book_reviews_banner_image-81x81 A BIBLIOPHILE'S BLOG ico-h1 CRICKET BOOKS

The Journal of the Cricket Society (Spring 2023)

Published: 2023
Pages: 100
Author: Tudball, Nick (Editor)
Publisher: The Cricket Society
Rating: 4 stars

There are local cricket societies the length and breadth of the UK, and a number overseas as well. Centrally The Cricket Society has been around now the best part of eighty years, having been founded as The Society of Cricket Statisticians just after the Second World War. It wasn’t long before the name was simplified to The Cricket Society, and that is how it has remained ever since.

Personally I suspect I may hold some sort of record with the society, in that I first joined back in 1985, and remained a member for just a couple of years before joining again in 2021 – has there been anyone else’s membership that has had a longer hiatus?

But I digress. As to what the society does its website will tell you all that, but suffice it to say it fields an eleven throughout the English summer, and beyond that arranges regular meetings with a variety of invited guests and speakers. The society, now in conjunction with the MCC, awards a prestigious book of the year (this year Nicholas Brookes picked up the award for his splendid book on the subject of Sri Lankan cricket) but, perhaps surprisingly, it does not engage in publishing other than in respect of its twice yearly journal and regular bulletins.

The Journal began in 1961, under the editorship of the redoubtable Irving Rosenwater. There have been eight editors altogether, including the current incumbent, Nick Tudball, who has been in post for just a year. He has however made a strong start, and in years to come his name might come to mentioned in the same breath as that of Jim Coldham, who held the post between 1970 and 1984, and under whose stewardship the Journal enjoyed a ‘Golden Age’.

The Spring 2023 issue of the Journal is Volume 31 Number 4 which would suggest, at four issues per volume, there are 124 copies in a full set. I am not convinced there are though, as try as I might I cannot find Numbers 3 and 4 to Volume 25 anywhere. Not that that matters for present purposes.This is Tudball’s second issue at the helm, so having had a chance to play himself in it seemed to me that a review was justified.

These days, with much more detail than in Coldham’s day, the Journal clearly sees book reviews as an important feature, and this time those represent just over a third of the issue. All are of recent releases, and former editor Nigel Hancock kicks that one off with a review of Brookes’ book, before other contributors look at the other shortlisted titles, and then a number of the titles that didn’t quite make it are critiqued.

As a voracious consumer of cricket literature I am always interested in seeing what others think of recently released books, but would have to concede that the reviews themselves are not what a publication like the Journal should be judged by. Rather more important are the feature articles, which should always be written and selected to appeal to the broad base of the society’s membership all of whom are of course cricket lovers, but I try not to forget that a passion for the game does not of itself a cricketing bibliophile make.

Tudball’s selection for this issue is of fifteen separate contributions, none are particularly long or short and, as is to be expected and welcomed, a wide range of subjects and eras are covered, and it is good to see that there are fifteen different contributors.

Taking the contributions in order the first, following Tudball’s editorial and a few words about each of the writers, is from David Woodhouse, author of the brilliant Who Only Cricket Know, who takes a long look at the many books there are written by, nominally written by, or by written on the subject of Sir Leonard Hutton.

Hutton is there again in the next feature, this one by the experienced biographer Christopher Sandford. Sandford takes a look at the English summer of 1953, when Hutton’s team wrested back the Ashes in Coronation year.

The shortest of the articles, just over a single page plus a photograph, is on the subject of a Lancashire skipper from between the wars, Peter Eckersley. This one is written by Malcolm Lorimer, and serves only to reinforce its reader’s anxiety to see Malcolm’s project to produce an extended monograph of Eckersley come to fruition.

Still in the north Derbyshire follower John Stone writes about that unusual feature from his county, a top class leg spinner. The short memoir is a reminder that that is exactly what Tommy Mitchell was, and that his Test career might have been longer had he, on one particular occasion, kept his opinions to himself.

David Battersby, tireless self publisher on many subjects but, particularly those of Glamorgan and Pakistan interest, combines his two favourite subjects by writing of his meetings with the ‘Prince of Wales’, Majid Khan, whilst in Pakistan last winter. Also on the subject of Pakistan is the piece which is probably my favourite in this issue, that of erstwhile occasional Cricketweb book reviewer Jon Gemmell on the subject of England’s tour of Pakistan in 1969.

Before the Journal came into being the Society produced regular newsletters copies of which, given their ephemeral nature, survive in much smaller numbers than the Journal. Douglas Miller, as part of a series of articles, contributes a review of the newsletters issued between 1954 and 1956.

Renowned social historian Eric Midwinter comes out to bat next. Midwinter may be into his nineties now, but he still contributes an interesting piece on the way that cricket developed in England, by way of comparing it with the development of what in my youth was known as ‘Association Football’.

Peter Wiseman has been associated with the Beckenham club in Kent for more than half a century, and in his contribution goes back even further than that to look at the club during the years of World War Two.

The title of the next contribution, Chris Schofield: Overcoming Adversity, by Michael Pulford will, I have no doubt, wrongfoot better men than I. I expected to read about the Lancashire and later Surrey leg spinner of the late nineties and early noughties who never really managed to fulfil his promise. I didn’t realise until now that there was another Chris Schofield, a Yorkshireman a couple of years older, who played just a single First Class match, and who had to face a much graver adversity than a merely cricketing one.

Another man from the 1990s whose cricket career did not pan out in the way that many hoped it would was Somerset opener Mark Lathwell, and Paul Baker, who watched his career unfold, tells his story.

Judging by his ‘introduction’ Martyn Ellis is a man with a sense of humour, and the self confessed member of the Dundee Anarchist Society contributes memories of his first visit to a Test match, back in 1973, and tells of a bomb scare and the reception that Geoffrey Boycott received after, in a situation where England needed him to be at his most obdurate, he was caught in the deep after hooking the very last ball of the day.

And then we have another story of a man who, like Schofield, played in just a single First Class match, this time Tom Moffatt, who received a late call up to play for Cambridge University against Warwickshire in 1969. The Moffatt story is, however, very different from Schofield’s.

To conclude the entertainment there are a couple of essays on subjects that go back to Victorian times. The first, by Philip Scowcroft, concerns the old Prince’s ground, which might have rivalled Lord’s and The Oval, but did not survive the 1880s, and the other is by Tudball himself and is a piece of good old-fashioned research, on the subject of one Frederick William Heneage.

So an excellent Journal and, in addition to that twice a year, the Society produces a number of Bulletins each year, usually eight or nine, generally of 16 A4 sized pages so, at £25 a year, a membership of The Cricket Society is excellent value, even for those of us who only consume the printed word. For those who want to join in the Society’s social and playing activities as well, it is an absolute snip.

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