New Books – An Overview for July 2015

Published: 2015

As another six months slipped by I decided to try and cast my net a little wider in order to try and locate interesting items I may have missed in past articles. In doing so I have located a couple of interesting items from Pakistan and Barbados. From Pakistan has come a biography of a man who made his First Class debut at the age of 12, before going on to represent Pakistan in 25 Tests between 1954 and 1962. Alim Ud Din was not a great batsman by any means, but he was an important part of the early Pakistan sides and A Straight Bat is an interesting book, and not one that is too difficult to find.

If only I could make the same comment about the availability of the Bajan publication I recently tracked down, well over a year after it originally appeared. I got my copy on ebay so sadly cannot assist anyone who, as I was, is interested in learning a little more about Seymour Nurse. Tribute to a Legend is not a full book by any means, but the 24 page brochure is much more about content than advertising and is something I can thoroughly recommend.

Another biography I missed, albeit published much more recently, is of one of those cricketers who seems to attract acolytes and detractors in equal measure with nothing in-between. Others have written about him in the past, but just maybe the passage of time will enable Satptarshi Satkari to unravel the complexities of his subject in Sourav Ganguly, Cricket, Captaincy and Controversy.

Due in October is Grizzly: The Life and Times of Chris Adams, an autobiography. One of the few men to have played in each match of a five Test series, and never again, Adams’ time at the top was in South Africa in 1999/2000. In an interesting domestic career Adams made his name at Derbyshire before going on to lead Sussex to their first County Championship title and beyond. The next stage of his career, management at Surrey, was rather less successful. His story should be an interesting one.

Adams’ autobiography certainly won’t be the best-selling cricket book to appear in October. That is a title that will surely be achieved, by a distance, by Second Innings: My Sporting Life, the autobiography of the lad from Preston, Andrew Flintoff. The publishers describe the book as searingly honest yet uplifting. I suppose our Fred is due an autobiography, although given that by my reckoning he has already lent his name to one autobiography and at least two other books not a million miles from the genre I fear in truth it will probably be, as these books generally are, relatively pedestrian.

An autobiography from one of Flintoff’s teammates will also, I fancy, do pretty well for the bean counters. The Test: My Life, and the Inside Story of the Greatest Ashes Series is by Simon Jones. Not much irritates me greatly, but I do become grumpy at the way people who should know better persist in describing Jones as an unsung hero. No one with any significant recollection of the magical summer of 2005 will ever forget the enormous value of his contributions to the iconic victory and I hope that as far as he is concerned his book buries the expression once and for all.

Last year Amberley Publishing, a new name to me, produced an interesting book, Lord’s Firsts. Their first venture into the cricket market clearly didn’t put them off as this year will see them release Tim Jones’ homage to an all-time Worcestershire hero Don Kenyon. He might have been found wanting at Test level but as captain Kenyon turned his unfashionable county into a power in the land. I am looking forward to reading his story.

From the same era as Don Kenyon came Bob Barber of Lancashire, Warwickshire and England and specialist Lancashire publishers Max Books have just published Colin Shindler’s biography of Barber. It is a superb book which I will review next week. The same publisher will shortly be publishing David Green’s memories of The Summer of ‘65 which I hope will be the same sort of discursive ramble around the swinging sixties that Green’s splendid autobiography, A Handful of Confetti, was a couple of years ago. Whilst on the subject of Lancashire I will mention too a book by Douglas Miller that was published in March of this year. There’s Only One Tommy Wilson is about a man who umpired for many years in the northern Leagues and the Minor Counties Championship as well as spending a single summer on the First Class list. Why should such a man justify a biography I hear you ask? I cannot yet answer that as I have yet to acquire a copy of the book, but it sounds like Tommy’s story is both inspiring and entertaining, and if Douglas Miller has taken the trouble to write it then it must by definition be a good ‘un.

As a 20 year old Madhav Apte won seven caps for India in the space of less than a year in 1952/53. An opening batsman he averaged just a tick under 50 yet never played Test cricket again. The octogenarian’s autobiography is about to be published in India and the title, As Luck Would Have It, rather suggests a happy and contented life rather than one embittered by what would appear to be, to say the least, shabby selectorial treatment. I presume the book will result in the inexplicable becoming explicable, and am keenly anticipating my next Red Cross parcel from Delhi.

What about tour books? The publishers’ cricketing staple of sixty years ago is a rare bird indeed these days, and although I expect Aurum will again publish Gideon Haigh’s collected articles and reports on this summer’s Ashes series once the urn is safely back on English soil, although unless such a remarkable turnaround were to occur I cannot imagine there will be too many others. That much said the appearance of books about old tours has become more prevalent and there are two of note in the offing. The first is from our great friend and occasional guest contributor Barry Nicholls. It isn’t quite a tour book, but in my view belongs as much to that genre as to that of cricket history. Barry’s book concerns the activities of the official Australian sides during the World Series Cricket schism of 1977 to 1979. After the surge in interest last year in Mr Packer and his doings Establishment Boys is well timed, and as a teenaged Barry was right there watching it all unfold no one is better qualified to write about the subject.

Over the years the famous Bodyline series of 1932/33 has spawned enough books to necessitate their occupation of a whole metre of my limited storage space. I am not going to have to squeeze another one into the space, but right next to them will go Robert Winder’s Half-Time: The Glorious Summer of 1934. There were books published at the time, by Jack Hobbs, Douglas Jardine and Percy Fender (the best by a distance) but the tour, not without its own controversies, has never been chronicled since and those who are fascinated by the era, and there are plenty of us, will all be looking forward to the book. Winder, as he demonstrated in his recent biography of John Wisden, is a skilled and diligent researcher so who knows, there may be some fresh light thrown on the previous series as well.

We have had the film and now we have the book, Fire in Babylon: How the West Indies Cricket Team Brought a Nation to its Feet. Author Simon Lister has already penned a biography of the man in charge of the first Caribbean pace packs, Clive Lloyd, so I am expecting an authoritative account. If Lister has been able to speak to men like Bishan Bedi, Sunny Gavaskar and others from the Indian side of 1975/76 then there might well be some real fireworks in store.

Back in our Olympic year of 2012 I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tim Quelch’s book, Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets. I am delighted to see the same publisher, our friends at Pitch Publishing, have persuaded Quelch to tap away at his keyboard again to produce Stumps & Runs & Rock ‘n Roll: Sixty Years Beyond a Boundary. From what I have seen the book appears to be a sort of an autobiography, concentrating on the cricket Quelch has watched and the music he has listened to. His prose is immensely readable and if there is any justice in the world of publishing Pitch will sell plenty of copies of this one.

It sound to me as if Scyld Berry’s forthcoming book, Cricket: The Game of Life: Every reason to celebrate, is going to be similar to Quelch’s albeit rather more erudite and without the incidental history of popular music. Anyone who has edited Wisden for four years, as Berry did between 2008 and 2011 has, whether you agree with him or not, opinions on cricket that are worth listening to so despite the rather cumbersome double sub-title I expect this one to do well.

I seldom mention reprints here, but occasionally they do merit a word or two and one that does is Mike Brearley’s classic treatise on The Art of Captaincy. First published thirty years ago the anniversary is celebrated by the book’s reappearance with a new introduction from Ed Smith, one of the more interesting of the current crop of writers on the game.

Whilst on the subject of reprints there are a couple from Henry Blofeld that have just been released. Cricket on Three Continents appears to be a straightforward reissue of Cricket in Three Moods, a book dealing with the England tour of the Caribbean in 1967/68, and the West Indies tours of Australia in 1968/69 and England in 1969. If it is the same book, and that is not completely clear to me, then purchasers should be wary as, with all due respect to ‘Blowers’, it isn’t very good (although I know Archie disagrees with me on that). The other is The Man Who Coloured Cricket. Again it is not crystal clear but I think this is a straight reissue of The Packer Affair, a better book than Cricket in Three Moods, but certainly not the best on that particular subject.

The Great War has claimed another title this year, Final Wicket: Test and First Class Cricketers Killed in the Great War by Nigel McCrery. I am struggling to see what the book might add to Andrew Renshaw’s masterpiece, Wisden on the Great War, but McCrery is not a cricket writer by trade, so he may bring a fresh approach and, perhaps, some new insights.

Cricket and Community in England: 1800 to the Present Day by Peter Davies with Robert Light credited as a contributor sound to me like an academic work. I haven’t heard of either writer before, and the price tag (£65 for the hardback) adds to the impression. The most obvious clue however is the publisher, Manchester University Press. Despite its target audience I dare say the book will still be a worthwhile read if social history is your area of interest.

The world of Academia leads me on to The Awkward Squad: Rebels in English Cricket, a recent release by John Lucas, a former Professor of English and Drama and much published author although only once previously on cricket, a fine biography of the Gunn family. I have no doubt the Gunns will feature here, as well as a number of other men from Nottinghamshire.

Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa: Logan of Matjiesfontein by Dean Allen deals with the development of South African cricket at the turn of the 20th century. I will immediately confess to not knowing very much about James Logan and the significant role he played in the growth of the game there and will certainly be looking to read this one. A more conventional South African book is due from Zebra Press. South Africa’s Greatest Batsmen is co-authored by Ali Bacher and David Williams. The same publisher produced South Africa’s Cricket Captains in 2003 and if this latest book is as good as that one the logical sequel about bowlers will complete an impressive set of books of collected biography, although I would express the hope it will not take quite as long to appear.

Casting my eye around I see a few more new releases about, the best of which I suspect may well be a collection of essays on various cricketing topics from that fine Indian writer Samir Chopra. The title is Eye on the Cricket. Rather more pedestrian, I suspect, will be Gower’s 50 Greatest Cricketers which my favourite English batsman of my youth will be lending his name to. A tried and trusted formula I doubt it will contain much that is new, but you never know. And on the subject of matters formulaic this summer will see The Times on the Ashes, edited by Richard Whitehead. The Thunderer has had some fine cricket correspondents over the years and as I have in the past enjoyed reading other anthologies of cricketing material culled from its pages that will doubtless be something worth a look.

To turn to one of my own favourite subjects I ask myself what obscure little limited editions have appeared or are in the offing. Not too many it would seem for once. That inveterate Australian producer of such items, Bernard Whimpress, has added two to his oeuvre to my certain knowledge, Adelaide Scoreboards and Giffen’s Year 1894/95, but I am not aware of too many others. Martin Tebay of Red Rose Books has been sadly quiet, but hopefully that is just a temporary lull, and if my adopted county has not been covered as much as usual then I have at least had the great pleasure of reading Geoff Wellsteed’s little book about my real home town, Inside the Boundary. Alan Edwards’ monograph on the subject of Hampshire’s First Eleven 1864 is also of this sort of ilk. I don’t suppose too many copies have been printed, although it is not strictly a limited edition – it still isn’t easy to track down.

And finally, beating the deadline by a mere 24 hours, a review copy of Unnatural Selection by Trevor Woolley, a book about English Test selection over the last half century, has dropped through my letterbox. It is an interesting subject and a book I am looking forward to reading. Given the publisher’s track record I expect an enjoyable read, but what I do struggle to work out is how a small business such as Von Krumm Publishing manage to produce such a handsome hardback book and then sell it at a mere £15 – perhaps I need to interview Mr Ferriday on the subject.

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 June 2015 then please contact us at info@cricketweb.net, which email address can also be used by any prospective purchaser seeking further information.

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