Outstanding/Outstanding IIMartin Chandler |
Author: Gault, Adrian and Julia and Green, Ewan
Publisher: Mitcham Cricket Club
Rating: 3 stars
Buying books about club cricket could open the floodgates, which is the main reason I try not to get too involved with the subject. That endeavour has only ever been a partial success. I decided long ago that buying histories of individual leagues was something I could do, and books about clubs I had played against has always seemed a perfectly reasonable exception to the rule. For all sorts of reasons, mainly relating to lack of talent, my playing career was neither lengthy nor varied, so given also that club histories are not often bulky, that policy was never going to tax my shelf space too much.
From time to time I have also acquired books about clubs whose grounds I am familiar with, and the occasional club history that contains interesting biographical insights in respect of men who have played at First Class or Test level. It was because of that latter point that I was initially stirred into buying these two interesting little titles. Neither is rare and indeed both are presumably still available from the club directly or, and this is how I acquired them, via co-writer Julia Gault on Ebay UK. From that source they can be bought for the princely sum of £3.55 each, inclusive of postage and packing to UK addresses.
The purpose of the first booklet was a simple one. In one corner of the club’s ground is a memorial stone that was put in place in 1963. It bears the names of sixteen of the club’s most influential players. In 1963, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary, Outstanding was published and contains pen portraits of those men. Shortly after publication another eighteen names were added, and the second volume treats those eighteen in the same way.
Some famous Surrey and England players are featured in Outstanding, most notable amongst them being Andrew Sandham, Herbert Strudwick and Tom Richardson. Also featured is James Southerton, who played in the first ever Test match when already aged 49. He remains, and surely will continue to do so in perpetuity, the oldest Test debutant. Many of the other players included played some First Class cricket in addition to their club duties with Mitcham.
The second selection contains only one England Test player, the maverick David Smith whose reputation for relishing the challenge of fast bowling brought him two trips to the Caribbean when, in the 1980s, the great West Indian pace packs were in their pomp. The only other Test player here is wicketkeeper Roy Harford, who played three Tests for New Zealand against India in 1968.
For the most part the remainder of those profiled in Outstanding II are stalwart club men who turned out year in and year out for the club. In many ways they are the most interesting. The authors, although they have consulted all the important sources, make no pretence at having carried out much in the way of original research, and therefore it is the men not looked at in print before who the reader learns something new about.
My two favourites amongst those featured both come from Outstanding II and often played together. Eaton Swaby was an opening bowler for the club for 21 years, and after that played and coached with Sutton. Such was his popularity that, despite not playing a single First Class match, he still wrote and published a cricketing autobiography.
On the other hand Dennis Marriott had two bites at the First Class cherry. In 1966 and 1967 he was on Surrey’s books, and between 1972 and 1974 played for Middlesex. An unassuming right arm medium pacer, he actually has a perfectly respectable First Class record with the ball despite never properly establishing a first team place. Outstanding II repeats a Mike Brearley quote from Marriott’s Cricinfo profile; A talented and delightful part-time bowler who bowled somewhat in the Derek Underwood mould. He did a good job for us for a while, but however hard he tried – which was very hard – his fielding was never anything but a liability and his batting was not much better.
Clearly none of the individuals whose names the Mitcham Club took the trouble to record on their memorial were anything other than popular members of the club, so this is a book of fond memories and warm reminders of times gone by, and dipping into it is a very pleasant way of filling a few idle minutes.