It’s Raining Bats and PadsMartin Chandler |
Author: Magill, Jamie
Rating: 3.5 stars
The sub-title of this one is The Story of Lancashire Cricket Club 1988-1996 something which, certainly in my case, I found a little misleading. What I expected was a dry history of a period over which my beloved Lancashire enjoyed a good deal of success. That the book is written against the backdrop of the period is a given, but it is anything but a dry history.
Then when I first opened the book I thought that perhaps it was a collection of pen portraits and, given that the name of a Lancashire player of the period is the title for each of the 17 chapters, I have no doubt I won’t be the only reader who that thought occurs to. It certainly isn’t that either though. In truth the book would be better described as a partial autobiography, dealing with the life of a cricket loving teenager, looking back as he approaches middle age.
So who is Jamie Magill? His reader doesn’t really learn the answer to that one given that the book ends in 1996, but he has gone on to become a solicitor who, significantly in my view, runs his own sole practice. Given that he has a family as well quite how finds time to write books (this is his second – the first was on the subject of another of his sporting passions, Manchester United Football Club) is beyond me. He is clearly not a man who needs a great deal of sleep is the only conclusion I can come to.
The above said if I didn’t already know that Magill is a fellow lawyer it is pretty obvious anyway. His entirely pragmatic attitude to the allegation of match fixing levelled at Lancashire and Essex in 1994 is an example of that, as is his thoroughly sensible attitude to marriage as a teenager, albeit like me I suspect he may have found himself unable to follow his own wise counsel in that regard. The biggest giveaway however is references to reverse causation and mitigation of loss insofar as a question as to who was to blame for a run out is concerned, and only a lawyer could manage to work the phrase res ipsa loquitur into a book about cricket.
Via a variety of routes, a membership of the county and living locally being the principal ones, Magill saw a great deal more cricket in his formative years than I did, but I was interested in seeing whether he had been at the only two Lancashire games I saw over the period in question. Back then with a young family I couldn’t get out as much as I’d have liked, but fate did get me to both of the one day finals in 1990, when Lancashire beat Worcestershire in the Benson & Hedges in July and then, six weeks later, Northants in what was then the Nat West Trophy.
These were significant excursions for me because they represented a sea change in my experience of live cricket. In the past I had been to a few county matches, and even the occasional international. The experience of being a spectator on those occasions was to be part of the buzz of conversation as the day proceeded, and the ripples of applause that occurred as significant events took place on the field of play.
Those two finals however were much more like football matches. The crowd noise was intense, and the constant hubbub served only to intensify the experience. One thing I will never forget is the pandemonium that broke out amongst the Lancashire supporters in the Benson & Hedges Final as a reaction to Wasim Akram dismissing Graeme Hick for just a single. I am not convinced on reading his prose that Magill would have approved of such behaviour, which I have to admit to having been sucked into, but unfortunately for him he wasn’t there, forced to help with gardening chores for the B&H, and being on holiday for the Nat West. He possibly doesn’t realise it, but I expect he still bears the scars.
His not entirely satisfying 1990 notwithstanding, and perhaps with a small gloat because I was there, I have to say that I much enjoyed Magill’s account of his generally well spent youth. His writing style is more Jarrod Kimber than Neville Cardus, but that observation is not intended as a criticism so much as a recognition that the style of cricket writing I was brought up on is simply no longer suited to a game where anyone who puts their mind to it can, in one form or another, always watch the action as it unfolds.
Not too many from outside Lancashire are going to greatly enjoy It’s Raining Bats and Pads, but there will be some who do not follow the Red Rose who will, albeit probably not if they attended a public school. On the other hand for those of us who are Lancashire supporters, and were brought up in and remain in the real world, Jamie Magill’s narrative will strike many chords with them and bring back good memories of times gone by, so three stars for the rank and file, four for Lancastrians, and an extra half star for dedicating the book to the memory of the late Ian Folley.