Real International Cricket – A History in One Hundred ScorecardsMartin Chandler |
Author: Morgan, Roy
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Rating: 3.5 stars
Back in 1970 Rowland Bowen’s Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development was published. In a ground breaking book Bowen, a very strange individual albeit one whose passion for the game of cricket could not be questioned, tackled a subject that many had visited before. He debunked a few myths along the way, but as importantly looked at his subject from a global perspective, previous attempts at writing histories of the game having rarely strayed far beyond the Test playing nations.
Roy Morgan hasn’t set out to update Bowen’s work, and to do so would be an impossible task anyway given that almost half a century ago Bowen’s work stretched to more than 400 pages. But he has clearly been influenced by Bowen, and his book certainly looks at the game in all corners of the world. It is perhaps not surprising that books on the game’s furthest flung outposts are not published with great frequency, but they are almost always rewarding, as these privately published examples on Canadian and American cricket both demonstrate.
In contrast to Messrs Adams and Patel’s efforts on North American cricket Morgan has the backing of a ‘proper’ publisher, sporting specialists Pitch. They clearly see the potential in this market, having already published books on Afghan and Zimbabwean cricket this year, and they have one on cricket in Europe due very soon.
Morgan’s book has a brief introduction after which it follows a strictly chronological order from 1840 to the end of the twentieth century. There are a few pages by way of a summary of what is to come at the beginning of each chapter, after which the format is straightforward in that a scorecard appears on the odd numbered pages, with a single page account of the match facing it. Occasionally a particular match gets three pages of narrative. Three of those are matches which included the man who most fascinates all who have an interest in cricket outside the Test playing countries, the Philadelphian Bart King.
For the twenty first century the book is set out slightly differently in that it diverges into three separate chapters on the traditional two innings game, and the 50 and 20 over formats. The spread of the game in recent years has been remarkable. I was not totally surprised to see a reference to a T20 match between Romania and Hungary, but did not expect to learn that 40km away from Bucharest there is a dedicated cricket ground, or that the featured match was the final of the 2014 Continental T20 Cricket Cup. The game was therefore an interesting one, but did create a false impression until I spent a few minutes on cricketarchive. What Morgan did not tell me, and which I rather think he should have, was that the other competing nations were the likes of Serbia and Russia, rather than Denmark or the Netherlands, countries where the game has had a foothold for generations.
A handful of the matches featured are well known, primarily the World Cup victories of Zimbabwe over Australia in 1983, Kenya over the still mighty West Indies in 1996, and Ireland’s over England in 2011. On the basis that David slaying Goliath is always popular there are other examples as well. The famous victory of the Dutch over Bob Simpson’s 1964 Australians is one, not to mention the failure by England in the 2014 World T20 to overhaul a modest target set by a later generation of Dutch cricketers. Equally impressive, if much less well known, was the achievement of Argentina in beating a touring MCC side in 1912 by four wickets. This was no one day knockabout either. It was a First Class fixture and the MCC team included two Test captains, Lord Hawke and AC MacLaren, as well as a sprinkling of other Test players. Not dissimilar was a three day match played between All-Malaya and an Australian XI in 1927. The visitors, captained by Charlie Macartney and with Bill Woodfull, Tommy Andrews and Bert Oldfield also in their side were beaten by 39 runs.
The match reports tend towards the workmanlike rather than the atmospheric, but then in most cases Morgan had only press reports to work with. If there is one thing that I would have liked to have seen more of it would have been some input from some of those who took part in the matches. With so many games to cover it would have been impractical to seek out too many interviewees, but the thoughts of some of the surviving combatants of the World Cup matches I have specifically mentioned might have improved the final product. But then I may be wrong, and in any event Real International Cricket – A History in One Hundred Scorecards has much to commend it for anyone with an interest in cricket’s Associate and Affiliate nations.