Arthur Haygarth Cricket Scores and Biographies Volume 22Martin Chandler |
Author: Heavens, Roger (Editor)
Rating: 4 stars
Back in 2014 I considered Volume 19 of Scores and Biographies (S&B) here, a review which carried a lengthy introduction explaining the background to this remarkable body of work. For all who are interested in this famous series of books and intend to read on with this review I would strongly suggest that, save in the unlikely event you can recall what you read seven years ago, you click on the link before reading this ‘review’ further.
All that I wrote on the subject of Volume 19 applies, not far short of word for word, to Volume 22, and did so for the two intervening books that have appeared and which cover the calendar years of 1883 and 1884 respectively. Armed with the knowledge that the Arthur Haygarth legacy stretches forward to 1898 then potentially, 1885 being covered in Volume 22, there are a further thirteen books to come. A set of S&B already takes up plenty of shelf space, so perhaps it is time for reflection. A general look at the series, rather more than a specific review of the latest book, is what follows.
I was started on this line of thinking almost as soon as I opened Volume 22, and was faced with the scorecard of a Test Match between England and Australia that began on New Year’s Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. What I couldn’t then do was take a look at the build up to the match, for the simple reason that the first part of the tour fell in the calendar year of 1884, and thus was in Volume 21. In those days Wisden, by then beginning to look something like the book we see today, covered the entire tour in its 1886 edition.
Which leads on to another point. In the 135 years that have passed since the 1886 Wisden was put together, at the same time of course that Haygarth was compiling his archive, Wisden has evolved into something that, whilst it would still be just about recognisable to its Victorian readership, is a very different book indeed. The modern Wisden is much more important now for its narrative content than its reproduction of scorecards and collection of statistics. Against that background should the twenty first century distillations of Haygarth’s researches remain hidebound by the manner in which the man himself had always presented his work?
Part of the issue is duplication. Amongst the substantial 660 pages that make up Volume 22 are scores of all the First Class matches that were played in 1885. The cards of all of these are available in Wisden, or for those who choose not to collect sport’s best known annual they can be sourced free of charge on ESPNCricinfo. For those who are happy to pay the modest subscription that Cricketarchive charges they are also available there, and rather more easily navigated, as are a goodly number of the matches involving the Public Schools and the leading club sides that crop up throughout a volume of S&B – is there really any need any more to gather these together?
Something else that is a little frustrating at times is a lack of background information, which a commentary could provide, to some of the more interesting issues that the narrative parts of the book deal with. One example is correspondence and developments over the controversy, fuelled largely by Lord Harris, in respect of the bowling action of Lancashire’s John Crossland, which in Volume 22 is a story with a middle, but not necessarily a beginning or an end. Similar is a piece that looks ahead to a scheduled visit by an Australian side in 1886 which contains the headline; Removal of the ban on the Victorian members of the 1884 team, a section of content which on its own lacks some context.
So is it time to abandon the old fashioned way of putting together of these books and, perhaps, adopt a different approach to getting Haygarth’s remaining unseen work into print? It is a question that I have pondered, but only briefly, because the answer must be a resounding ‘No’.
The main reason for me taking the view that I do is the simple one that the purpose of these books is to right a long standing wrong, that they did not appear, as they should have, in Haygarth’s lifetime. There was no Cricketarchive or Cricinfo in those days to enable scorecards to be easily consulted, and Haygarth’s observations on the scores he collected would be meaningless without them being reproduced.
I bear in mind also that Roger Heavens’ mission statement is and always has been to preserve Haygarth’s work and to bring it to a wider audience. He never anticipated that audience would be a substantial one, as the limitation of this book to 150 copies testifies – none of its purchasers are going to be casual cricket enthusiasts, and if the likes of myself and the other subscribers to the book really want to know more about John Crossland or the Victorian ban of 1884, or want to remind ourselves of what happened in the first Test of the 1884/85 series we all have the wherewithal to enable us to find the stories for ourselves without too much effort – for present purposes the real pleasure is in reading what Haygarth believed needed recording.
So Roger Heavens should, in my opinion, carry on just as he is. He does pursue some additional research, and consults a few sources not available to Haygarth. But ultimately the work of the man he admires so much comes shining through, and whilst there may be material in these collections that is readily available elsewhere references to such gems as the two day match that was played between Tenby and the Royal Munster Fusiliers* are not otherwise easily found. I shall look forward to Volume 23 appearing in due course and, hopefully, if global conditions permit, I will not have quite so long to wait for that one as I have had to for this.
*By no means a major fixture the interest in this two day match arises out of the nature of the tie that it resulted in, all four innings being 51 all out.