Ten Great Bowlers

Published: 1967
Pages: 278
Author: Barker, Ralph
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
Rating: 4 stars

Ten Great Bowlers

I am a firm believer, that often your enjoyment of a book can be directly related to your mood and experience of a particular subject.

One of the first cricket books I ever read was Ashes in the Mouth by Ronald Mason, the man of the long word and even longer sentences (sometime getting close to a page). I struggled, putting it down on several different occasions, sometime even reading another book in between picking it up again.

Ten years later I re-read the book and found it to be a well written account of the Bodyline series – if a little lacking in the controversial moments – and I have dipped into it on a number of occasions since.

Another book by Ronald Mason Sing All a Green Willow, which I read only a few years a go has become one of my all time favourites. This is a most complex cricket book to tackle and I dread to think what a young ‘Archie Mac’ would have thought of this publication; I imagine I would have given away cricket book reading all together (and saved myself a lot of money).

So on to Ten Great Bowlers, which has been sitting on my book shelf for many years. The problem was out of the ten bowlers selected I have read full length biographies on seven of the subjects, so not surprisingly for a book written in 1967 I was extremely familiar with most of the anecdotes and histories of each of the cricketers.

Despite this fact I still loved this book, and only mention it so as to justify my only giving this book four stars (still a fine rating), I truly believe if I had read this book even ten years ago we would have our first five star book in this review section.

The writing style and grammar are faultless, the authors fact checking and research also appear to be faultless. In fact this is just about the perfect cricket book.

I wonder how Ralph Barker convinced his publishers to agree to the writing of this book, for Barker has chosen ten cricketers who were all retired or deceased by the time of its publication in 1967. The last to retire was Bill O’Reilly way back in1946-47 and even then ‘Tiger’ had only played that one Test, his career all but finished with the outbreak of World War Two.

You can’t imagine an author being allowed today to choose only players retired for at least 20 years, they would be forced to choose a few moderns or at least recently retired Test bowlers such as Warne, McGrath or Shaun Pollock. I have been unable to find out if this was a commercial success when first released but I certainly hope so.

The bowlers covered were Messer’s Spofforth, Lohmann, Lockwood, Richardson, Bart King, S.F. Barnes, Tate, Grimmett, Verity and Bill O’Reilly.

I thought the chapters on George Lohmann and Hedley Verity the best, but I find it hard to recall anyone doing a better job on any of the ten bowlers covered.

Buy this book, read it, and I especially envy those who are not familiar with the bowlers covered, you are in for a rare treat.

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