Getting Out

Published: 2024
Pages: 223
Author: Campion, Jonathan
Publisher: Pitch
Rating: 4 stars

The Ukrainian Cricket Team’s Last Stand on the Front Lines of War is the sub-title of this remarkable book from Jonathan Campion, and as a one sentence summary of its content is as good as you will get.

The rest of the world is all too aware of the conflict that has been raging in Ukraine since February 2022, but there will be relatively few who will appreciate that, at the point of Russia’s illegal invasion of the country, Ukraine was on the brink of receiving associate member status from the ICC.

Getting Out is the story of the game’s development in Ukraine from a standing start in the mid 1990s. The catalyst, unsurprisingly, was the enthusiasm of expatriates from the game’s major centres who came to the country following its being re-established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

The two cities where the game started in Ukraine were Kharkiv and Kyiv, and as the game became more established Ukrainians began to take to it and rules were tinkered with to ensure that their participation was encouraged. They were always fine fielders, but were encouraged to develop their batting and bowling talents as well.

So there is an interesting story to be told, and one with the saddest of sad endings. All those expatriates who were key figures in the development of Ukrainian cricket managed, eventually in some cases, to leave the country following the outbreak of the war. Whether they, and accordingly cricket in Ukraine will ever return is as uncertain now as it was when Jonathan Campion’s book went to press.

As for Campion he is ideally qualified to put this history together having worked in Eastern Europe for almost twenty years. His contacts enabled him to track down all of those involved in establishing the game in Ukraine wherever they may now be, including those Ukrainians who remain in their home country one of whom, wicketkeeper Sasha Romanenko, now a member of the Ukrainian armed forces, contacted Campion from the front.

Campion could very easily have turned the book into some sort of political statement rather than a book about the game of cricket, but he wisely chooses not to do so. That is not to say that there is not enough of the wider history of Ukraine and its neighbours to enable those who are interested not to have a greater understanding of the issues that underpin the current war. That is something that Campion does very well, and he allows those whose stories make up the book to talk about their involvement in the game, what has happened to them since February 2022 and their views on the ongoing conflict.

But despite Campion not expressing any personal opinions Getting Out nonetheless contains a powerful message. The epilogue to the book, entitled Guard of Honour, lists biographical details of 92 of the many young athletes who have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict, and there are similar digressions elsewhere in this outstanding book. The earlier, shorter lists are, perhaps, there to prepare the reader for Guard of Honour which, I have no doubt, will be the most haunting and thought provoking piece of writing that I read this year and, I sincerely hope, in any future year. 

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