When Cricket Was Cricket

Published: 2011
Pages: 208
Author: Powley, Adam
Publisher: Haynes
Rating: 4 stars

When Cricket Was Cricket
When Cricket Was Cricket

There are a few volumes in my library that were probably intended to be “coffee table books”, but enjoyable as some of them may be, I wouldn’t regard any of them as being likely to stir anyone who is ambivalent about the game into talking about it. In that respect it may just be that When Cricket Was Cricket is a first.

Adam Powley must have had a wonderful time researching the book – all he had to do was go through the photographic archives of Mirror Group newspapers and take his pick. That said in fairness to him he has done a bit of grafting too. The photographs he chose are set out in a neat and logical order, and there is just enough text to explain to the reader what is going on, where and when. That probably doesn’t matter though, as the quality of the original images, and the manner of their reproduction here are such that they would still hold a reader’s attention without a word of explanation.

There are some fascinating pictures here. It seems a little unfair to single out just a few where the standard is generally so high, but those from Eton v Harrow matches at Lords, from a time when that fixture was a highlight of the social calendar, are particularly striking as, on a rather different level, is an atmospheric shot of a West Indies tour match being played in Norfolk on the 1933 tour.

Many of the images have nothing to do with the First Class game, a street game in Newcastle in the early 1970s, and an impromptu game for three young brothers on a bombsite in London during the blitz, are two memorable examples.

There are more mainstream types of image, and by way of example there are short sections sprinkled throughout the book at regular intervals entitled “Legends”. Bradman, Hutton and Trueman are three of the better selections but even those latter day luminaries, Warne and Tendulkar, squeeze in, although I am pleased to say, given it has been done well elsewhere, that coverage of the modern era is limited.

There are some surprising shots as well. The image of perhaps the most feared fast bowler the world has seen, “Lol” Larwood, as a middle aged man serving a little girl in his sweetshop in Blackpool in 1949, is a thought provoking one. At the other end of the spectrum is a 1976 image of four fresh faced young county cricketers about to make their way to Australia for the winter – were Mike Gatting, Sir Ian Botham, Graham Stevenson and Bill Athey really ever quite that young?

If you want to see examples of the images you can do so here on the publisher’s website, although with all due respect to whoever selected these screenshots, I think he or she might have chosen better. There are pictures in the book that, with exposure to a wider audience, might become as iconic as Trumper jumping out to drive, or Wally Hammond caressing the ball through the covers. When Cricket Was Cricket is highly recommended.

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