Once a Pear ….

Published: 2022
Pages: 255
Author: Mitchell, Daryl and Watson, Frank
Publisher: Pitch
Rating: 3.5 stars

How often has a county cricketer who never played for England written an autobiography? The answer is not very. Off hand I can get to seven*, but only two really count**, those of the former Kent ‘keeper Steve Marsh from the 1980s and 1990s, and the great Notts character of the 1960s and 1970s, Basharat Hassan.

And with Once a Pear another one county man, Daryl Mitchell, joins them. Undoubtedly unlucky not to get even a single opportunity to fill the opening batsman berth that Andrew Strauss vacated at the end of the 2012 summer, ‘Mitch’ was often mentioned for the role, but there was always someone else who was a bit younger, or played for a more fashionable county, or both.

Mitchell was a Worcestershire man through and through and his loyalty to the county is impressive, particularly after having the captaincy taken from him at the end of the 2016 summer. It is true that during his playing career there was just a single second division title and one T20 Blast for Worcestershire, and whilst I can see that Mitchell’s story, set out in the measured way that it is, is unlikely to be of great appeal to too many outside the county’s boundaries it is a book that should be read by anyone who values and enjoys the county game.

In the reviews of the previous year’s books that John Arlott wrote annually for many years for Wisden, he would often make reference to ghosted autobiographies as being ‘cricket shop’. In those reviews Arlott would occasionally wax lyrical about a book, but he was never unduly critical. As, in later life, I started to read some of the books he noticed I began to realise that cricket shop meant ‘formulaic’ and, generally, carried the subliminal message that ‘unless you’re a real fan of this player give it a miss’.

Which might sound like a precursor to a negative review but, although I suspect that Arlott would indeed have used the expression ‘cricket shop’ about Once a Pear, I don’t believe the subliminal message would have been the same. The first reason for that is that the cricketing landscape now is different now from in Arlott’s time. For much of his long broadcasting and writing career there was either no or very little limited overs cricket, and even England Test players would spend most of their time with their counties. More generally, and inevitably, the world in cricketing terms and every other way imaginable was a very different place half a century and more ago.

So despite the fact nothing that Daryl Mitchell has to say will cause any offence to anyone his story of local lad made good is still an interesting one, as are his impressions of the great and the good who he played alongside and against. There is not even any angst about the events of 2016, although not unnaturally there was clearly a good deal of disappointment at the time, doubtless lifted by the excellent season that, free of the captaincy, Mitchell enjoyed in 2017.

Clearly Once a Pear is a ‘must read’ for any follower of Worcestershire, but as I have already indicated that should also be the case for any lover of the county game. Mitchell’s story has been very well written by long time broadcaster and writer Frank Watson and the book itself, as with everything else Pitch produce, is a polished end product. It is an attractive hardback with an excellent foreword from Mitchell’s long time teammate Moeen Ali, and has two excellent photographic interludes and statistical summary.

*Books written by Ray East and ‘Bomber’ Wells, A Funny Turn and Well, Well, Wells were more books of cricketing humour than true autobiography. Of the others I will never accept that Glamorgan’s Alan Jones does not in fact count as a Test cricketer notwithstanding his solitary appearance against the Rest of the World in 1970 having been downgraded, and the great success as a writer that ‘Crusoe’ Robertson-Glasgow enjoyed rules him out for me. And then there is the Gloucestershire batsman Alistair Hignell, but he did play Rugby Union for England.

**Seems this was a real mea culpa moment as I missed many more than seven including Luke Sutton, Paul Smith, Luke Fletcher, Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, Malcolm Nash, David Nash, John Barclay, Luke Sutton, Mark Nicholas, Dickie Dodds, Bill Andrews and Peter Roebuck. It is a list that might have been longer, although I still think I can exclude county players who went on to umpire in Tests, though I have to admit that none of Bill Alley, Dickie Bird, David Shepherd or Frank Chester had crossed my consciousness.

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