Tom Cartwright: The Flame Still Burns

Published: 2007
Pages: 224
Author: Chalke, Stephen
Publisher: Fairfield Books
Rating: 4.5 stars

Tom Cartwright: The Flame Still Burns

Occasionally a cricketing biography comes along that not only captures the cricketer but gives the impression of capturing the man that is the cricketer; books such as The Big Ship by Gideon Haigh or C.B. Fry by Iain Wilton or Wally Hammond by David Foot or Basil D’Oliveira by Peter Oborne.

This effort by Stephen Chalke loses nothing in comparison with the above fine titles and in fact came as close as any book I have reviewed for the site to receiving Five Stars.

What made this effort even more meritorious was the subject matter the author had to work with; where the four books mentioned above were written about some of the greatest characters in cricket history or in the case with D’Oliveira were involved in one of the great cricketing controversies, Chalke is writing about a quiet unassuming county pro.

That is not to disparage or in anyway disrespect Tom Cartwright, who is a legendary seam bowler and one of the best coaches the game has seen – but he did only play five Test Matches – it is more to illustrate just what a fine piece of writing Chalke has crafted from a seemingly more Delphic type character.

Apart from his coaching (he coached and mentored the young Ian Botham), I remember the name of Tom Cartwright along with Derek Shackleton as one of the most miserly bowers to ever grace the county game, regularly taming stroke-makers like Garry Sobers and Tom Graveney.

I was surprised to learn that he started his career as a batsman and played county cricket almost solely as such for the first six years of his eventual 25 years in the first class game.

Although I learned a lot it was the coming to life of the players and the nuances of the game as played in the 50s, 60s and even the 70s, that captured my imagination and kept me spellbound throughout (I read the book in three sittings over two days), my only disappointment was when I finished the last page.

Why not five stars? Two tiny little reasons, one; not all of the illustrations were captioned- two on a couple of occasions I was not 100% sure who the author was quoting. Trust me these are minuscule reasons, and if I could I would award the book 4.8 stars.

The most frustrating thing is not being able to find a quality book like this one in the major book stores; instead you have your choice of six Shane Warne biographies, illustrated life stories and meaningless stats about Ian Botham and even a biography of Monty Panesar.

I had to order it through a private dealer, but do what you must, only find a copy of this book, I guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy it.

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