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Thread: Favourite BITS of cricket writing

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    SJS
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    Favourite BITS of cricket writing

    Since some of us (Archie Mac easily topping the list) seem to have a good collection of cricket books and since sharing cricket books is not such an easy option with a global club such as ours and since again copying complete books or even large pieces (chapters) from books isn't easy, I thought let me get these guys to put here small pieces of their favourite cricket writing.

    The idea is to share the wonderful literature (even if it is small excerpts) with friends. Size is not such a big problem except for the poster and the possibility of more typographical errors ruining the piece.

    Here is my starter...

    "I, too, have often pondered on the far-distant past and have tried to visualise the first potential bowler. It is a pretty thought to imagine a Piltdown man on his morning stroll having his defence penetrated by a large and knobbly coconut - a full toss delivered by a Simian neighbour from the top of a tree. He stands for a moment, in a frenzy of impotent rage, and then, with a flash of inspiration, seizes the missile and, bowling the opponent out of the tree, experiences much the same thrill as Larwood hitting Bradman's middle stump. He immediately sees the possibility of his discovery. Meeting his rival in love, he does not risk coming within range of the latter's flint axe, but with a truly thrown boulder causes the opposition to retire hurt before a blow has been struck."

    So the instinct to hurl things about became firmly implanted in the breast of every healthy man and when, thousands of years later, a playful Abbot, grasping his "Crick" (or staff), bade one of the brothers trundle a stone towards him, we have the first under-hand bowler."

    IAR Peebles pondering on the origins of bowling in his book How To Bowl (Chapman & Hall - 1934)
    Last edited by SJS; 03-07-2006 at 08:42 PM.

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    Here is the piece I read more than forty years ago and fell in love with Neville Cardus' writing. It brings back memories of my own childhood every single time I read this marvelous piece about the writers own childhood. I would love to share it.

    Strangely indeed does a boy think that his favourite cricketers are the best in the world and still the most fallible and in need of his every devoted thought. I used to walk the Manchester streets careful not to tread on cracks between the pavements; or I would touch each lamp post as I passed, and like Dr Johnson I would go back if I feared I had missed one or not touched it with enough thought, But I was not propitiating the gods on my own behalf but on behalf of my darlings of cricket. The trials and suspense of my adoration of them! I can not tell how the slender nervous system that was mine ever survived the strain and wear and tear. No later crisis of life – and I have known a few – have so sorely tried me.

    Sometimes I got myself into difficult positions with God.

    There was Victor Trumper, for example, next to MacLaren and Spooner my most adored. He was an Australian and I was a patriotic English lad. I wanted him always to score a century, but I also wanted England to get him out first ball and win the match. Obviously, I realized, it would be unreasonable to expect God to do for me these two things at one and the same time…..there were, I knew, limits to divine power and I was reasonable enough not to embarrass God, so I reflected carefully about it and presented my petition in the most accommodating terms I could think of: ‘Please God, let Victor Trumper score a century today for Australia against England – out of a total of 137 all out.


    Neville Cardus recollecting his childhood in Autobiography (Collins - 1947)

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    The Church Cricketant Here On Turf

    I bowled three sanctified souls
    With three consecutive balls!
    What do I care if Blondin trod
    Over Niagra Falls?
    What do I care for the loon in the Pit
    Or the gilded Earl in the Stalls?
    I bowled three curates once
    With three consecutive balls!

    I caused three protestant 'ducks'
    With three consecutive balls!
    Poets may rave of lily girls
    Dancing in marble halls!
    What do I care for a bevy of yachts
    Or a dozen or so of yawls?
    I bowled three curates once
    With three consecutive balls!

    I bowled three cricketing priests
    With three consecutive balls!
    What if a critic pounds a book
    What if an author squalls?
    What do I care if sciatica comes
    Elephantiasis calls?
    I bowled three curates once
    With three consecutive balls?


    Norman Gayle exults in Cricket Songs (1896)

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    State Captain chooka_nick's Avatar
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    Oh God, where to start? I'd copy out some of the final chapter of Gideon Haigh's The Vincibles, but that wouldn't have as much of an impact if you hadn't already read the rest of the book.
    Great idea SJS, I'll think up something.
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    International Captain LongHopCassidy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SJS
    The Church Cricketant Here On Turf

    I bowled three cricketing priests
    With three consecutive balls!
    What if a critic pounds a book
    What if an author squalls?
    What do I care if sciatica comes
    Elephantiasis calls?
    I bowled three curates once
    With three consecutive balls?

    "The Australian cricket captain is the Prime Minister Australia wishes it had. Steve Waugh is that man, Michael Clarke is not." - Jarrod Kimber

    RIP Fardin Qayyumi and Craig Walsh - true icons of CricketWeb.

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    SJS
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    Here is something different but absolutely hilarious.

    In looking for quotes from Fred Trueman through a Google search, I came across a cricket forum where one of the members had done an elaborate statistical excercise to show where Trueman stood in comparison to his predecessors, his peers and his successors.

    I repeat the post in its entirety to show the extent of work done and how excited the person was at being able to analyse Trueman so 'clinically.'

    The present wholly justified tributes to Fred Trueman, including on this forum, got me wondering whether there was any way of quantifing his ability enabling him to be compared to similar bowlers in this, his own, and other eras. Much has been made of his strike rate and the fact that he took 307 wickets in only 67 Test matches. It has also been pointed out that he took his wickets relatively cheaply.

    So I thought of combining the two measures of strike rate, that is number of balls needed per wicket and economy rate, that is runs conceded per over bowled, by the simple expedient of multiplying them together. The figure obtained is by itself meaningless but it does give a measure of a bowler's ability to take wickets at low cost and enable comparisons to be made between bowlers of similar type.

    The figure produced in Trueman's case is 129.53 (rounded up to the second decimal place as are all the following statistics). Where does this place them in comparison with the leading international bowlers who succeeded him. Here are the figures (obviously the lower the number the better the bowler):

    Trueman & The Post-Trueman Era
    (ex. England)

    J.Garner 125.65
    M.D.Marshall 125.81
    C.L.Ambrose 126.08
    G.D.McGrath 129.13
    F.S.Trueman 129.53
    A.Donald 133.57
    R.J.Hadlee 133.74
    M.A.Holding 142.08
    D.K.Lillee 143.58
    C.A.Walsh 146.91
    A.M.E.Roberts 153.81
    J.R.Thomson 168.05
    B.Lee 188.83

    This table shows Fred in a very favourable light indeed, bracketing him with the great West Indian bowlers of the 1980s, two of whom had the advantage of great height not given to Fred and all of whom had great support from the other end as well as in the field which Fred didn't always have (the number of times he shared the new ball with Statham is not as great as people imagine). The interesting statistic showss him almost identical with McGrath, a comparison I'm sure he would have appreciated.

    The next thing I looked at is how do the successors to Fred in the England side since 1965 compare to him. Again the results are revealing:

    Trueman and his Successors in the England XI

    F.S.Trueman 129.53
    R.G.D.Willis 151.15
    J.A.Snow 160.08
    A.R.C.Fraser 164.07
    I.T.Botham 170.31
    D.Gough 170.31
    M.J.Hoggard 173.84
    S.J.Harmison 174.06
    A.R.Caddick 179.61
    D.E.Malcolm 222.60

    Enough said about the quality of the England attack in the post-Trueman era!

    Next I wonered how Freddie would compare with players of his own era on this (admittedly artificial) statistic:

    FST & His Contemporaries

    F.H.Tyson 111.28
    A.K.Davidson 123.35
    F.S.Trueman 129.53
    K.R.Miller 137.85
    R.R.Lindwall 138.30
    A.V.Bedser 149.06
    J.B.Statham 149.08
    W.W.Hall 158.50
    G.D.McKenzie 178.96

    Clearly Tyson's statistic is exceptional for any era but his was a very brief career, 50 Tests less than Fred, and most of his figures rest on the Ashes tour in 1954-5 from which Freddie was omitted to accommodate Tyson. Of those bowlers with a reasonably lengthy career only Davidson has a better showing than FST and many might argue that he had a completely different style of bowling and like the West Indians in thhe 1980s was part of a much stronger attack.

    Lastly I looked at how Fred might be compared with the great bowlers of his type before his era and again the results are remarkable:

    Trueman and his Predecessors


    S.F.Barnes 98.73
    F.R.Spofforth 110.31
    F.S.Trueman 129.53
    E.A.Martindale 130.57
    M.W.Tate 156.89
    H.Larwood 170.11
    L.N.Constantine 180.40
    J.M.Gregory 187.16
    E.A.McDonald 199.93

    Of course for most of the inter-war period the bat dominated the ball whereas, for Test Matches at least, in the "Golden Age" period prior to the First World War the reverse was usually true. However Fred still looms large in this company with only the "Demon Spoff" and Barnes ahead of him. Barnes' figures are even more remarkable than Tyson's although it is questionable whether he can be included as a "pace" bowler. Like Fred, Barnes opened the England bowling but there the comparison largely ends. However as the only bowler I have found who gets a rating, even on this artificial measure, below 100 it confirms his place among Test bowlers to the one Bradman holds among batsmen.

    I thought this might be of some interest although I realise I have only taken two variables- economy rate and strike rate and blended them together artificially. Of course it can be argued that there are manuy other variables to be taken into account in assessing the quality of a bowler- the quality of the opposition, the helpfulness of the pitch and so on. Geoffrey Boycott made much on Saturday as to the fact that Fred could not derive cheap wickets from the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as modern bowlers can (although their figures are still worse than his). However he neglected to mention the fact that he secured many wickets from the likes of India and Pakistan (in England) and New Zealand (home and away) who were far weaker sides than they are today. He also neglected to mention the fact that he never toured India & Pakistan with an England side where conditions would not have favoured him (his two tours of the West Indies in 1954 and 1960 against strong batting lineups produced mixed results, to say the least). Pitch preparation was not the science it has become today either, and uncovered wickets were as likely to favour seam as spin. His two greatest performances, against Australia at Headingley in 1961 and against the West Indies at Edgbaston in 1963, as well as the hatful of wickets he got against the Indians in the two northern Tests in his debut series in 1952, were obtained on surfaces that could be best be described as "uneven". Nevertheless I hope that the calculations I have made, however naive, show "Fiery" as possibly not the greatest fast bowler of all time but certainly as one of them.


    It was brilliant stuff, thought another member of the forum who even gave the 'statistical tool' used a name - PEP or Potency Economy Product !!

    Then along came another poster and informed the 'statistician' in question that by multiplying the economy rate (run/6balls) with the strike rate (wkts/ball) all he had done was to arrive at a figure which was nothing but the bowling average (runs/wkt) multiplied by 6 !!!

    A quick test (with rounding):

    J.Garner 125.65 / 6 = 20.94
    M.D.Marshall 125.81 / 6 = 20.96
    C.L.Ambrose 126.08 / 6 = 21.01
    G.D.McGrath 129.13 / 6 = 21.52
    F.S.Trueman 129.53 /6 = 21.59
    D.K.Lillee 143.58 / 6 = 23.93



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    Cricket Web Staff Member / Global Moderator Neil Pickup's Avatar
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    Would've been funnier had I not realised it was average * 6 within about three seconds of reading the posts
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    One of my all time favourite cricket articles is on SF Barnes by Neville Cardus. It is impossible to cut pieces of this article to put here and its almost impossible to put the entire 19 page article here too. I wish there was some way to do justice to it. I will try and put it in pieces.

    ....I remember him as a player who most times seemed to isolate himself on the field; he wasn't given to chatter at the fall of a wicket. He sent a chill wind of antagonism blowing over cricket fields everywhere. In our own time W J Orielly was called 'The Tiger', and was supposed to announce in his every motion as he bowled that he hated the sight of all batsmen. Compared with Barnes, Orielly was a font of beneficence and geniality....

    .....In a talk with John Arlott, Barnes tried to recall the occasion and each ball he bowled on his miraculous morning at Melbourne (1911-12). The pitch was full of runs. The Australian batsman first to go was Bardsley. The ball 'swung in to him and hit his toe, then on to the wicket; he was a left hander.' Then Clem Hill, another left hander, I bowled him another ball as the one which got Bardsley. He played it. Then I bowled him a leg break. And he played that. Then I sent him one on his leg stump, and it hit the off...Hill paid me a compliment; he said he had never played such an over in his life.....'

    Years after the event, Clem Hill himself described to me the over Barnes delivered to him. 'I was in first wicket down, after Bardsley had gone for 0. I got four, probably from Frank Foster, but between him and Barnes there was precious little choice. On the whole I wanted to get away from Barnes. I played three different balls. Three balls to play in a split-second - a straight one, an inswinger and a break back! Then came along one which was straight halfway, not more than medium pace. It swerved to my legs, perfect for tickling round the corner for a single. But the ruddy thing broke across after pitching, quick off the ground and took my off stump!'

    Charles Macartney maintained that at Leeds, in July 1909, Barnes bowled Trumper, in Australia's second innings, 'with the sort of ball a batsman sees when he is tight. I was in at the other end, so I know!'

    ......I recon that it was during the years 1907 to 1912 that Barnes was bringing to technical cotrol his greatest trick. I called it 'the Barnes ball' forty years ago - the ball pitched between leg and middle stumps and turning abruptly across to, and near or on, the off stump. Also he added to this most dangerous of all the bowlers' weapons, a spin swerve. I remember talking in the early 1920's to MA Noble, one of Australia's greatest batsme-bowlers and captains. He told me that he obtained his out sing by spin and could, after the ball had pitched, cause it to break back from the off.


    (to be continued)
    Last edited by SJS; 04-07-2006 at 07:30 AM.

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    S F Barnes (cont)

    …Of all the great cricketers I have spoken to with any free and intimate exchange of views, Barnes was the most inscrutable. He could not explain his own devices. To quote from an interview with John Arlott;

    ‘Now the legend is that even on perfect wickets you bowled a leg break. What about this particular ball?’

    ‘Well, I don’t know; it came along with the others.’

    ‘How did you bowl it?’

    ‘For a fast ball, a fast leg break was exactly the same as bowling an off break.’

    ‘Did you spin it off the third finger?’

    Yes, every ball I bowled had to spin – fast, slow or medium.’

    As illuminating as a dark lantern!.....

    …..Those born too late to ever see Barnes bowl might conceivably get some idea of his attack if they watched Maurice Tate and Alec Bedser. I refer to the actual bowling, not to the action directing or controlling it. Mainly mingle the best of Tate and Bedser; length, pace, swing, then add a tincture of O’Rielly, then maybe some notion, some adumbration, will emerge or loom of Barnes in full spate. But, an important but – the delivery, the run to the crease and the physical motion of Tate Bedser and O’Rielly were, in each case, arduous compared with the loose limbed, flowing action of Barnes; a dozen strides, upright, apparently weightless, a gradual gathering of velocity, without jerk or obvious strain, then the rhythmical, not dramatic, upward leap.

    ‘When I delivered the ball,’ vowed Barnes, ’I wanted to look eight feet high.’ A batsman once said “My God, you look ten feet” A C Maclaren, who fielded first slip to Barnes, assured me that Barnes seldom sent down a palpable loose one. ‘If ever he looked scorable it was when giving curve through the air to his leg break.’

    ….In a game against Staffordshire, the ‘original’ Tyldesley, J T – (brother of Ernest) – was captain…Barnes was quickly on the kill. Lancashire wickets fell; but JT saved the innings with 50 or thereabouts.

    When he had scored 20 or so, he was missed at slip off Barnes, last ball of the over. Barnes stood still, gazing down the pitch while the field changed positions. His captain came to him, ‘What’s the matter?’

    ‘Why’ said Barnes,’ did Blank miss that catch?’

    ‘Well I suppose he just missed it,’ was the surprised answer.

    Again Barnes asked, ‘Why did he miss that catch?’

    ‘Oh Barnes, how should I know? Anyhow, he missed it.”

    ‘I’ll tell you why he missed it,’ persisted Barnes, ‘he wasn’t ready. What’s more, Tyldesley won’t play forward again whole day.’

  10. #10
    Cricket Web Staff Member archie mac's Avatar
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    Great stuff SJS

    Arthur Mailey on bowling to Trumper is a good one, but another one I will find is the first time Fingleton bats with the GG it is written by M. Parkinson, I will wrtie it up when I return
    You know it makes sense.

  11. #11
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    "Then along came another poster and informed the 'statistician' in question that by multiplying the economy rate (run/6balls) with the strike rate (wkts/ball) all he had done was to arrive at a figure which was nothing but the bowling average (runs/wkt) multiplied by 6 !!!"

    Shouldn't the strike rate be balls per wicket, i.e. (ball/wkts)?

    Also the economy rate should be 6*(run/ball), not (1 / 6) * (run / ball)

    then the multiplication looks like this:
    economy rate * strike rate
    = 6 * (run/ball) * (ball/wkts)
    = 6 * (run * ball) / (ball * wkts)
    = 6 * (run / wkts)
    = 6 * bowling average

  12. #12
    SJS
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    Quote Originally Posted by kof98
    "Then along came another poster and informed the 'statistician' in question that by multiplying the economy rate (run/6balls) with the strike rate (wkts/ball) all he had done was to arrive at a figure which was nothing but the bowling average (runs/wkt) multiplied by 6 !!!"

    Shouldn't the strike rate be balls per wicket, i.e. (ball/wkts)?

    Also the economy rate should be 6*(run/ball), not (1 / 6) * (run / ball)

    then the multiplication looks like this:
    economy rate * strike rate
    = 6 * (run/ball) * (ball/wkts)
    = 6 * (run * ball) / (ball * wkts)
    = 6 * (run / wkts)
    = 6 * bowling average
    wkts/ball instead of balls/wkt is a typo by me.

    Economy rate as runs per six balls is fine.

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    SJS
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    The Rev Charles Kingsley, ….once said: 'All we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.’

    I have been enthusiastic about cricket for sixty years, but it has never seemed to be the only interesting thing in human life. I have found it possible to travel (willy-nilly in wartime and voluntarily in peace); to try to find out what can be learnt about world affairs; to write sixty odd books, four-fifths of which have nothing to do with cricket; to read voraciously, listen to music, go to theatre often and to church not often enough; and latterly to undertake the formidable duties of a grandfather. I can also disclose, without offence under the Official Secrets Act, that I have been a civil servant, unestablished, established and disestablished, which fairly covers the whole bureaucratic spectrum. Moreover, I spent most of the first world war in France and what we called, among other names, Mesopotamia, and most of the second in more dangerous places. Roughly in between, I was a dramatic critic for ten years, a columnist in Radio Times for twelve and for a Sunday paper for nearly twenty. When these periodicals sacked me, they doubled and even trebled their circulation in a predictably short time. I set down these facts without remorse or sinful pride, but simply to prove that cricket is not my whole life and never has been.

    Cricket, I say, is only one thing, but it has probably given me more unalloyed pleasure over a longer period than any other single thing. If you are over seventy years old you have plenty of time to play, watch and argue about cricket, if that is what interests you. To play for your school, college and local club is as far as your active career is; likely to go, unless you possess some special gifts, and of these I had none. To keep wickets for my town’s second eleven was my common task with an occasional appearance in the first team as my eager ambition and proudest achievement. I was not even more than ordinarily competent at that and have two silly looking finger joints to prove it. As performer, that was my lot.

    But for six decades I have known something of what was going on in the world of cricket, from the time when I was taken at the age of ten to see George Hirst’s benefit match at Headingley in 1904 until the latest test rubber and this means that I have, besides playing a little, watched a lot and, latterly written a lot. Cricket has done much for me and I have done nothing for cricket except to say frequently and in writing that it gives me great pleasure. I was once standing, waiting for a friend, outside the backdoor of the pavilion at Lord’s and a small boy, carrying a large autograph album, approached me with courteous diffidence.

    ‘Oh, please,’ he said, ‘are you somebody?’

    To have blurted out the humiliating truth would have sounded ill-mannered, for he was a polite little boy and I was saved from a painful dilemma by the providential emergence of my friend.

    ‘No,’ I said, ‘but here’s a gentleman who once bowled Bradman first ball and I will lend him my pen.’

    The truth is; you are not obliged to be anybody to receive pleasure from cricket.


    A A Thomson from Cricketers of My Times (Stanley Paul - 1967)

    (to be continued….)

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    (...continued)

    A philosopher (…HS Altham), once said: ‘Nothing is needed towards enjoying cricket but the willingness to do so.’ At its best cricket is an art; it is drama; at the level of Nyren and Cardus, it is literature. At its worst, it can be weary, stale, flat and unprofitable. In between it can be infuriating in its mediocrity, because of your frustrating feeling that it might, being cricket, burst suddenly into a flame of excitement, but seldom does. Now by the accident of time I was born to see cricket in what I still think was its golden age and I have seen much since that is not even gold-plated. I have a sad feeling that there is more of the mediocre seen nowadays than was ever seen before. This must be partly an illusion, but it is not all illusion. From the first decade of this battered century there has always been good cricket somewhere; if not in England, then in Australia; if not in Australkia then in West Indies. This thought must bring certain amount of comfort but not enough.

    Let us consider this cricket problem in terms of another medium of entertainment. I was once a dramatic critic, but I still love the theatre. I would rather see an inferior live play than no play at all, though the present day theatre provides inferior plays to an almost frightening degree. Similarly, I would rather see a dull game of cricket than no game at all. But am I to blame if I have seen in the last few years some of the most hideously tedious cricket that can ever have been played?

    I admire Olivierre and Alec Guiness as I admire Graveney and Dexter, but that does not mean that there were not good things in earlier days, and I am not disposed to apologise for occasionally mentioning the fact. Need I feel sorry that I once saw Forbes Robertson in Hamlet, Norman McKinnell in Galsworthy’s Strife and Tree with Mrs. Patrick Campbell in the non-musical version of My Fair Lady? Is it a mater of regret that, having as a boy seen Ranji, Jessop, Trumper and Spooner, I should fail to be entranced by so much of the batting I watch today?

    The old actors and actresses played to, and were the servants of, their public. From my seat at the back of the gallery, and I could afford no more then than the necessary shilling, I could hear Marie Tempest’s lightest whisper; nowadays there are dear young things whose plum-impeded voices are scarcely audible beyond the third row of stalls. I would in all humility have agreed that my difficulties were due to the incipient deafness of inescapable old age but for the one fact that, with the entry of any actor or actress trained in the old school, audibility returns as if by magic. In similar fashion when I see young Tom Graveney, now aged forty, playing his natural strokes, I know that cricket is indivisible and that the best of the present is linked with the best of the past.

    It can be argued, and incessantly is, that since the beginning of time every generation has complained that their juniors were going to the dogs. This, though partly true, is no more than half the truth. After all, if we go back to the beginning of time, Abel did not go to the dogs, but Cain undoubtedly did. The chances are fifty-fifty. The wails of the old fogies that any given reform will mean the end of all things can easily be proved ridiculous. The equally fallacious claim by reformers that that their pet nostrum will bring about the new heaven and the new earth by next Tuesday at latest do not receive their fair share of derision. The argument evens out in time, but in any two generations the older one is not necessarily absurd all the time. The irrefutable truth is that nothing is either good or bad merely because it is old or new. It is easy to exchange such verbal grimaces as ‘Fuddy-duddy’ or ‘Whipper-snapper’ like shuttlecocks over a net, but it is more sensible to agree that excellence is an individual thing.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member archie mac's Avatar
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    Of ALL UNBELIEVERS the only ones I find really obnoxious are those who cling to the pathetic fallacy that cricket is a dull game, played and watched by equally dull people.

    This heresy persists despite the whole weight of evidence to the contrary.

    No perusal of Test Cricket history, however cursory, can leave the student with anything but the conviction that here is a game replete with all the things that go to garnish life…drama, excitement, thrills, passions, humour and even sadness.


    Some of it Was Cricket by Frank Browne

    I have this on the wall in my book room
    Last edited by archie mac; 11-07-2006 at 03:54 PM.

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