ico-h1 CRICKET BOOKS

Prince Philip: Cricket’s Royal Duke

Published: 2021
Pages: 44
Author: Marlar, RG, Maynard, C and Dexter, ER
Publisher: Sussex Cricket Museum
Rating: 4 stars

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It has been a while since the last publication emerged from the Sussex Cricket Museum, the most recent pair appearing as long ago as 2019. The reason for the lack of activity is the simple one that the pandemic has put paid to access to the museum premises, so the resumption of the publishing programme is to be welcomed for more than bibliographical reasons.

The first post Covid title from the museum is a meaningful one, cricket’s tribute to one of the game’s most illustrious patrons, Prince Philip, who passed away in April 62 days short of what would have been a deserved century. The length of time since he last donned his flannels will doubtless be the reason that relatively few recall that in addition to always showing a great interest in cricket the Prince was, in his younger days, a far from negligible practitioner of the off spinner’s art.

The core of the booklet is a substantial essay from Colin Maynard, a man who was an administrator at Lord’s for more than forty years. He was responsible for making arrangements for Royal visits for twenty of those so is ideally placed to set out Prince Phillip’s far from insignificant involvement in the game. The Duke’s fondness for cricket is well known, and he is one of only three men to have had two terms as MCC President. That he took a genuine and frequent interest in events at the game’s headquarters is the main reason for Maynard’s piece occupying the best part of half of the booklet’s narrative.

There is a contribution too from historian Roger Packham, who describes a village match that featured the Duke as one of the protagonists as long ago as 1949. Also writing in the booklet is former Sussex and England skipper Ted Dexter, to whom the Duke was no stranger. Despite all that however the highlights of this tribute are the five short pieces that bear the byline of Robin Marlar.

Marlar himself is now a nonagenarian. Like the Duke he was an off spinner and useful batsman, albeit at a rather higher level, being Sussex captain for many years and a highly regarded bowler. Also like his subject Marlar, a man with firm views he has never been afraid to express, has on occasion received a few brickbats for making remarks that are not always as politically correct as they might be, generally referred to in the context of the Duke as ’gaffes’.

Despite his years the passage of time seems to have done nothing to diminish the writing ability that Marlar, for many years the cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times, has always had. It is Marlar who produces a brief biographical introduction. He goes on to give some recollections of the Eton versus Harrow match at Lord’s in 1947, before referencing the Duke’s own cricketing ability.

The most interesting passages in the booklet are undoubtedly those that comprise the story of two matches that were played at the beautiful Arundel ground in the 1950s where scratch sides, consisting in the main of past and present international cricketers, were raised and led by the Dukes of Edinburgh and Norfolk. Marlar paints a vivid picture of two memorable occasions which were very much ‘of their time’.

For once for a museum publication this edition is neither limited or signed, but it is produced to the same high standard as everything else the museum has issued, printed on high quality paper and containing as many as twenty well chosen illustrations. It is a thoroughly worthwhile investment.

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