Test Cricket

Published: 2015
Pages: 298
Author: Kimber, Jarrod
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

This book is a potted history of Test cricket, which for the most part proceeds chronologically. Each piece is on a different subject and tends to be between three to six pages in length.  The title is a little misleading as there are pieces on non Test playing nations such as Afghanistan, although this is a minor quibble.

For those unfamiliar with the writing style of the author they may be initially unsettled as Kimber tends to assert his contentious statements as fact and this can be at best a little disconcerting and at worst offensive. Especially to those who believe they know their cricket history.

For instance he tells us in relation to Jack Hobbs: “what came next was a batsman so good even Grace and Trumper had to take a back seat”. It’s doubtful that too many historians would have Hobbs, as great as he was, in front of W.G. – Perhaps a minor criticism however when it comes to such statements tragics see red and deep red like that of a Kookaburra used for the first day of an Ashes Test.

Kimber’s writing can be a little coarse, although still entertaining, for instance this summary of the match fixer but still elegant batsman Mohammad Azaruddin: “he painted pictures with the bat. Even bastards can be beautiful. So still, so smooth, so crisp. He was like the best beer you’ve ever drank. Until you realised he’d pissed in it.”

Kimber also has the ability to use a perceptive turn of phrase to sum up a legend’s personality such as the below line to demonstrate Don Bradman’s analytical mind and as a result his inability to appreciate the art of Victor Trumper: “asking Bradman to understand why people rated Trumper above him is like asking a calculator to understand a painting.”

In the end, the best way to enjoy the writing of Kimber is to simply brush over his more outlandish statements and focus on the stories being told, as he does spin an exciting yarn. For instance his description of the first tied Test is just about the best yet written. This is an impressive effort as even the casual cricket book reader will have read half a dozen accounts of that famous match.

Another point of difference with Kimber is that his writing is fearless. He is prepared to inform of the difficulties that former cricketers have experienced since their retirements, difficulties which some writers politely ignore. The saddest descriptions were those of the West Indies rebel tourists to South Africa in the early to mid 1980s. It was a shock to learn that one of the rebels, Colin Croft, was not that long ago reduced to working in a supermarket. This was a surprise as Croft was well respected in the cricket media not that many years back, which was well after the rebel tour to South Africa. A perusal of the internet makes no mention of his fall from grace.

Most won’t agree with a number of the statements made by Kimber but it would be a surprise if they were not entertained by his writing. And when all is said and done you can’t ask for too much more than that.


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