Somerset County Cricket Club – The Return to Glory

Published: 2015
Pages: 160
Author: Lockyer, A and Walsh, R
Publisher: Halsgrove
Rating: 3 stars

Maybe it is the iconic imagery of George Beldam or s the fact my own interest in the game has a tendency towards bygone years, but there is something about old-fashioned black and white that appeals to me. So it was something of a disappointment, if unsurprising, that this pictorial history of Somerset cricket covering the early years of the 21st century comprises exclusively full colour images.

Alain Lockyer is the man responsible for the photography which represents the bulk of the content of this nicely produced A4 sized celebration of a successful few years for the westernmost of our First Class counties, with the text linking the images written by Richard Walsh. I always think there is a tricky balance to be struck in that task. Too little information is going to result in criticism of the writer along the lines he has done nothing to earn his corn. Too much and he will be told his role is to let the pictures speak for themselves. Walsh negotiates the inevitable hurdles very well indeed, neatly showcasing Lockyer’s work.

Any Somerset follower will enjoy Somerset County Cricket Club – The Return to Glory, so there is a captive audience, but what of the neutral? Will he or she want to invest in the book? There is certainly nothing in Lockyer’s collection to set the pulse racing in the manner of Beldam’s breathtaking capture of Trumper jumping out to drive, or the wonderful photograph of a magisterial Hammond cover drive that adorns the jacket of Ronald Mason’s biography of the great man. In fact a goodly number of the shots are what I would describe as ‘stills’, either head and shoulders photographs of the men concerned, or team images, so not very exciting.

There are action shots, and although Lockyer is clearly a more than competent photographer he is no Patrick Eagar, at least not on the evidence of what is here. That said there are some thought-provoking images, not least those of two overseas players and long-standing international captains, Graeme Smith and Rick Ponting. When I was young overseas stars were a new feature of the domestic game here and many of the men concerned, not least Joel Garner and Viv Richards at Somerset, became integral parts of their adopted counties through long service. Those days are gone now and as overseas players drop in for a few matches before disappearing again I have often wondered whether they really care too much about who they play for, or indeed enjoy their occasional brief outings in grey English conditions playing on sparsely populated county grounds.

I do at least know the answer to that one now. For most of Ponting’s appearances in the book he is wearing the green and yellow livery of his country, but there is one shot of him on Somerset duty. The look on his face is that of a man who is thoroughly enjoying himself. He does not have a bat in his hand at the time, so no judgment on how hard he tried can be made on the strength of that particular image, but given his First Class average for the county was 99.00, and in List A games 99.33, it seems rather likely he was indeed giving of his very best. Smith while not in that class, his numbers for a comparable number of appearances being 67.42 and 81.50, still performed well. There are many action pictures of Smith though, and one thing that is very clear from them is that the South African was most certainly trying as hard as he possibly could.

Somerset County Cricket Club – The Return to Glory will, quite properly, sell well amongst the county’s supporters and all will doubtless be pleased with their purchase. Whether the wider cricketing public will value it so highly is doubtful although if, like this reviewer, Graeme Smith has never been one of their favourite cricketers, it should certainly make them re-examine their consciences on that one.

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