subject for cricket lovers.

The ACS are in a special position where this sort of thing is concerned. They are a business of course, and cannot take their collective eye off the ball completely, but at the same time can afford to indulge us occasionally with meritorious projects that all concerned know would never make any money for a commercial publishing house, and this history of cricket in Malaysia falls into precisely that category.

Roy Morgan’s book begins with an introduction that reminded me in in no uncertain terms how limited my knowledge of Malaysia was, its history, its geography and its politics. Of all the many nations that were at some point part of the British Empire it is undoubtedly the one about which I knew least. In the circumstances the basic details of the country that are concisely set out in the early part of the book are a great help, as are the maps of the region that are usefully added to the rear of the book.

Author Morgan is ideally qualified to write the book. He is an academic who, I believe, is an expert in soil erosion, something which doubtless explains his interest in the quality of the pitches in the country. But rather more importantly he spent part of his career teaching at the University of Malaya. Its writer’s academic background shows in the way the book is written although, I hasten to add, that is not intended as a criticism.

As in so many locations the earliest cricket in Malaya was played primarily between ex-patriate Englishmen. That said as the title indicates whilst the sport has never fully taken root in the the country it has spread beyond its European base, and the history of the game is cleverly interwoven with the development of what started as an outpost of empire but became, not without some trials and tribulations along the way, a successful independent nation.

For those who are keen to see cricket spread beyond its historical heartlands Morgan’s book is not an entirely happy one, and the game has certainly withered on the vine as the twentieth century wore on. That said cricket can still be said to be established in Malaysia, and if that is not on a grand scale the base is stable and there is clearly room for and hope of further development.

Cricket in a Multiracial Society is an interesting and well written history. Prior to opening the book I was familiar with only two men who had played roles in Malayan cricket. One is the Somerset batsman Arul Suppiah, whose career was sadly truncated by injury and ended before his thirtieth birthday. He does feature in the book although the other name that was familiar to me, that of Johnny Foster, the baby of the famous Worcestershire brotherhood, is mentioned in passing only once. Perhaps his involvement in it was less important to Malayan cricket than I had fondly imagined.

There is however one major problem with this one, that being that whilst it was only published in May of this year it sold out almost straight away so, with no reprint on the horizon, the second hand market would appear to be the only place where those interested in this title are going to find it this side of 2022. That much said the ACS does have a policy of releasing some of its out of print titles on googleplay, and I would be most surprised if this one didn’t join those already available via that platform in the near future.

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