Author: David Tossell
Publisher: Know! The Score
Rating: 4.5 stars
By Archie Mac
28 Jul 2008
There are two main types of cricket tour books, the first is the immediate type, which is often a collection of newspaper articles or diary entries that are combined into book form at the end of the tour. Quality examples of this are Turn of The Wheel
by Percy Fender (1928-29 tour), and the 2005 Ashes
covered by Gideon Haigh.
Then there is the tour book written many years after the contest, see Jackson's Year by Alan Gibson
(1905 tour) or In The Eye of The Typhoon
Grovel is similar to the Tyson effort in as much that there is still an eye witness to the events, but where in the Tyson book it is mainly seen through one person's eyes, David Tossell has seemingly interviewed all of the major players involved in the series.
This makes for fascinating insights into the thinking of the combatants, their motivations, and feelings towards their team-mates, opponents, selectors and even the crowd.
Some of the notable exceptions that the author did not interview were Brian Close and legendary umpire 'Dickie' Bird, or though in the case of Close he has quoted his thoughts during and after the series that have since come into print.
In 1976 the author was a teenager, cricket had become un-cool, but with the arrival of the suave moving, sharp dressing West Indians, cricket became cool once again, and David Tossell was fascinated.
He writes with great knowledge of the technical side of the cricket played, but also covers the contemporary issues of 1976, such as the drought, England's lack of sporting success at the British open, Wimbledon and the Olympics (what has changed?). Tossell also deals with the racial undercurrents of the times and just what this win meant to the West Indians living in England in the seventies.
The author manages to do justice to the biggest difference in the cricket of the seventies to that of the noughties; the fear factor because of the lack of helmets. This was best summed up in the book by spinner Pat Pocock:
"but the whole issue of batting against fast bowling changed as soon as soon you (sic) put a helmet on. You knew you weren't going to die. What a difference it made. Batting as night-watchman against Holding and Malcolm Marshall in 1984 with a helmet was like chalk and bloody cheese."
The personality that bestrode the whole book and the first name recalled in association with the 1976 series is Tony Greig and that infamous comment that the book is named after. Greig writes the forward to Grovel
and seemingly opens up, as to his feelings and attitudes now and at the time of the series.
In 1976 Australia there was no satellite TV networks. The only coverage that was available of this series was the highlights in the sport section of the nightly news. After reading this book I have been attempting to track down footage of this series, from the interview of Greig before the series started to the footage of Close taking balls on his chest rather then risking an edge to the waiting ring of slips, to the batting of Richards to the fast bowling of Holding.
I added up all of the tour books I have perused it equals just under 300, Grovel
is in the top five.