County Cricket Matters Issue 16Martin Chandler |
Author: Chave, Annie (Editor)
Publisher: County Cricket Matters
Rating: 5 stars
When County Cricket Matters first appeared, almost four years ago, I was immediately impressed by the quality of the writing. Despite that I have to confess however that I couldn’t see it lasting, which just goes to show that back then I didn’t realise just how redoubtable the wonderful Annie Chave is. I know that there are others who beaver away on CCM as well, but I have no doubt but that it is Annie’s drive and enthusiasm that are primarily responsible for CCM evolving and improving as much as it has.
As always it is Annie’s editorial that starts things of, and another thought provoking read. It is a warning from the lady’s other enduring passion, the theatre, and as such is one that cricket cannot afford to ignore.
The theatrical theme continues with the flagship interview between Annie and current MCC President Stephen Fry. Perhaps it is just the twin shared passions that make their conversation flow so well, but whatever the reason it is an excellent start.
And from such a strong beginning there is certainly plenty of interest for bibliophiles in CCM 16 with three fine established writers, Jeremy Lonsdale, Duncan Hamilton and Ric Sissons all making valuable contributions.
In Jeremy’s case he provides a taster for his excellent recent book on the MCC Tour of India in 1926/27, No Picnic. He sets the scene for the book by looking at the extensive and exhausting social side of the visit, rather than the tourists unblemished record on the field of play.
Ric Sissons reprises an interview he conducted with the legendary CLR James in London in 1982, thus at a time when the man responsible for what many have described as the finest cricket book ever written, Beyond A Boundary, had turned 80. He expresses some interesting and unexpected views, particularly on South Africa, a nation then still ten years shy of the end of its sporting exile.
John Arlott is the subject of Duncan Hamilton’s piece, well at least he starts it off, in conjunction with the subject of Duncan’s finest book, Harold Larwood. It is a superbly crafted piece that turns out to be, and I apologise if this sounds like a contradiction in terms but it is the best description I can come up with, a most eloquent rant on the subject of the dreaded 16.4.
Whilst on the subject of writers Annie has enlisted for CCM16 the services of Nicholas Brookes, whose history of Sri Lankan cricket thoroughly deserved the Cricket Society/MCC Book of the Year award in 2023. Still on his specialist subject Nicholas looks at Kent’s summer of 1995, and more particularly their overseas signing, Aravinda De Silva.
I much enjoyed Brian Carpenter’s look at the County Championship fixture between Lancashire and Hampshire in May of this year. In some ways it is a match description, in some a look at the relationship between an experienced pro (New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell) and a young tyro (George Bell), but in the main it is a celebration of another feature of the game we are in danger of losing, the outground (in this case Southport).
Another author is Graham Costner, whose book The Nature of Cricket, subtitled A Natural History of the Cricket Ground, has achieved the unusual feat, I admit to my shame, of slipping under my radar. Given the quality of the story chosen to illustrate why it is wrong for cricket grounds not to have pavilion steps for incoming batsmen to descend it is certainly one I should make an effort to locate.
Sharmila Meadows piece, appropriately titled County Cricket Matters, speaks to the converted in its championing of county cricket, but she nonetheless makes some important points about just why we should keep supporting and promoting the county game.
The single most thought provoking contribution to CCM comes from Rakesh Pathak, and amounts to his looking into his crystal ball to describe the international cricket calendar in 2033. I would like to think that Rakesh’s vision is wrong, but it is difficult to fault where he is coming from. Let us hope that those who can influence his vision read what Rakesh writes, don’t like it and resolve to do something to prevent it coming to pass.
Next up is Annie again with the sort of digression that all who read CCM will appreciate. The subject of what is at its most basic a match report, is a fixture played recently at Rockhampton’s ground in Gloucestershire. The game pitted the England and Wales Transplant Eleven against those responsible for them being on the field in the first place, an NHS Blood and Transplant Eleven, and Annie’s evocative piece captures the scene perfectly.
Sharron Webster contributes Looking Out From Lockdown, a slice of recent history of course, and a not entirely comfortable one, but her thoughts will strike a chord with many. And not entirely off that point is another interview, this time with John Baxter talking to sports psychologist Alistair Hooper, who works part time for Hampshire.
Towards the end of CCM16 are a couple of pen portraits of names from the past, and Peter Thomson and John Stone have each chosen a fascinating character.
Thomson has selected Percy Chapman who, in the 1920s, was the man every young male in the country aspired to be. Chapman was a magnificent athlete, a swashbuckling batsman and a man who led England to Ashes success twice. Everyone feted Percy Chapman who, sadly, over time was dismantled and eventually destroyed by the demon drink. His is a bittersweet story.
Bob Appleyard’s tale is altogether different. In a life that was scarred by tragedy more than once Appleyard, a tough and uncompromising Yorkshireman was, for just a few seasons in the 1950s before a shoulder injury ended his career prematurely, one of the finest bowlers to have played the game. Those who enjoy these two delightful cameos will be pleased to know that both men have been the subject of excellent biographies, in Chapman’s case by David Lemmon, and in Appleyard’s by Stephen Chalke and Derek Hodgson.
As always therefore everything in CCM16 is well worth its reader’s time, and reading it prepares the valued subscriber for the usually fiendish crossword that, on this occasion, at first blush looks simple enough – my confidence was misplace however as, in reality, it proves to be as tough as ever.