In Pursuit of ExcellenceArchie Mac |
Author: Francis, Bill
Publisher: The Cricket Publishing Company
Rating: 4 stars
In Pursuit of Excellence is the story of Barry Sinclair, a New Zealand Test cricketer who played before Australia deigned to play the Kiwis in regular Test cricket. Instead the Aussies sent a string of what would now be called ‘A’ teams to the Shaky Isles. It’s a pity Australian cricket took this stance as it left many New Zealand greats without official Tests against their nearest Test neighbours.
Barry Sinclair was perhaps not a great of New Zealand cricket, at least not in the class of a Richard Hadlee or John Reid. But he was certainly just below that status. At 160cm Sinclair was one of the smallest Test cricketers and as with most short players he was a fine purveyor of the hook and cut strokes.
Bill Francis starts his account when Sinclair is unexpectedly made captain of his country. Sinclair was actually in the change room waiting for the match to start when a tap on the shoulder thrust him into the hegemony role and soon after he walked out to toss up with the captain of England.
How Sinclair reacts to the captaincy establishes his whole personality and marked it as a perceptive choice of subject for Francis to start his discourse on. Sinclair was a fitness fanatic and meticulous prepared for each cricket match. He was also a worrier and could be too demanding of himself. In the end this side of his personality causes Sinclair to renounce the captaincy and concentrate on his batting.
After the chapter on the captaincy Francis goes back and starts the Sinclair story from the beginning. We learn that Sinclair moves through the ranks of cricket fairly quickly, and mostly before most in the media thought him ready. The selectors at the time obviously saw something in the young Sinclair and despite the doubters their perception was on the money.
Sinclair played at a time when cricketers had real jobs away from the game. This put pressure on his availability, especially later in his career, but it did not impact on his preparation. Sinclair seems to have spent every available spare minute either practising specific cricket skills or becoming fit. His level of fitness was a great example to younger cricketers, such as Bruce Edgar, who remained a lifelong admirer.
The Sinclair fitness regime helped to make him one of the very best cover fieldsmen and also one of the fastest runners between the wickets. His stamina contributed to the fine batting which made him an almost automatic selection in the national sides throughout the mid 1960s. In the end however he was only in the New Zealand Test team for just over five years. It seems that Sinclair’s employment and perhaps his insecurities about his game led to his relatively short tenure in the national side.
Francis doesn’t end the story at the cessation of Sinclair’s time at the top. Instead he explores Sinclair’s great contribution to the game after his retirement and these are some of the most interesting chapters in the book. Francis also goes into the private life of Sinclair which is tinged with sadness with a divorce and then the loss of his new partner to cancer.
This is the third Bill Francis book Cricket Web has reviewed and he is fast becoming a favourite. His books are well written and his subjects thoroughly and lovingly unveiled. Added to the quality of the writing the publisher, The Cricket Publishing Company, is producing some beautiful books all on quality stock which all cricket lovers would be proud to own.
The Cricket Publishing Company has advised that their next release will be The Skippers Diary. This book sounds mouth watering at 516 pages and featuring 154 illustrations. It‘s the tour diary of the patriarch of New Zealand cricket Walter Hadlee and follows the Kiwis on their 1949 tour of England.