The Joy of Cricket: Portraits of Great Events and Players
Author: John Bright-Holmes
Publisher: Peerage Books
Rating: 4.5 stars
By Stuart Wark
25 May 2009
Choosing whether to buy an anthology always presents a conundrum. There is the ever-present hope that this time the book will be composed entirely of worthy pieces of writing. However, deep down, experience tells us that most compilations have a few wonderful gems hidden amongst a predominance of filler and drivel. The Picador Book of Cricket, edited by Ramachandra Guha of 'A Corner of a Foreign Field' fame, is one example of a cricket anthology that succeeded in choosing primarily worthwhile articles. Other excellent collections of cricketing history and stories include Thomas Moult's 'Bat and Ball', 'The Spirit of Cricket' edited by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Leslie Frewin's series of Boundary Books and Alan Ross's 'The Cricketer's Companion'. However, possibly the best anthology of them all is 'The Joy of Cricket', which was edited by John Bright-Holmes.
Bright-Holmes carefully selected some of the best pieces of cricket writing throughout history, with articles, poems, fiction and short biographies all well represented. The list of authors includes cricket writings' elite such as C.L.R. James, Ray Robinson, A.A. Thomson, Neville Cardus, John Arlott, Jack Fingleton, Ray Robinson, Mihir Bose, E.W. Swanton, and Ian Peebles amongst many more. Cricketer's reflections and thoughts of the game are also well covered, with pieces by Ranjitsinji, Trevor Bailey, Basil d'Oliveira, Arthur Mailey, Learie Constantine and others.
However, a few unexpected inclusions from luminaries such as Michael Parkinson and John Cleese really make this collection an essential book in any cricket lover's library. Cleese's description of how, as a schoolboy at Clifton College he dismissed the great Dennis Compton twice in the one innings, is a perfect example of us mere mortals experiencing the true joy of cricket. Another fascinating piece is by the legendary golfing writer Bernard Darwin who discusses the impact that W.G. Grace had upon the development of cricket.
Naturally, as with any anthology, most cricket book aficionados will have come across some of these works before. Arthur Mailey's re-telling of his first encounter with Victor Trumper has appeared in many different guises over the years, but it doesn't diminish its value. The book is 273 pages in length, the majority of pieces are only a few pages long, and its greatest strength is the fact that there are very few articles that are not worthy of their place in an anthology celebrating this great game. One possible weakness of the book relates to the relative paucity of writings from the sub-continent, but this same failure is inherent to the vast majority of cricketing anthologies. Nonetheless, 'The Joy of Cricket' does include material that very eloquently reminds the reader of the wonders of Indian and Pakistani players such as Majid Khan and Sunil Gavaskar.
It is fair to say that this book will probably not still be stocked at your local bookshop, but it is definitely worth looking out for at second hand shops or on eBay. Highly recommended for all cricket lovers.