In Their Own WordsMartin Chandler |
Author: Dolman, Steve
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Rating: 4 stars
This is the second book about Derbyshire cricket that Steve Dolman has produced in less than a year, following on from his excellent biography of Edwin Smith in the ACS Lives in Cricket series. In Their Own Words is reminiscent of those books of essays concerning a selection of players who have represented the same team. In fact the book moves a long way from that formula and the result is a very satisfying read.Dolman is, first and foremost, a lifelong Derbyshire supporter that, according to the excellent blog he maintains on the county’s cricket, means next year will see him celebrate half a century following the club. Amongst cricket writers Derbyshire and its players have never been particularly popular, so there can be no doubt that the short pen portraits that begin each chapter are based on Dolman’s own observations, and are not simply a case of his recycling another man’s words.
The main content of each chapter is however, as the title of the book suggests, an interview with the individual concerned. There are seventeen players beginning with Edwin Smith, who debuted in 1951, and ending with current skipper, the South African born Wayne Masden, who also contributes a foreword. Those players are bookended at the front by Walter Goodyear, who reaches his century next year. Bringing up the rear is, appropriately, the current chairman, Chris Grant. Goodyear was the Derby groundsman for many years, and has vivid memories of the men who played in what is, to date, the county’s only title-winning side, back in 1936.
I often wonder how many people read books like this from start to finish. I have to say I doubt it is more than a handful. I always start with the person that interests me most and work through the book like that, and I would love to know where others start. For me the first chapter to read was that about Brian Jackson, namesake of Derbyshire’s greatest legend Les. Brian’s record, admittedly over a much shorter career, is not much inferior to that of his famous predecessor, yet very little is ever written about him so to read his own words was particularly rewarding.
The only other chapter I thought about going to first was Harold Rhodes’, so his was the second I read and after that Peter Gibbs, a fine opening batsman who found greater fame as a playwright and television writer. For me the top five were completed by Peter Eyre and that man Edwin Smith. After that came the three men with long Test careers and gongs from Her Majesty, New Zealander John Wright and England players Geoff Miller and Bob Taylor, all of whom had much of interest to say.
Perhaps inevitably given the pattern that is emerging I left until last the recent players, not that the interviews with them did not succeed in holding my attention but, I suspect, simply because I wanted to know more about the men who, as a child, I watched regularly on BBC2 on Sunday afternoons but never knew anything about other than whatever brief details Wisden provided.
Could In Their Own Words have been done better? The answer to that must inevitably be yes, although I have no doubt it is as good as it could be. I expect Dolman did his best to track down the man I would most like to have read about, 1970s paceman Alan Ward, believed to possibly be in Australia now, but no one seems to know for sure. Mike Hendrick is another whose name I expected to see and it is clear from some of the interviews in the book, and from Dolman’s biography of Smith, that Michael Page would make an interesting subject. But then perhaps they are all just being saved for a follow up volume? I certainly hope so, because In Their Own Words is an excellent book, and will be of interest well beyond the East Midlands and the Peak District.