Stourbridge CC Test CricketersMartin Chandler |
Author: Collis, Anthony (Editor)
Publisher: The Club
Rating: 3.5 stars
In 2017 Stourbridge Cricket Club celebrated its 150th birthday, just the sort of anniversary that begs for a book to be written, and as a glance through the stock of any decent cricket bookseller will tell you there are plenty of such club histories around. Stourbridge is what I would describe as a big club. They play on a ground which, in the days when counties took their First Class fixtures out on the road, regularly hosted Worcestershire home games. The club compete in the Worcestershire Premier League.
Any book about a cricket club is going to have a limited market, and it strikes me as a good idea to depart from the traditional club history and produce a book of pen portraits of the major players who have represented the club over the years. Certainly for this reviewer a season by season review of those 150 summers could have been passed by with nary a glance back at the book’s cover. On the other hand something that promised profiles of an eclectic bunch of 17 international cricketers is a must have.
So who are the 17? One is an all time great in any currency, Imran Khan. What, the reader may well ask, can be said about Imran in the space of half a dozen pages that hasn’t been said before? The answer is that the essay focuses primarily on Imran’s time at Stourbridge, so there is something new to be learnt.
New Zealander Glenn Turner played briefly for the club en route to forging his name indelibly in the annals of the Worcestershire county club, and there are four other non-Englishmen in the ranks of the 17. A pedant might say five, as Ron Headley, son of George, father of Dean and capped twice by West Indies in 1973 appears. But despite being born in Jamaica Ron has spent almost all his life in the Black Country, so he is in a category of his own. Australian Simon O’Donnell is never* likely to be the subject of a full biography, but if he is it will struggle to be as well written as the affectionate pen portrait produced here by the man who skippered him at Stourbridge.
Personal recollections mean a lot and I was delighted to learn that one of the subjects of the book was the Sri Lankan leg spinner Somachandra De Silva. Back in 1984 you didn’t see leg spinners in English cricket, and De Silva got a bit of a build up in the press as the first ever Test between England and Sri Lanka in this country loomed. That he played, as I vividly recall, carrying an ankle injury that meant he had to limp through his 45 overs, was something I was slightly surprised not to see mentioned here, but it is an excellent piece on a man who just sneaks in, having played twice for Stourbridge in 1989. Making up the overseas contingent are the two Farhat brothers from Pakistan, and the tale of a modest deception perpetrated by Imran to enable him to play with Humayun.
Phil DeFreitas gets in as he, like De Silva, played twice for Stourbridge, as indeed did the giant Scottish pace bowler Dave Larter. Another man who has always been of interest to this reviewer the Larter essay is all the better for having been based on an interview with the man himself.
Only three of the men featured had pre war careers, those being Ted Arnold, ‘Tip’ Foster and the diminutive Willie Quaife. Thanks to the Editor of Stourbridge CC Test Cricketers we do now have a book about Foster, but neither Arnold nor Quaife have received very much attention from the game’s writers in the past.
The core of the book is probably the portraits of Worcestershire’s England players of the 1950s and 1960s. The only one with a significant tally of England caps (34) is Peter Richardson, and he is a forgotten figure in the 21st century. Much less frequently capped were Richardson’s brother Dick (1), long time skipper Don Kenyon (8), Martin Horton (2), Dick Howarth (5), Roly Jenkins (9) and Jack Flavell (4). There is a thought provoking photograph of Kenyon and Horton walking out to bat for Worcestershire against the Australians in 1961 – the best part of sixty years on the game might be essentially the same, but the physical appearance of its gladiators has changed almost beyond recognition.
A particularly interesting selection is Jenkins. I knew little about him before the chapter on him here, and having done so more than any of the others I would like to have met him. I do not imagine for one moment that it has not been used before, but the story of his enquiring of an umpire, when complaining of a sore spinning finger, whether he could borrow the one the umpire wasn’t using had me smiling for hours.
In addition to the 17 there are also pieces on what are described as ‘five worthies’. ‘Tip’ Foster’s brother Harry is one, and Warwickshire professional of the 1890s, Harry Pallett another. Derbyshire stalwart and latter day England selector Charlie Elliott gets in by virtue of his having been Stourbridge’s professional immediately before and during the second World War. The Australian born Jock Livingston, who served Northamptonshire well in the 1950s is featured by dint of two seasons as a pro at Stourbridge in the Autumn of his career.
And finally, the book features Tom Pritchard, never capped due to his county commitments with Warwickshire but without doubt the best New Zealand born fast bowler of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The writer of his essay does have to admit that it cannot be said now with certainty that Pritchard ever actually played for Stourbridge – I couldn’t help but wonder whether the ‘Taranaki Express’ might have pulled an Imran Farhat.
In order to enjoy Stourbridge CC Test Cricketers I suppose it probably is necessary to be a bit of a cricket tragic. For those who are so afflicted it really is worth tracking down, something which I can make a great deal easier by confirming the editor’s email address, email@example.com
*The Mac is not so sure about this, taking the view that O’Donnell’s prowess as an Australian Rules footballer might mean we do one day get a book about him.