County Cricket Matters Issue 6Martin Chandler |
Author: Chave, Annie (Editor)
Publisher: County Cricket Matters
Rating: 5 stars
Advancing age can do strange things to the human mind. It must be a quarter of a century now since my early retirement from playing cricket, and the best part of double that since I lovingly prepared a bat in readiness for a new season, but despite that come the first warm sunny day in March I still occasionally catch a whiff of linseed oil in my nostrils. Not having been near the stuff in years there must be a psychological explanation, unless Annie Chave has somehow incorporated some kind of scratch and sniff technology in her envelopes? If so it certainly added something to the experience of opening the envelope containing my copy of CCM6.
Whatever the explanation is for this welcome olfactory experience a new cricket season is just around the corner. What is ahead of us is no more certain than it was this time last year, but let us hope the current optimism for a gradual return to something approaching our pre-pandemic existence proves to be well founded.
One thing we can be confident about is that whatever triumphs and disasters await us that CCM will continue to fight the good fight and vociferously champion the cause of the county game. As always, for that reason alone all who have any interest in county cricket should buy a copy as a matter of course. When they do though they should then go on to open their purchase as, in common with all five previous issues, there is some splendid reading inside.
So what treats are in store in this issue? Firstly the editor conducts a couple of interviews. One is with the former Sussex and Middlesex all-rounder Ollie Rayner in which Annie asks some excellent questions, and gets honest and enlightening responses. The other, and arguably this issue’s main event, sees Annie practising her cross-examination technique on the man who many would say is the greatest county cricketer of this generation, Darren Stevens, and the man who helped him become that, Neil Burns.
Anyone interested in the history of cricket long ago, especially in Yorkshire, will know something of Jeremy Lonsdale. Perhaps therefore a natural contrariness is why he has chosen as his subject this time round the anticipated format of the 2021 county season, something on which he has written with such eloquence that he has, to my surprise, convinced me that the plan has much to commend it. Richard Clark contributes a piece along similar lines in relation to the women’s game.
CCM6 has a couple of overseas contributors, who tackle two very different assignments. The Australian historian and author of several excellent books Ric Sissons provides an unashamed look back to the original ‘Golden Age’ with a pen portrait of the Somerset and England all-rounder Len Braund, a piece which only reinforces my long held belief that some sporting biographer somewhere really should write a biography.
South African Tim Dale Lace on the other hand looks at an interesting current issue, and one which has yet to fully unravel. His analysis of the futures of those county cricketers, often but not always South African, who have hitherto relied on EU law to secure their continued employment as what have become known as ‘Kolpaks’ is an interesting one.
I was delighted to see an appearance in CCM6 from that fine writer and broadcaster Alan Wilkins, who contributes an illuminating obituary of a man who, but for a quirk of fate, he might have shared the new ball with at Glamorgan. Alan remembers fondly the Bajan speedster Ezra Moseley who tragically lost his life in a road accident last month.
Last year sportswriter Ian Ridley published The Breath of Sadness, an extremely well received book on a summer spent following county cricket in the wake of the passing of his wife, claimed by cancer. His essay in CCM6 serves only to heighten my respect for him, and remind me that I really must get hold of a copy of his book.
The county game is inevitably the heart of CCM6, and that is not generally a subject within which there is very much to be said of Kevin Pietersen who, as Brian Carpenter points out, played a mere 13 Championship fixtures following his Test debut. Despite that paucity of opportunity it is still a KP knock for Surrey against Somerset that Brian writes about under the title The Best County Innings I’ve Ever Seen.
For his memory John Stone goes back more than thirty years further than Brian, to a fixture at Buxton in 1975 between hosts Derbyshire and Lancashire. It is the famous occasion when the second day’s play was lost due to snow and, when the players were able to resume on the final day, Lancashire’s bowlers had the easiest of tasks in front of them.
But John is not the man who looks back the furthest in CCM6. That accolade, if that is what it is, goes to John Whiting who writes about his passion for Northamptonshire and whose memories go back as far as 1965, to a summer when the county came very close to lifting a first Championship title, an honour that continues to elude them.
On the subject of counties that have yet to win the Championship Somerset are still missing from the list of past champions despite a number of recent near misses. CCM6 contains an extract from Thomas Blow’s forthcoming book, Kings in Waiting, which deals with precisely that subject.
Abi Slade, who is described simply as a 23 year old post graduate student, writes a fascinating piece about rediscovering cricket after a lost decade. It is an interesting perspective, and hopefully we will read more of her writing in CCM7.
Gary Naylor is not exactly another Neville Cardus, if only because I am not aware of his private life being anything like as unconventional, but like Cardus he does earn a living from writing about cricket, and also about music. What he has learnt from those complementary activities is the starting point for his contribution to CCM6.
Another contributor I hope we hear more from is Oliver Westbury. Not yet 24 Oliver’s fledgling First Class career seems already to be over, although his cricketarchive entry would suggest, unless injury is involved, that that judgment might be premature. In any event his writing here augurs well for his ambition to carve out a media career and he tackles an important issue for all lovers of the traditional county game, that being the differing attractions that red and white ball cricket have for young players.
Which leaves us with the regulars. First there is Derek Payne’s irreverent look at goings on inside the ECB. This time round the report by Deep Fine Throat is probably the most entertaining yet, although it must have been a struggle to get it past the libel readers, whose job I certainly wouldn’t have fancied*.
Craig Tranter tests us with his usual 18 question quiz. I don’t really mind the fact that my scores on these are pretty poor, but I have come to the conclusion that Craig deliberately sets out to select questions that appear to be easier to answer than they actually are, although the existence of such a cruel streak might just be an impression his photograph creates.
And then there are the covers. The rear cover includes a crossword, which for once I fancy I might get somewhere with when I can find an hour or two to spare, and on the front another splendid example of Jack Russell’s work.
So overall a brilliant package which, once again, can only be assessed as a five star effort. It is available here.
*This observation is not to be taken seriously. I concede that I am, as per my twitter profile, a sort of lawyer, but would stress that is not the sort whose knowledge of the law of defamation extends beyond that which could comfortably be written out in long hand on the back of a small postage stamp.