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Book Review
Sins of Omission
Published: 1990
Pages: 202
Author: Allen Synge
Publisher: Pelham Books
Rating: 4 stars
By Archie Mac
08 Apr 2007


Despite some annoying typo's and factual errors this is a rollicking good read. Allen Synge examines the success and otherwise of the English Test selectors since their establishment in 1899.

Prior to 1899 the home county chose the England Test side, but with 1899 being the first five Test series played in England a selection committee was created, and ever since their deliberations and choices have made for copious amounts of newspaper copy.

The author focuses predominantly on the chairman of selectors; we meet Lord Hawke who often seemed to put the Yorkshire team in front of the national side.

H.K. Foster the 1921 chairman who presided over the record number of selections for a Test series with 30 hopefuls tried against Warwick Armstrong's all conquering Australians, with a number of these hopefuls never playing for England again.

'Plum' Warner who seemed to take full credit when England won, and past the buck (mainly to his captain) when they lost.

Doug Insole, an honest man who was involved in the D'Oliveira affair, and who made the famous comment that he had actually voted for Brian Close rather then the nominated captain Colin Cowdrey. A honest answer, but hardly likely to imbue the captain with confidence.

Alec Bedser the longest serving of all the selectors and arguably the best in a tough vocation, he surprisingly rated Tony Greig a better captain than Mike Brearley.

The last chairman discussed was Peter May who received some of the most vicious diatribe directed at any of the selectors discussed. He came closest to breaking the 1921 record in 1988 when he helped to choose 28 players. He did however break the record for the most captains used in a single series with no less than four chosen for this 1988 series versus the West Indies.

Synge makes the point that all of the selectors were unpaid (this changed when Ted Dexter was appointed in 1989) and were almost always praised when England won a series.

The book mainly concentrates on Home Ashes Test series until the last couple of chapters when the West Indies are given similar billing. At times while reading you can imagine English fans laughing at the sheer lunacy of it all, but at other times they may even shed a few tears.

The theme of the book seems to be the selectors failure to trust 'speed' and instead constantly favour steady medium paced trundlers. The leg spinner also seems to be considered a liability, as does a predisposed favouritism of southern players over their northern brethren.

A highly recommended book, I just hope that an updated version is in the pipeline.

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