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Book Review
Sphere of Influence
Published: 2010
Pages: 386
Author: Gideon Haigh
Publisher: Victory Books
Rating: 3.5 stars
By Archie Mac
15 May 2011
Sphere of Influence

Many years ago before the coming of paid TV, I watched the Football World Cup on a multicultural, government owned, add free channel called SBS. I can't even recall which World Cup it was, what I do remember is the nightly news I watched. I had been brought up with commercial television where the worst stories were comprised of hit and run accidents and maybe the robbing of a local petrol station by a knife wielding thug. Suddenly, I was watching news from around the world with riots and famines. The image of an African woman naked from the waist up, rocking on her knees while her back was on fire, set alight by a mob standing around watching; will remain with me until my dying day.

I was happy when the soccer finished and I could return to my sanitised news guaranteed by the dropping of a dead donkey* on a nightly basis.

Sphere of Influence does not drop a single dead donkey instead it is as unrelenting in a cricket sense, just as the news of SBS. For an Old Fogey Traditionalist (OFT) it makes for heavy reading. Match fixing, the slow death of Test cricket, players choosing a hybrid game instead of representing their country because of money and the game run by an organisation which appears at best incompetent and at worst corrupt.

It all became too much for this OFT for the first time ever while reading a cricket book by my favourite author I put the book down and read another, in fact three. They were like my sanitised news, biographies on the Trott brothers, Major Poor and Sam Morris (reviews on site).

I kept returning to Sphere of Influence, although I struggled with the content, with only six combined mentions of Grace and Bradman and none of Trumper. Instead it was the IPL, Lalit Modi and TV rights that dominated the book. Haigh raises many questions about cricket and its future and where possible he offers answers. His take on ODI is interesting. He suggests removing the restrictions on the number of overs bowlers can deliver and removing fielding restrictions until the last five overs of an innings. His call for teams to be penalised 25 runs for each wicket lost may need a little fine tuning. Imagine a team bowled out for 250 the final score would be zero, barring an early wicket and the game may be over rather quickly.

The book itself is well written as are all of the cricket books by Gideon Haigh and as always I needed to have a dictionary handy to translate the plethora of three dollar words favoured by Mr Haigh.

In the end the book conjured up an image for this OFT of what appears, at first to be a cadaver in whites prostrate on the ground with an old bat in one hand and a red ball in the other. Standing over the body is a slim man in a three piece suit, with a two faced bat in one hand and a fist full of IPL dollars in the other. I can't tell; however I am sure the body is still alive.

I always buy my Gideon Haigh books through Roger Page, as both live in Melbourne Roger has the author sign them for me. He often writes amusing things taking sly digs at the excessive amount of children or cricket books I have. On Sphere of Influence he wrote "with fond hopes of an Ashes summer worth the name." When my Ashes book by Haigh showed up the inscription read "what a summer! Perhaps the last of its kind."

Let us hope the man in the suit helps up the man in the whites and lets us OFTs at least keep our five Test Ashes series even if it is played under lights. Surely even the IPL can drop one dead donkey.

*Slang for the feel good story placed at the end of a news broadcast to leave the viewer feeling good about the world.


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