Author: Mike Coward
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Rating: 3.5 stars
By Archie Mac
24 Oct 2013
The subtitle to this book is The World's Greatest Cricketers Speak, and what they say is always interesting and sometimes fascinating. The players' words were recorded for The Bradman Foundation which operates the Bradman Museum, as well as the International Cricket Hall of Fame, in Bowral, NSW.
Mike Coward, the respected and experienced cricket historian has compiled the players' (some non Test players are also included) opinions on a wide range of cricketing subjects from leadership to humour. Coward's 'eye' for what makes interesting reading is first rate and it is hard to imagine his selections of which commentary to include could be improved.
The opinions which Coward includes are drawn from a who's who of the game dating back over the last 80 years with Richie Benaud and 'Lord' Ted Dexter being the oldest of the players interviewed. What was surprising was the amount of agreement from the majority of those spoken to, especially around the ethics and customs of cricket, with all in agreement that each generation are the custodians of the game. One player who, not surprisingly was not in agreement with the others on all subjects was Ian Chappell, who described the 'spirit of cricket' "as a load of bullocks". Chappelli is also interesting when discussing captaincy, which is, on reflection perhaps the best section of the book. Although Chappell is fascinating on captaincy the most captivating is Mike Brearley, which is not surprising as he wrote the definitive book on the subject.
The legacy of the project by The Bradman Foundation will be fully appreciated as those interviewed pass on to the great cricket field in the sky, but its importance can already be gauged by the opinions included by the late Tony Greig. The former English captain and commentator delivers some humour with his description of his first meeting with Sir Donald Bradman. Greig thought the little man in a cardigan (Bradman) a 'hanger on' and handed him his luggage at Adelaide airport. Greig also provides some interesting insight into the emotive attitudes of the traditionalists during the schism that was World Series Cricket (WSC).
Apart from WSC and the controversies it engendered, other major events are also covered, including the fatal attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Pakistan. We hear from some of the players and umpire Simon Taufel. The Sri Lankan players interviewed came across as almost desensitised - though not in any way dismissive - explaining that violence and terrorist attacks were common place in their home country. The Sri Lankan players interviewed also provided details of their concerns about originally travelling to Pakistan, which seem to have been dismissed by the Sri Lankan Cricket Board.
The book is certainly not all 'heavy going' with the last section titled Humour and Hubris, providing some light relief. The Dennis Lillee tale of the aluminium bat and his throwing it halfway to the boundary in a Test match, (further than the ball ever travelled off that type of blade) is a fine example of a self deprecating story.
Champions, is a fine read and is one of those books that should have a follow up every five years or so. I hope the publishers again hire Mike Coward to produce any future editions as his cricket knowledge and eye for an interesting discourse helps make Champions a quality read.