A Corner of Every Foreign Field

Published: 2020
Pages: 319
Author: Brooks, Tim
Publisher: Pitch
Rating: 3.5 stars

The publishers’ blurb describes Tim Brooks’ book as an innovative and thought provoking take on the history of cricket. With plenty of histories of the game already around, and some of those by some excellent writers (Altham, Swanton, Wynne-Thomas and Bowen to give just four examples) that is certainly setting a high bar for your man.

Part of the problem is that a definitive history of cricket would, in the twenty first century, need far more than 319 pages to do its subject justice and, realistically, if the task is ever attempted I suspect it will involve a team of writers and several volumes to achieve. I was a little concerned therefore that if Tim Brooks’ latest was simply an abridged version of what such a series would look like that I would be disappointed.

I have read a book by Brooks before, Cricket on the Continent. The enjoyable experience that was reading that book suggested that this latest offering would be an interesting one as well. That expectation proved to be a sound one and A Corner of Every Foreign Field is much more than a simple recital of people, places and events that have been set down on paper many times before.

In some ways the book is a conventional history, in that it starts in the south of England way back in Medieval times, and then meanders towards a conclusion at the beginning of 2020, before a brief epilogue marks the uncertainty caused by the coronovirus pandemic. But the history is not told in the usual way. For a start there is nothing ‘academic’ about the approach, which is light on minutiae but rich in anecdote and, as the reader would expect given Brooks’ previous book, he does not seek to constrain himself within the game’s major centres, and indeed is constantly looking for the game to develop outside its usual territory.

One of the more interesting themes is Brooks’ belief, entirely justified and clearly correct, that in days gone by cricket did not particularly want to expand its horizons. Brooks points to the contrast between the actions of the earliest governing bodies of cricket and soccer the latter being, of course, the one truly global team sport that there is. The early growth of the two games is compared and, even now after a period of expansion, the restriction of the number of countries in the most recent World Cups after reaching sixteen a few years ago is cited in order to question whether the ICC is truly committed to achieving a major global expansion of the game.

As histories of the game go A Corner of Every Foreign Field has a number of advantages. First of all it is just about as up to date as it can be. Perhaps more important however is the simple fact that it is well written and avoids the standard cliches. The book should appeal to anyone with an interest in cricket history, even those, like this reviewer, who fondly believe that they already know a thing or two about that particular subject. In short it is well worth investing in, and is highly recommended.

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