Cricket Web Book of the Year 2010

Cricket Web Book of the Year 2010

By Archie Mac, Stuart Wark, David Taylor and Martin Chandler

It has been no easy task to select CW’s Book of the Year for 2010. We have received a number of excellent offerings that vary greatly in style and content and which have all served to demonstrate that whatever the state of the world’s economy generally, and the publishing industry in particular, the evolution of the game’s literature continues apace.

We particularly enjoyed Mark Rowe’s The Victory Tests, a well researched look at a neglected corner of the game’s history, which had the added virtue of contributions from the last survivors of that now distant series of matches.

Anything that reduced into book form a selection of David Frith’s best work was guaranteed to be difficult to put down. Frith knows his audience well and chose wisely. Frith on Cricket might be an anthology, but it is still a fine piece of work.

The author of last year’s CW Book of the Year, Duncan Hamilton, produced a book to rival that wonderful biography of Harold Larwood, and A Last English Summer came close to emulating its predecessor.

Michael Holding further enhanced his reputation as one of the most astute observers of the modern game in No Holding Back. It is not easy for a man whose playing days are long gone, but who is still very much involved in the game, to get the balance right in an autobiography. Holding’s book comes closer to doing so than most have in recent years.

David Tossell’s Following On shed fresh light on the modern game from an unusual perspective and was, as we expected it to be, a pleasure to read.

Longstanding CW favourite Stephen Chalke produced A Long Half Hour which, as with much of his writing, brought to life some fascinating county cricketers from the 1950s and 1960s.

Right at the end of the year Duncan Anderson’s pictorial masterpiece, Echoes from a Golden Age, made a great impression on Martin as, earlier in the year, did a book from New Zealand, a fine biography of that country’s first Test captain Tom Lowry – Leader in a Thousand.

There are also two smaller publications that deserve mention. The first is What are you doing here? by Norman Harris, the story of the second Test between New Zealand and South Africa that began at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on Christmas Eve 1953, and much more besides, that was mentioned more fully in our Overview for December 2010.

Second is a slight, 20 page booklet by Dave Allen entitled Mike Barnard – Good at Games. Mike Barnard was a specialist batsman who played for Hampshire for fifteen years. He ended up with a First Class average of barely 22 with just six centuries to show from more than 270 matches. In the early part of his career his winters were taken up at Portsmouth Football Club, who were on the decline after their glories in the immediate post war seasons, but were still a power in the land. Barnard’s is an interesting story well told and the booklet is available free of charge – please email us at info@cricketweb.net if you would like a note of the author’s address.

Despite the strong competition in the end we managed to reduce the field for the award down to two. Of our second choice Archie says:-

Albert and “Harry” Trott were two cricketers with fascinating lives, who have finally had a full length biography written about them; however the question should be asked why would you write a book on two scarcely remembered cricketing brothers who were at their peak in the late 19th century? Your research must be impeccable; otherwise cricket tragics such as Martin Chandler, David Taylor or Stuart Wark will be quick to point out your mistakes.

After your thorough research, you must write an entertaining book, as the quoting of facts and figures, or the rehashing of old match reports will cause your cricket tragic readers to cry “boring!”.

So let’s assume your research is beyond reproach and you write an entertaining book, there is still one more hurdle. You will more than likely make no money from the venture, simply because, apart from the diehard cricket tragic very few people will be interested in purchasing your work. The way around this is to produce a limited edition which, unfortunately, puts up the price and reduces the availability.

Not many people would put their hand up for this sort of project, instead better to write a book on Bradman or a player just starting his career, much more lucrative. Luckily cricket has historians such as Rick Smith who are prepared to write books on old cricketers such as the Trott brothers.

And what a fine job Rick Smith has performed – right down to the little things that cricket tragics enjoy; such as a comprehensive index and bibliography. He also gives the names – where known – of all players in group illustrations.

Although not CW’s cricket book of the year Blighted Lives is CW’s Australian cricket book of the year.

In truth the ultimate choice was not actually too difficult. One book was always going to stand out for the reasons identified in Martin’s review, and the extract publishers Vision Sports Publishing allowed us to base a feature on. Blood Sweat and Treason by Henry Olonga and Derek Clements is the CricketWeb Book of the Year 2010.

Which brings us on to the reasons for the delay in making the award. We had been keen to ask Henry a few questions about the book but he proved a little elusive before finally giving us the answers we sought:-

CW:- When did you decide to write the book?

HO:- Late 2009, around October

CW:- How did you meet Derek Clements?

HO:- Through my former agent Champions. I believe Derek approached them with the idea of writing an autobiography.

CW:- Without going into specifics does the book say all you wanted it to say or were there things you felt unable to say, at least at the present time?

HO:- The book was heavily edited in collaboration with the publishers to represent a succinct look at my life. There were some things that were omitted for the purposes of keeping it brief. But all in all it said most of what I wanted to say. I would have added another 20,000 words to flesh it all out. In conclusion it was a balance between a book that was captivating but not too long.

CW:- Reactions to the book have generally been very positive – what parts of the reaction to it have particularly pleased you?

HO:- For the most part people accepted it as an honest account of how I have experienced my life. People accept that it wasn?t a hyped up book so to speak. A lot of people have said they were moved by the book, which is very touching to me.

CW:- By the same token have you found any comments made by critics/reviewers unfair or unreasonable and if so what?
HO:- Only one critic I take umbrage to. The reviewer said it was terribly, terribly written although saying that they said it was inspiring.

CW:- Are you and the publishers pleased with the sales figures?

HO:- With no advertising budget and with limited exposure we are pleased with initial sales. We hope the book will sell for a while yet.

CW(to Henry’s wife, Tara):- What was your reaction to the book and any thoughts you might have?

TO:- I am pleased for Henry on the positive responses to its release and glad people are enjoying and being inspired by the read.

The blame for Henry’s elusiveness in December and early January lies fairly and squarely with Talika Sabina Rose Olonga, who arrived amongst us safely on Tuesday 28th Dec 2010, and weighed in at a creditable 7.7lbs. According to Tara, who is Australian, Talika has a “lovely chilled African nature”. One or two of us have speculated as to an appropriate description had Talika taken after her mother, but as we couldn’t reach a consensus we will limit ourselves to congratulating Henry and Tara and wishing them and Talika all the best for the future, wherever that may take them.

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