Cricket, My Brother and Me!Martin Chandler |
Author: Hart, Geoff
Rating: 3.5 stars
This one did not at first glance appeal to me very much. What appeared to be the life story of a cricket lover, as opposed to the autobiography/biography of a player struck me as a tad self-indulgent. But I thought I should at least have a look at the introduction. It confirmed my initial impression, but then I immediately warmed to Geoff Hart. The comparison he drew between his feelings when Steve Harmison bowled the first ball of the 2006/07 Ashes campaign and how he felt when the first exit poll in the 2019 General Election was announced assured me that this was a man whose company I would enjoy, and so I did.
I am pretty sure that this is the first book that Hart has written, and realistically it does amount to an autobiography, although it certainly isn’t a seamless one, the chronology jumping around somewhat. In the main I suspect that is to enable Geoff to tackle the many cricketing themes there are to his book in the order that he wants to deal with them. There is a central role too for his older brother Roy, who seems to have been cut from similar cloth although, as a man who clearly greatly values the history of the game, I think I might even get on better with him than with Geoff.
The now retired brothers were, as are so many of us, imbued with a love cricket by their father. Both were clearly keen players in their youths and, I suspect, rather more useful at the game than is let on here, albeit not beyond club level. But they have also seen an awful lot of cricket in many locations, although the Test and First Class arena is clearly their preference, and both have followed England overseas. I never did work out quite how close they are to the beating heart of the Barmy Army, but the answer is certainly not a million miles away.
As in any book of this type there is a good deal of humour present – I particularly liked the story that is referred to as The Burger Moment, which is quite simply a very funny story. Much of the humour though is of the self-deprecating type and, as is inevitable with a man who has followed England for half a century and more, there is a good deal of what I can only describe as gallows humour.
But there is a lot more to Cricket, My Brother and Me! than just a few smiles. There is serious stuff as well including a well written chapter on politics and cricket. But the main joy of the narrative remains Geoff’s reflections on the cricket he and Roy have watched, which amply demonstrate their undying love for the game, their understanding of the technical aspects of it and, above all, their cricketing knowledge.
In a book of this type there is inevitably something of the personal story of the author, and of course if we are to understand him or her properly so there should be. If anything there is perhaps not quite as much of that as I would like. It was enlightening to learn where, given the way Geoff in turn has passed on his love of the game to his children and grandchildren, I went wrong in my parenting endeavours. But on the other hand I would have liked to know something of why he moved to Bulgaria a few years ago and, although I suspect this one I can guess, why he came back.
Cricket, My Brother and Me! is a book that took me just over a day to read. That horrible word unputdownable comes to mind but, as it so often is, it is the wrong one. I wouldn’t describe the book as riveting, or chock full of excitement, but it is a genuine pleasure to read and that is the reason why, having picked it up the other Sunday morning, I spent most of the day with my nose in it – obviously if there’d been a Test match to watch that would have been different, but Geoff Hart will understand that sentiment I’m sure.