New Books – An Overview for July 2014

New Books - An Overview for July 2014

My preparation for this article always begins with a look back to what I wrote last time round. On this occasion I am reminded how much a man can forget in six months, as I had completely put out of my mind my suggestion that new titles about Sachin Tendulkar would reach double figure proportions. The forecast has proved to be little more accurate than my prediction for the outcome of the 2013/14 Ashes series, but not by much. In fact I can trace just three candidates. Despite my heavy hint Gulu has chosen not to update his book, although he has been kind enough to make sure I have received copies of the three that have appeared. The bulkiest is a new edition of Sachin Tendulkar – The Definitive Biography by Vaibhav Purandare, although I suspect I will prefer an anthology put together by ESPN Cricinfo, Sachin Tendulkar – The Man Cricket Loved Back. The book is due for release in England in October, but can be imported from India now.

The third title is a short 10,000 word paperback from an Indian publisher, Jaico. They have issued similar volumes about MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli. It is an interesting idea, but one which I would prefer to see extended to some of the lesser lights of modern Indian cricket, or perhaps even farther back in time. Pankaj Roy is an example of the sort of man I have in mind, although Jaico needn’t worry about him as he has recently been the subject of a full length biography, Pankaj – Bengal’s Forgotten Cricket Legend, which Gulu’s review has certainly whetted my appetite for.

I will return later to those recent releases that I missed last time round, but first will look forward. The oddest looking title of the year, or indeed any year that I can recall, is Field of Shadows: The English Cricket Tour of Nazi Germany 1937 by Dan Waddell and published by Bantam Press. When I first saw the book in the lists, some time ago now, I thought it was probably going to be one of those attempts at humour that cricket produces on a regular basis. In fact it is a non-fiction title and refers to a tour of Berlin by a traditional English wandering club. The publisher’s description certainly gives their author a lot to live up to, so I will quote it in full;-

Adolf Hitler despised cricket, considering it un-German and decadent. And Berlin in 1937 was not a time to be going against the Fuhrer’s wishes. But hot on the heels of the 1936 Olympics, an enterprising cricket fanatic of enormous bravery, Felix Menzel, somehow persuaded his Nazi leaders to invite an English team to play his motley band of part-timers.

That team was the Gentlemen of Worcestershire, an ill-matched group of mavericks, minor nobility, ex-county cricketers, rich businessmen and callow schoolboys – led by former Worcestershire CC skipper Major Maurice Jewell. Ordered ‘not to lose’ by the MCC, Jewell and his men entered the ‘Garden of Beasts’ to play two unofficial Test matches against Germany.

Against a backdrop of repression, brutality and sporadic gunfire, the Gents battled searing August heat, matting pitches, the skill and cunning of Menzel, and opponents who didn’t always adhere to the laws and spirit of the game. The tour culminated in a match at the very stadium which a year before had witnessed one of sport’s greatest spectacles and a sinister public display of Nazi might.

Despite the shadow cast by the cataclysmic conflict that was shortly to engulf them, Dan Waddell’s vivid and detailed account of the Gentlemen of Worcestershire’s 1937 Berlin tour is a story of triumph: of civility over barbarity, of passion over indifference and hope over despair.

The more traditional sort of tour book is predictably thin on the ground, although there is some action by dint of the back-to-back Ashes series in 2013/2014. Gideon Haigh has covered both in Ashes to Ashes, and whilst the format may be the same as in other recent contests the writing itself is as fresh as ever. There is little by way of competition for Haigh this time, although doubtless a few copies of Michael Clarke’s Diary will sell when released in a couple of months time.

Amberley Publishing, who recently released an interesting book about Lord’s have another title in the offing, The Year of Four England Cricket Captains 1988 by Neil Robinson, a man who like the author of Lord’s Firsts, Philip Barker, I have not come across before. It is a sobering thought that it is now more than a quarter of a century since Mike Gatting, John Emburey, Chris Cowdrey and Graham Gooch took turns to try and stem the tide of West Indian success. To an extent they did of course, as after two 5-0 defeats the margin of victory of Viv Richards’ men was just 4-0, but it really wasn’t a happy summer. But time is a great healer, and perhaps we will now be able to appreciate the comedic qualities of some of the decisions the selectors made.

Going back exactly a century August will see the release of The Final Over – The Cricketers of 1914 by Christopher Sandford. I have not heard from Mr Sandford for some time, but he has been responsible for some very good cricketing biographies, and I am hopeful that this book will be every bit as fitting a tribute to those who feature in it as Andrew Renshaw’s magnificent Wisden on the Great War. I have not heard much about the book but, unlike Neil Robinson’s effort, which will no doubt deal at some length with events on the field in 1988, I anticipate the primary focus of Sandford’s research will be the stories of the cricketer combatants themselves, rather than their deeds on the pitch.

Turning neatly from there to the subject of biography one of the big publishing houses, Simon & Schuster, are releasing two new titles. I am entirely confident that they will be the best selling cricket books of the year. The first in time will be Simon Wilde’s On Pietersen which, were it not for the gagging clauses that I understand are in place on all sides, might have turned out to be the most controversial cricket book in a long, long time. As it is I am sure that the man who has already written fine biographies of two modern mavericks, Shane Warne and Ian Botham, will have no difficulty in doing justice to the story of another.

The second is an autobiography from Geoffrey Boycott. A full and frank end of career look back at his life and times was published in 1987, but Boycs has had plenty of skirmishes with controversy since then, and he is one of the few cricketers in respect of whom one can predict, with confidence, that his second bite at the cherry will not merely be a rehash of the first with a few extra chapters tagged on to the end. In addition since 1987 a number of those with whom the Yorkshireman has locked horns in the past have departed this mortal coil. In English law death removes the need for writers to bear in mind the law of defamation, and I expect a few interesting revelations. The splendidly titled The Corridor of Certainty is due in September.

The only other biography I am aware of at the present time will be coming from Australia. Brian Taber, a wicket keeper who was capped 16 times and was, briefly at the end of the 1960s, Australia’s first choice. Ronald Cardwell and David Jenkins have written Taber’s story which will appear in a limited edition of 252 or, for the collector with deep pockets, a de-luxe multi-signed version of which there will be just 48 copies.

On the subject of limited editions I will mention a 150th anniversary history of Lancashire County Cricket Club which has recently been released in an ordinary cloth bound form, as well as in a leather bound limited edition with a number of signatures and other “extras”. A similar book, again with a de-luxe edition, is to be published by Sussex, and on the subject of that county former resident Roger Heavens is about to release the latest volume in his continuation of Arthur Haygarth’s Scores and Biographies series. Haygarth himself produced the first 14 Volumes between 1862 and 1895. FS Ashley-Cooper was responsible for Volume 15 in 1925, and thereafter we had to wait until Roger picked up the baton, firstly by producing facsimile reprints of the first 15, and subsequently publishing for the first time the next three. This year’s publication will be Volume 19, so by my calculations Roger only has another 16 to go!

Two first time authors are S Giridhar and VJ Raghunath, whose given names have eluded my efforts to find them. Their book is called Mid-Wicket Tales and they are a pair of long time cricket fans whose writings cover many aspects of the game and its history. We wish them well. Another book of solid history that deserves to do well is Flannels on the Sward by Jayesh Patel.

Earlier this year I reviewed a very good little book from Red Rose Books, The Cricketing Curate and the Cornstalks, again a limited edition but I understand copies remain available. Another limited edition that has recently found its way into my collection is one of 30 signed and beautifully bound copies of Von Krumm Publishing’s latest offering, an anthology called Frith’s Encounters. If the title sounds familiar it is because the book gathers together a series of articles of that name that the great man penned for The Wisden Cricketer over a number of years. There are a few previously unpublished “encounters”, and a lengthy introduction to go with this fascinating collection which, although it might look and sound like one, is most certainly not just a collection of pen portraits.

Whilst on the subject of Von Krumm Publishing Messrs Wilson and Ferriday, together with their loyal band of acolytes are, as I type this piece, working on the follow up to Masterly Batting, but more of that in December.

Twice a year CW looks forward to those cricket books due in the months ahead. Inevitably in this sort of exercise books will be overlooked. If any publisher or author reading this has a book we have missed please let us know, and if you would like CW to review your books and/or announce your future plans at the end of December 2014 then please contact us at info@cricketweb.net, which email address can also be used by any prospective purchaser seeking further information.

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Martin Chandler