The Hand That Bowled Bradman

Published: 1973
Pages: 176
Author: Andrews, Bill
Publisher: MacDonald London
Rating: 3 stars

The Hand That Bowled Bradman

Bill Andrews was a Somerset legend, sacked by the club as player or coach on four occasions. Despite this, his enthusiasm for the club shines through on every page of his autobiography.

The book released in 1973 received great acclaim in the press finishing runner up in the prestigious cricket society’s annual award. However The Hand That Bowled Bradman almost never made it to print, as David Foot relates in his excellent book Beyond Bat & Ball. Foot had edited the original manuscript, reducing it from 160,000 words down to 60,000. At the last moment, just before the book was to be printed, Foot received a distraught call from Andrews stating he did not wish the book to be released, fearing legal action from those mentioned in its pages.

By today’s standards the book is pretty tame and it is hard to imagine what legal concerns Bill Andrews harboured. Reading cricket books from the 1960s and 70s can be a hit and miss experience, and this one unfortunately does not stand the test of time with some of the anecdotes falling flat after 35+ years.

Still at 176 pages it is a quick read, and does provide interesting insights to the way the game was played in the 1930’s, with players sleeping three to a bed on away trips and Bill Andrews once pitching a tent on a county ground to save money. During the holidays it was especially frustrating for the paid players of the amateur dominated Somerset, when pros were regularly left out of the team for often less talented amateur players.

Andrews comes across as a gregarious larger than life character and that seems the way most people remember him. However David Foot writes Andrews had manic depression (now called bipolar), and would sometimes suffer from the grips of depression for a couple of months at a time. Andrews gives no hint in his book that he suffered from this debilitating condition.

This is the main difference between the autobiographies from those of the 70’s and more modern efforts. If Andrews wrote the book now we would be treated to all the intimate psychological details and, with our insatiable love for every detail of our sporting heroes private lives, most cricket book lovers would prefer the modern way.

Probably the best thing about the book is the title The Hand That Bowled Bradman. . Bill Andrews often greeted people for the first time with the line “shake the hand that bowled Bradman”. The gag was that Bradman was well past the hundred when Andrews bowled him for 202.

Although this is not a bad read, if you really want to know the story of Bill Andrews, then perusing David Foot’s chapter on him in Beyond Bat & Ball will give you a much better insight to one of cricket’s great characters. In fact read all of Beyond Bat & Ball and you won’t be disappointed, and then you could write a review for cricket web – we would love one.

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