In A League Of Their OwnMartin Chandler |
Author: Ghosh, Mayukh
Publisher: Flying Turtle/CricketMASH
Rating: 3.5 stars
Mayukh Ghosh is a fellow bibliophile so, despite the absence of any sort of formal masonic code, I don’t suppose I was ever going to be too harsh on his first contribution to the literature of the game. Indeed it is perhaps through a slight fear of feeling compromised that it has taken me a couple of years to actually read his book.
Having now read through In A League Of Their Own I am pleased to be able to report that it is in fact a thoroughly worthwhile debut. The book is not for everyone, and indeed the voracious consumer of cricket history will not miss anything of great importance by giving it a swerve. But for anyone who wonders why some of us are smitten with the lives of the men who illuminated cricket’s past it is probably the perfect explanation of why that is the case.
What does the reader get for his or her (just under) a tenner? Mayukh’s book consists of a hundred short chapters, all of which bear a cricketing name. A series of pen portraits perhaps? Only partially is the answer to that one. Each chapter does indeed contain one, and an object in minimalism they are too, just one or occasionally two italicised sentences appearing at the close of each chapter to summarise its subject.
For the content of the individual chapters it is necessary to bear in mind the book’s sub title; Celebrating Cricket’s Great Characters. What Mayukh has done is chosen for each of the men he relates a particular anecdote about them, selected with the sole purpose of demonstrating just why our great game and the multi faceted individuals it attracts are so fascinating.
The first 36 chapters bear the section name Giants of the Game, and they are followed by 15 First Class Greats, An Unlucky XI, 10 Swashbucklers and, to close the book, 27 described as Behind The Scenes, almost entirely consisting of writers and broadcasters.
The tales are sometimes cricketing ones, but usually rather more peripheral. All are fascinating and, although I and fellow bibliophiles will be familiar with almost all, as I say we are not the target audience for the book. That said to the extent that I was in almost all the chapters reading something that I already knew it was no hardship to do so because Mayukh’s narrative is succinct and well written. And it wasn’t as if I didn’t learn anything, Greg De Moore’s biography of Tom Wills now going right to the top of my pending pile.
In terms of attracting new cricketing bibliophiles to the joys of reading that section entitled Behind The Scenes is invaluable, and goes on to demonstrate all the idiosyncrasies of the finest cricket writers, and hint at why they are as accomplished as they are. One man over whom Mayukh and I will never quite see eye to eye over is the great Neville Cardus, but even there I have to grudgingly admit that Mayukh views on him are not without merit.
So my advice to all who are curious as to why some people wax so lyrical about cricket books in general is that they should, in order to understand, invest in a copy of In A League Of Their Own. And to those not in need of such enlightment? Well they should buy it as well, as it is an entertaining read and the bibliography that appears at the close is a more than useful aide memoire as to what and who we should add to our reading list. Another point worth making is that whilst there are no photographs the caricatures that appear on the front cover, and periodically throughout the book, are an entertaining touch.