Stumps and Runs and Rock n’ RollMartin Chandler |
Author: Quelch, Tim
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Rating: 3.5 stars
Had I not read Tim Quelch’s first book, Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets I might have been a little concerned at his introduction to Stumps and Runs and Rock n Roll, more particularly this passage; It is essentially a Baby Boomer’s account of growing up and older with cricket, in which the wildly oscillating fortunes of the English Test side are set against a changing culture and political landscape with popular music supplying the soundtrack. My fear would have been that I was going to have to read, to put it bluntly, a book of pretentious and self-indulgent musings.
Fortunately I knew better. If I learnt nothing else from Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets I did gather that Tim Quelch is a man with a great love of cricket but that, importantly, he is also a man who lives in the real world, realising there are one or two matters which are sometimes just slightly more important than our great game. He also has a good sense of humour and a deft turn of phrase. Lastly, and crucially, he either has a great store of cricketing knowledge, or the good sense to check his facts before launching himself at his keyboard, or perhaps more realistically a combination of the two.
Stumps and Runs and Rock n Roll begins in 1952 when Quelch was a small boy, and every year from then on has a few pages devoted to it. Most of the content is cricket related, but there is a look at world events as well, and of course there is the music. From time to time the occasional autobiographical passage appears, but the story of Tim Quelch’s own life represents a fairly insignificant part of the book as a whole.
Most readers of the book will be English, so they probably won’t find themselves taking too much issue with Quelch’s views on English cricket, not many of which are going to be controversial. The view of world events is similar to the cricketing content, thus a case of reportage rather than opinion, so the music is the potentially divisive area. We all have our own favourites and, when there is only a track or two mentioned for each year all readers will find themselves disagreeing with Quelch more often than not. But despite some eccentric selections at times he does choose ‘All Along the Watchtower’ for 1969 – the wildcat may have growled, but this reviewer won’t be following suit.
As so much of the content is of a cricketing nature the space devoted to each year does vary, but it is never more than a dozen pages. One of the longer entries, unsurprisingly, is 1981. The year began with a controversial tour of West Indies, and Guyana’s refusal to accept Robin Jackman, followed by the sad passing of Kenny Barrington. The English summer that came next needs no introduction from me, and perhaps it is the wonderful memories of Ian Botham’s resurgence that had caused me to forget about the riots in Brixton and Toxteth, the early Thatcher years and, musically, the Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’.
One reason I have stopped to comment on 1981 is that it represents something of an acid test. No cricket lover who lived through that summer will ever forget it, so can Quelch hold his reader’s attention? With an eye for the important matters of detail that have a tendency to slip the memory he does so with aplomb, and his reminder of the much told tale of ‘Botham’s Ashes’ was every bit as enjoyable as the rest of the book.
Anyone looking for new insights into the history of cricket is going to be disappointed by Stumps and Runs and Rock n Roll, but the target audience is not the game’s scholars and historians. For those of a not dissimilar vintage to Quelch however, who want a fairly lightweight reminder of former glories, both their own and of our sporting and musical heroes then it will prove a most enjoyable investment. I would also suggest that it would be the ideal gift for anyone who has shown sufficient interest in the game to want to learn more about its history. Tim Quelch’s entertaining prose might just convert a mere enthusiast into a full blown cricket tragic.