Cricket Web Book of the Year 2014

The Review Team at CricketWeb first announced a “Book of the Year” back in 2008, and with one exception, about which nothing more will be said, we have done so every year since. We don’t pretend that ours is the most prestigious award that is out there for writers to collect, but it is certainly something we take seriously. Sadly we cannot offer a monetary prize to our winners, nor even a small and insignificant pewter tankard with an engraving of Neville Cardus on it. But winners can take comfort from the fact that a group of people who care passionately about books on cricket and cricketers have decided that in the previous twelve months it is they who have made the most telling contribution to the literature of the game.

The principle of the CW awards having been established we struggled rather more with the best way of doing it, and a review of the features that announce past awards will demonstrate little consistency of approach. We are not going to repeat this year what we did last year, although the announcement of five books in the same five categories is going to be retained, as that somehow feels better that mentioning a couple of winners and a few honourable mentions.

Looking back to last year the format of, effectively, re-reviewing the winners, does on reflection have an element of tl:dr about it. So that goes, and we’ll just link to the original reviews – after all you already know we like the book, so another review won’t inform very much.

But we can’t just have a list of five books, so something else is needed. An interview with the authors has gone down well in the past, so we thought we would do that again, but on this occasion by asking all five winners the same questions. So that is what we decided, and after many hours agreeing on the five questions to be asked we went out into cyberspace to seek out our winners. We are grateful to them all for the prompt and considered responses they gave us.

At this point please imagine a long drum roll, perhaps just long enough for you to nip out to the kitchen and get a drink, and then raise your glasses to our fabulous five of 2014:-

Cricket Web Book of the Year 2014 is 10 for 10 by Chris Waters published by Bloomsbury

Runner-up is Field of Shadows by Dan Waddell published by Bantam Press

Australian Book of the Year 2014 is Ashes to Ashes by Gideon Haigh published by Aurum Press

Cricket Tragics Book of the Year is Wisden on the Great War by <b>Andrew Renshaw</b> published by Bloomsbury

Best New Writer is The Champion Band by Scott Reeves published by Chequered Flag Publishing

And the gentlemen concerned had this to say in response to our searching cross-examination:-

1. Your book was clearly popular with the Review Team at Cricketweb. Looking back some months after publication and with the benefit of hindsight would you do anything different if you were starting the project now?

Chris Waters – Lots of things, probably, but I try not to look back at it. I never read the articles I write in my day job when they’re published in the Yorkshire Post, for example, because there’s always something I might have done better, and I find it frustrating to go over old ground.

Dan Waddell – Not really. I was slightly hamstrung when I started researching this book because there were so few sources available. It was a long slog to track down relatives and friends of the Gents of Worcester team that toured Berlin, likewise finding information about the Berlin players and the enigmatic Felix Menzel in particular. I’m not sure there is anything I could have done differently, other than learn to read and speak German fluently and relocate to Berlin.

Gideon Haigh – The point of A2A, as with my previous Ashes books, was <i>not</i> to have the benefit of hindsight, in the same way that players don’t have the opportunity to redress their performances retrospectively. It’s a collection of contemporaneous writings. I haven’t gone back to read it, sensing it would probably be too embarrassing! The only thing I might change is the title, which is a bit naff, although I guess if you’re ever to use it, it was for this book.

Andrew Renshaw – I was fortunate that after my initial proposal was accepted by Wisden, I was given freedom to develop the project as it progressed. I did not initially think I would discover so much information and so many fascinating stories about the men. I regret that I decided against an index.

Scott Reeves – I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I often look back at what I’ve written with a critical eye. But I’m happy with the broad format and structure of The Champion Band. Perhaps a little less detail on some of the matches, but it’s a book about a cricket tour – it’s quite difficult to avoid that!

2.Your own title aside, were you particularly impressed with any other books released in 2014 either cricketing or otherwise?

Chris Waters – The only books I’ve looked at are the ones I’ve reviewed. Frank Mitchell by Anthony Bradbury in the ACS Lives in Cricket series springs to mind, as does Frith’s Encounters by David Frith.

Dan Waddell – I enjoyed Chris Water’s 10 for 10 and Andrew Renshaw’s Wisden on the Great War and I’m looking forward to reading Peter Oborne’s history of Pakistani cricket. It was a very strong year for cricket books, come to think of it.

Gideon Haigh – I’m not sure I was all that impressed with my own title! I admired Peter Oborne’s Wounded Tiger, and enjoyed James Wilson’s Court & Bowled. Osman Samiuddin’s new book is a ripper. I’m afraid I haven’t read Chris’s latest book, but I thought his Trueman biography first rate.

Andrew Renshaw – The book I most enjoyed was Field of Shadows, Dan Waddell’s entertaining account of the Worcestershire Gentlemen’s tour of Nazi Germany in 1937.

Scott Reeves – I was intrigued when I heard about Dan Waddell’s Field of Shadows. A cricket tour to Nazi Germany? When I got my hands on the book a few months later, it didn’t disappoint – entertaining, easy to read and accessible. Outside of cricket, I was lucky enough to edit and publish Only Gold Matters: Cecil Griffiths, The Exiled Olympic Champion. It’s a really interesting biography of an Olympic gold medallist who was subsequently banned from future international competition for accepting small cash prizes when he was younger. The amateur/professional debate in athletics was far more divisive and harmful than that in cricket.

3. Can we expect any new publications from you in 2015 or 2016? If so what can you tell us about your plans?

Chris Waters – I’ve no plans to do anything at the moment as the day job increasingly dominates my time.

Dan Waddell – The paperback of Field of Shadows is released in May, but that may well be the only book of mine released this year. I’m currently researching two books, one cricket-themed, and I hope both will be available in 2016.

Gideon Haigh – I have a true crime book coming out in July, and a vague plan for cricket book after that – so vague it’s hardly worth elaborating on.

Andrew Renshaw – No new publications, but more deaths in Wisden 2015 which will contain a Supplementary Obituary. This gathers up more than 30 of the 90 first-class cricketers who died in the Great War who did not have an obituary at the time, which I included in WOTGW. There will be others with a cricket connection who were famous in various walks of life such as architecture, football, photography and the movies, who will receive a belated accolade from Wisden.

Scott Reeves – I do have a new book which will be released in 2015, but it couldn’t really be more different from nineteenth-century cricket – it’s about Formula 1 stock car racing, my other area of expertise. I do have my eye on a number of different cricket topics, although I’m still at the daydreaming stage.

4. Take away all the constraints normally imposed by money, time and lack of research material what cricket book would you choose to write?

Chris Waters – I must confess I have no idea, so I’ll have to pass on that one.

Dan Waddell – I’d like to fill in the gaps in Field of Shadows! I still want to know more about Felix Menzel, the German cricketer and obsessive who is the real hero of the book. But he is proving a hard man to track down still. If money was no object I’d pay for the book to be translated into German (the German cricket book market is a bit of a niche one…) and then pay for a publicity campaign to alert people to it over there, and hope someone who knew Menzel or who knew of him comes forward. The film option for Field of Shadows has been sold. If a movie is ever made, perhaps that will help shake a bit more information from the tree.

Gideon Haigh – Take those away, and I probably wouldn’t be writing cricket books – I’d be on a desert island somewhere! But I might try to write something about cricket’s international relations, a history of its diplomacy.

Andrew Renshaw – I would happily update Wisden on the Great War and double its length to over 1,060 pages before declaring. There is no lack of material.

Scott Reeves – That’s a difficult question! I’ve always found that it’s easier to write about something that I find interesting and would want to read myself – that’s how The Champion Band started. To be honest, I’ll find it tough to top that as a subject – but when I do find something, I’ll start writing!

5. In a couple of sentences, how do you see the future of cricket publishing?

Chris Waters – It’s difficult to be optimistic. There is waning interest from mainstream publishers, while there is little or no financial incentive for professional writers, most of whom have less and less time to write in their spare time in any case.

Dan Waddell – I think the interest in Kevin Pietersen’s book shows there is still a market for personality-led cricket books, but I also believe a market will survive for the quirkier, offbeat stories that many of us love. Cricket does tend to throw them up.

Gideon Haigh – Poor but honest. To undertake a proper cricket book is a true labour of love.

Andrew Renshaw – With Stephen Chalke’s history of the county championship on the horizon, the immediate future is bright. Surely there will always be new cricket books to look forward to and I don’t see any reason soon that I will turn to a tome on cycling.

Scott Reeves – Cricket publishing is changing, but I certainly don’t think that it’s dying. Ghostwritten autobiographies will continue – like them or loathe them, they sell well and the big publishing houses will churn them out as long as that’s the case. But there will always be a place for smaller independent publishers (my own Chequered Flag Publishing among them) who can take a more flexible approach and work the areas that the bigger publishers overlook.

And finally, some old habits die hard and, in addition to our “Famous Five” we think we should dish out just a handful of honourable mentions as well, so after you’ve read the winners we recommend these three:-

The Miracle Match by Ian Brayshaw, published by Hardie Grant

Frank Mitchell: Imperial Cricketer by Anthony Bradbury, published by the ACS

Cricket As I See It by Alan Border, published by Angus and Robertson

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