Sticky Wicket

Published: 2019
Pages: 178
Author: Schofield, John
Publisher: Northwind Ink
Rating: 3 stars

Vancouver Island is the best part of 5,000 miles from where I live. I must confess that it had never really registered with me that cricket was played to any degree in Western Canada, even less that I would ever be reading a book on the subject. But, thanks to John Schofield I have learnt a good deal more about Canadian cricket than I knew before I opened Sticky Wicket.

The history of cricket in Canada is a subject we have looked at before in Patrick Adams 2010 published history. In addition I have always taken a good deal of interest in a couple of tours, that of a Canadian side to England in 1954 and, a couple of decades before that, an MCC side’s visit to Canada in 1936/37. There is a photograph in Sticky Wicket from the match against Victoria (the major town on the Island) on that latter tour – I was surprised to learn that the attendance at the one day match was estimated to be a thousand, so more than you would see in England for most days of County Championship cricket.

Unlike Adams book, which covers the entire Canadian nation, Schofield’s does limit itself to Vancouver Island, around the size of Taiwan and with a population of, Schofield tells me, around 663,000; so about the same as Oxfordshire.

Books that celebrate anniversaries of long established clubs must represent, in the UK as a whole, the majority of those published on the game. Inevitably for most the appeal is essentially local, and the authors generally keen amateur scribes with varying degrees of writing ability. Such books are not always particularly well written. But even if they are that won’t increase sales, and by the same token if the book has little to commend it the reality is that few potential buyers will be put off.

The other sort of local cricket book you get in the UK deals with individual leagues or competitions. These tend to be more rewarding, but ultimately much the same considerations apply. What you don’t get in the UK very often, and off hand I am struggling to think of even one, is a book devoted to all of the cricket in a certain locality and that helps make Sticky Wicket interesting.

The first record of cricket on Vancouver Island dates back to 1849. Sticky Wicket goes all the way back to that, and then moves forward looking at the clubs and competitions that came and went and the ebb and flow of interest in the game on the island. In fact interest has been rather more consistent than I expected and, largely as a result of the South Asian diaspora, that interest seems to be holding up pretty well. 

There are few detailed looks at the individuals concerned in the game on the island, but the same names keep cropping up and eventually become familiar. Some were recognisable anyway. I had expected to hear about Tom Brierley, a wicketkeeper who played for Lancashire and Glamorgan just after the Second World War. I also knew, although I cannot recall where from, that the former Glamorgan seamer Tony Cordle had spent much time in Canada.

I also spotted the name of Cordle’s former Glamorgan teammate, the late Malcolm Nash and in addition, according to Schofield, former England wicket-keeper Paul Downton was briefly on Vancouver Island. Schofield reports no more than that, and it is a little frustrating not to learn a little more about the stories of Cordle, Nash and Downton but, as an occasional contributor to these pages pointed out to me, local Canadians and not middle-aged Englishmen are the target audience of the book. Perhaps it is therefore a little unreasonable to expect anything more, although I still find it surprising that Schofield did not dwell upon why an international cricketer was passing through.

The book is well-written and well illustrated. I would expect it to sell extremely well amongst those who do or have played cricket on Vancouver Island and it will, by association, be of interest to all who feel any affinity with Canadian cricket. Whether it will make much of a dent in the marketplace otherwise I rather doubt, but that does not alter the fact that it is an important record of the game in one of its more distant outposts.

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