Author: Stephen Barnard
Rating: 3 stars
By David Taylor
02 Feb 2009
Books about the antics of amateur cricket teams have been popular in recent years. Inevitably this offering, by a schoolteacher (and, I'm sure he will admit, the worst player at Ladybridge CC) will invite comparisons with the likes of Rain Men, Fatty Batter
and Penguins Stopped Play
, but for me at least, they're always more diverting than My Miserable Childhood
or whatever. The introduction (or 'Prologue') explains how the book came to be written. Ladybridge, named after an estate in the Bolton area, were it seems quite a successful team in the early 2000s, but fizzled out at the end of the 2005 season and no matches were organised for the next two years. However, at the start of last season phone calls were made and enough contacts re-established to form a new side. This is the story of that season.
Although a few 40-over games are also played, by and large this is Twenty20, amateur style. Twenty over games between teams of eight - cricket in the loosest sense of the word - are the order of the day. Throw in some decidedly dodgy wickets and it may just as well be Alan Dedicoat counting the balls as an umpire. The format of the book is one of match reports from throughout the season interspersed with Stephen (Barney) Barnard's thoughts on such familiar themes as team selection (generally the eight who happen to be available that week, and who have checked their e-mails), pitch preparation, off-field activities and practice. We quickly become accustomed to the leading players (there is a team photo on the back cover and although three or four can be fairly confidently identified, it would have been nice to have been able to put faces to names) and their various peculiarities, as well as some of the opposition - a team called 'Lee Cong' - a particular 'needle' match - seems to feature on several occasions.
The book is an independent publication through self-publishers Troubador, and it may be that it will have mainly local interest. It would be a pity if that were so, because this collection of anecdotes deserves to reach a wider audience. The stories are wittily told and believable (not always the case with such books) and the characters never become caricatures. If, personally, I can do without some of the 'colourful' language that permeates the text I understand it is what readers expect nowadays. The overall impression is one of good friends mucking in together, enjoying each others company (until a vital catch is put down, that is) and, most importantly, playing cricket, and - for a collection of oddballs - not without a measure of success.