The Complete Who’s Who of Test CricketersArchie Mac |
Author: Christopher Martin-Jenkins
Publisher: MacDonald and Co
Rating: 4.5 stars
The mind boggles at the amount of research that a book such as this requires, every Test player who to 1987 had played Test cricket, their career statistics and a brief pen portrait of each. CMJ was helped in the research by another cricket historian and quite a talented writer, James Coldham, who unfortunately died before the publishing of the 1987 edition of the book. It is the quality of the pen portraits which stops this book being a simple dry statistical tome. CMJ attempts to provide at least one anecdote per player or a highlight of their career.
Some of the entries are quite thought provoking, such as the entry for South African, James Blanckenberg. Born 1893 – presumed dead. What happened to poor JB is not clear, but he was suspected of being a Nazi sympathiser and is now listed as dying in 1955, though there is no day or month recorded. Out of all the Test cricketers listed there is not one who reached the magical three figures in life*, the closest being MacKinnon who was born in 1848 and died in 1947. Mackinnon was an amateur, who on average lived a number of years longer than their professional brothers.
Where possible CMJ injects some humour, his entry on Gladstone Small for instance reads; “has in no way been hampered by an apparent disability, the virtual lack of any neck between head and shoulders”.
Always a traditionalist the author rather than listing the countries in alphabetical order, he lists instead by their entry into Test cricket so in this book Sri Lanka are last although how he decided to put England in front of Australia when the first Test was played in the latter country is unclear but still seems appropriate.
Some players who, in 1987, were yet to finish their Test careers, have stats that make interesting reading. Viv Richards for instance had played 82 Tests and was averaging 54.56. Steve Waugh had played five Tests at an average of 12.55, and was described as “an exciting all-round prospect”.
Whether there will ever be another revised edition of this historic work seems a moot question. With the advent of the internet, kindle and the sheer number of Test cricketers since 1987, perhaps books of this nature are simply a thing of the past. It will be as much of a shame to lose these historic tomes in book form as it is to lose authors of the quality of CMJ.
*That was then and now is now, and in 2013 we do of course have South Africa’s Norman Gordon, 101 and counting.