Martin Chandler | 3:05am GMT 29 December 2019
A new decade begins, and the outlook for print books still looks pretty healthy, particularly from the world of self-publishing and the smaller niche publishers’ limited editions. That said the bigger players will still offer a few titles, so there is a wide range of reading on offer. It will take a while to take a look at everything that has arrived recently or is on its way to us, but it is a job that has to be done, so please bear with me to the end. You are bound to learn something that will be of interest to you.
This time, the twenty second occasion on which I have penned this feature, I will start with our friends at Pitch Publishing from whom, as far as I am aware, there are at least five books due in 2020 although I remain hopeful that Mark Peel’s biography of Mike Brearley will join them at some point. The first of the five, due in February, is Lightning Strikes: The Loughborough Lightning Story thus Pitch, not for the first time, are publishing a book on women’s cricket. The author is Jamie Ramage
The next Pitch title, Ashley Gray’s The Unforgiven, I have already mentioned so will not dwell on it again other than to say that it has the potential to be a genuinely interesting read and not just within the cricket world, dealing as it does with the stories of the so called West Indian rebels who toured South Africa in 1982/83 and 1983/84.
Also due is another book from Tim Quelch whose previous efforts, Stumps and Runs and Rock and Roll, and Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets I much enjoyed. Good Old Sussex by the Sea promises to be more of the same albeit the sporting issues, and doubtless the news items also, will be of a rather more local flavour, dealing with Sussex County Cricket Club and the football clubs that are Brighton and Hove Albion and Hastings United.
Fourth up from Pitch is the autobiography of Ian Gould, Gunner. Gould enjoyed a long career behind the stumps for Middlesex and Sussex before becoming a coach and then an umpire, his swansong being the 2019 World Cup. His will doubtless be an interesting story, if only because he seems to play an entertaining role in the stories of every single cricketer of his generation and is clearly therefore quite a character.
Finally May will see the appearance of Barbed Wire and Cucumber Sandwiches. It is a book about the 1970 South African tour and the events leading to its cancellation. For those of us who remember the tour, as I do, it is a sobering thought that the book appears half a century on from the events it chronicles. It is however the case that significant anniversaries tend to attract interest, and this one is not the only book on the Stop The Seventy Tour campaign that we will see in 2020.
A rather less significant anniversary is forty seven, but that has not stopped Colin Babb writing 1973 and Me, due to be published by Hansib in March. Babb describes himself as a British Born Caribbean and is rather more than just a writer. Rohan Kanhai’s 1973 West Indies side (they shared the summer with Bev Congdon’s New Zealanders) beat England to end something of a barren spell for the men from the Caribbean although, having read Babb’s previous book, They Gave The Crowd Plenty Fun, I am confident that there will be as much social history and Caribbean culture as cricket in a book that should be well worth reading.
We have seen two books recently on the subject of India’s rich spin bowling heritage, Fortune Turners by Adityan Bhushan and Sachin Bajaj, and Wizards by Anindya Dutta. Hopefully they will be joined on my shelves in the not too distant future by a book on the history of Indian pace bowling co-authored by our friend Gulu Ezekiel. For Speed Merchants Gulu deals with the pre Kapil Dev era, with Vijay Lokapally taking up the story from there. Gulu is also working on another project, but details of that will have to wait for next time.
The Indian market also produced the predicted autobiography from Alvin Kallicharran, Colour Blind, as well as a fine collection of pen portraits from Bangalore, Playback. I was also delighted to receive Harimohan Paravu’s The Renaissance Man, a fine biography of MV ‘Doc’ Sridhar although the rumours that I reported last time that books about Abbas Ali Baig, Nari Contractor and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan have, so far at least, turned out to be nothing more than tittle tattle. I live in hope however as all three are men with interesting stories.
Due for release next week in India is WV Raman’s first book, The Winning Sixer. Raman played eleven times for India over nine years without ever establishing himself in the side. In the last decade he has become an acclaimed coach, currently to the Indian women’s team. The book’s sub-title, Leadership Lessons to Master, suggests the book is not an autobiography as such, but at the same time Raman will doubtless draw on his cricketing experiences for at least some of his lessons.
There have been some interesting biographical projects published in England, none more so than Andrew Bradstock’s Batting for the Poor, a fine book about the life of David Sheppard. Recently we have also had a biography of the first man to score a First Class double century, Stephen Saunders’ self-published William Ward: A Forgotten Man and, rather more up to date, Back From The Edge, a thought provoking account of his travails by former Somerset, Derbyshire and Lancashire wicketkeeper Luke Sutton.
If ever there was going to be a renewal of interest in publishing books about a summer’s cricket it was going to be in England in 2019. Ben Stokes account of a remarkable year, On Fire, was the first to hit the bookstores and dealt with the entire summer. A day later came The Times’ England’s World Cup: The Full Story of the 2019 Tournament which, presumably, deals only with the first part of the summer. Also about to appear is another account, World Cup Triumph: The Inside Account of the England Cricket Team’s Victorious Campaign by Nick Hoult and Steve James. This one is rather different in that it does not confine itself to the events of the summer and instead charts the England side’s famous victory all the way back to the despair of the 2015 campaign.
Two county museums have been active in recent months. The Gloucestershire museum has produced three excellent new booklets dealing with aspects of the county’s history all of which are recommended. The titles are Dealing With A Dead Man, The Tour That Never Was and Delayed in Transit. From Sussex we have had two pamphlets regarding a couple of last season’s matches on the subjects of tall individual scores in one day cricket, and a record seventh wicket partnership. At the other end of the scale in terms of time is a very recent top quality limited edition book by noted historian John Goulstone dealing with cricket in Regency Brighton. On The Level is not going to appeal to the casual reader, but is an engrossing piece of research for those interested in the game in the eighteenth century.
What are the museums up to next year? Gloucester’s has no immediate plans for any new publications, although the county club itself will be producing a 150th anniversary brochure. From Sussex on the other hand we can expect a number of books and booklets to appear. First of all the previously announced biography of John Wisden should be with us in time for the start of the new season, and the first part of the complete Who’s Who of Sussex Cricketers should be with us. The book covers 1946-1968, so presumably it is a series that will go backwards as well as forwards. In addition to those two substantial works Clive Paish will also begin a series of booklets celebrating Sussex batsmen who have scored a double century, a project that is expected to take two years to complete.
On the subject of counties’ Who’s Whos the publishers of the four Somerset volumes that started off these books, Halsgrove, have just moved a few miles due north to Wales, and the first volume in a similar series devoted to Glamorgan covering the years 1889-1920. The author is the well known historian Andrew Hignell.
Looking forward to next year there are a few titles expected. John Hotten, he of the splendid The Meaning of Cricket has a new book due in May. Of The Elements of Cricket publishers William Collins describe it as a cricket book unlike any other published before, an extraordinary, eccentric guide and charming visual representation of the game, from the weather and wood that make it possible to the achievements of its greatest and most famous players.
The book is divided into the three parts that make up the fundamental elements of cricket: bat, ball and field. Their harmony produces cricket’s unique environment; their centuries’ long conflict provides its innovation, adaptability and vast psychological hinterland. These sections unite to map out in a completely original way the story of the sport that began as a country pursuit and is now followed by billions across the world.
In April Little, Brown will be publishing a book by the well known journalist, not exclusively for his writing on sporting matters, Michael Henderson. The blurb in respect of That Will Be England: The Last Summer of Cricket explains that when Michael Henderson visited Trent Bridge for the first day of the 2019 cricket season, he used 800 words to tell The Times readers that this would be the last season of county cricket as we understood the game. Next year we shall have The Hundred, whatever that may be, and championship cricket will be diminished to the point of invisibility.
The summer of 2019 is interesting in other ways. There was a World Cup in this country, which England weren’t expected to win. And there was the Ashes series. But this book would not be about the World Cup or the Australia series, with one notable exception. That Will Be England Gone is a tour d’horizon of cricket in England from April to September. Partly autobiographical, Michael Henderson revisits the places that shaped his love of the game, in order to understand how cricket has changed in his lifetime.
Whilst on the subject of change there is, for once, no book in 2019 on the subject of the summer just passed of the county champions. There is however one for the runners up, Somerset’s Summer by Anthony Gibson. I hope the motivation for publishing the book is not as some are suggesting, and that by reason of the imminent demise of the County Championship it is now, with their points penalty for 2020, almost certain that the Championship never will fly over the County Ground at Taunton.
If anyone needed reminding that cricket is played beyond its established centres we had a book on Canadian cricket in 2019. John Schofield’s Sticky Wicket is a history of the game on Vancouver Island. There will also be a book on North American cricket in 2020, although Inside The Selection Room is a very different sort of book. It is written by US based Peter Della Penna. The summary sets the scene thus In the summer of 2015, amateur cricketers across the Americas were thrown a lifeline to a career-changing opportunity: an open trial for a chance to make a 15-man squad that would play in the West Indies regional 50-over competition and open the door to one of six rookie contracts in a T20 franchise league
Some readers may have listened to a series of podcasts entitled A Flash Outside The Off Stump that were (and are) available online from Andy Carter. The content of the podcasts and additional information are now available in book form entitled Beyond The Pale. For the uninitiated it is the sub-title that gives the clue to the subjects covered, Early Black and Asian Cricketers in Britain 1868-1945.
Amongst our favourite small publishers the plans of Red Rose Books for 2020 have not yet been finalised with one exception, that being an account of a match between Lancashire and Kent at Old Trafford in 1906 when the great JT Tyldesley recorded his highest First Class score, 295, in a thumping ten wicket victory. Rather ironically it was only earlier this year that a full length book appeared on the equally one sided return fixture at Canterbury when Kent had their revenge.
Always popular round these parts are David Battersby’s self-published monographs and there has been one of those in the last six months, The Sporting Solicitor. In the past David has played his cards close to his chest when it comes to his future plans but this time we have had the thumb screws out and been able to extract the information. We can expect two ‘Battersbys’ in the coming months. The first, limited to seventy five copies, is Jessop’s Son which is biographical in nature and, as the title suggests, deals with the life and times of the son of the legendary Gloucestershire all-rounder Gilbert Jessop. A man of the cloth Jessop Junior made little impression in the four First Class matches in which he appeared but in club cricket he had, apparently, the potential to be just as dominant as his father had been.
David’s other title will be The 1927 New Zealand Tour to the UK. There is a full length account of that tour by Mike Batty which, being published in New Zealand in a limited edition of ninety nine copies, crops up once in a Preston Guild, and I have never seen a copy advertised in the northern hemisphere. The profusely illustrated Battersby monograph will be limited to just fifty copies, so will doubtless prove just as tricky to source in years to come. The thumb screws removed David has promised to entertain advance orders for both these monographs, and he can be contacted by email at email@example.com
From Australia we have had Ronald Cardwell’s book on The Tied Test in Madras as well as a second book on that subject, Michael Sexton’s Border’s Battlers. Two other books published recently are Roland Perry’s latest book, Tea and Scotch with Bradman, Ashley Mallett’s The Magic of Spin and For Cap and Country by Jesse Hogan.
Jonathan Northall kindly reviewed the Perry for us here. As for the Mallett that is limited to Australians spin bowlers and the Hogan book is a series of interviews with Australian cricketers on the enduring spirit of the Baggy Green. Having shamelessly pinched that brief summary from www.cricketbooks.com.au I should also mention a recent book from Ken Piesse with a self-explanatory title, Australian Cricket Scandals. What I don’t know in relation to the Hogan book is the extent, if at all, to which it tells Hogan’s story. In 2016 he suffered a severe stroke and the swelling of his brain so severe that he needed surgery to remove part of his skull.
Expected shortly from Australia is Rick Smith’s biography of Arthur Coningham and, whilst not due in the immediate future, biographies of Frank Tarrant and Jack Walsh are well advanced. Coningham’s place in the record books comes from his taking a wicket with his first delivery in his only appearance for Australia against England in 1894/95, although the more interesting part of his story arises from his brushes with the law, more particularly a famous divorce case as well as a sentence of imprisonment for fraud.
Tarrant was, possibly, the best Australian cricketer never to have worn the Baggy Green his having chosen to emigrate to England in 1903 following which he enjoyed a very successful decade with Middlesex. Whilst probably not being quite as good a player as Tarrant left arm wrist spinner and serviceable batsman Walsh is another man who would almost certainly have played Test cricket for Australia had he not chosen to pursue a career in England, in his case with Leicestershire between 1937 and 1956.
And what of our great favourites, the Cricket Publishing Company and the Cricket Press? After a strong end to 2019 with a fair wind it seems as if there may be as many seven books in the first half of 2020 with another half dozen in the rest of the year. I will leave those six until next time but the first of the Magnificent Seven is a biography of Mark Burgess by Bill Francis and that is due in February.It is due to be followed by a book looking at all the First Class players who have played for Glenelg, and biographies/monographs of Jim Burke, Doug Freeman, Bill Playle and Murray Webb. In addition it seems we can finally expect to see the autobiography of Jack D’Arcy that I have mentioned in this piece before. I can guarantee that all will be reviewed here just as soon as the relevant postal services can get copies to us.
I have also, for the first time in a while, noticed a book from Pakistan, Gamechanger. This is the autobiography of Shahid Afridi written with the assistance of an experienced journalist Wajahat Khan. My copy has yet to arrive but is on order. I understand that Afridi does not hold back, so am hoping it will be an entertaining read.
There are six new books in the offing from the ACS, although sadly none in the splendid Lives in Cricket series. In February two regular annuals will appear, the International Cricket Year Book 2020, and the 2020 First-Class Counties Second Eleven Annual. Also due in February is Tour de Farce by Mark Rowe. This is the second book to mark the fiftieth anniversary of what was scheduled to be a tour of England by South Africa. I have reviewed books by Mark Rowe before, here, here and here. I have also read Colin Shindler’s enjoyable book about the Lancashire, Warwickshire and England batsman Bob Barber and I suspect that the widely differing styles of the pair will mean that their books are very different.
Moving forward to May another three books are planned. The Minor Counties Championship 1914 continues a series which began with the 1895 season giving full scorecards for every Minor County game together with detailed biographical player information. It will include a Minor County World War 1 roll of honour. Cricketscapes by Andrew Hignell will look at the geographical dimensions of first-class cricket in the UK, analysing the variety of grounds used by First Class counties over time, especially how the number of outgrounds/festival locations have changed, and the reasons why. Rather more esoteric is Old Hurst Johnian Cricket Week by Roger Moulton, a book which celebrates the centenary of a cricket week which was founded in 1920 by former pupils of Hurstpierpoint College. Doubtless it will be as much a piece of social as cricketing history.
Those interested in Yorkshire cricket will have to wait a while longer for anything from the ACS, but towards the back end of 2020 they will be publishing Jeremy Lonsdale’s A Game Divided: Triumphs and Troubles in Yorkshire cricket in the 1920s, a follow up to his earlier offering, A Game Sustained: The Impact of the First World War on Cricket in Yorkshire 1914-1920. The new book looks at why one of the most successful and talented county sides ever was nevertheless controversial and unpopular with many at a time of great change in English cricket (and society).
The year just gone saw the last book from Fairfield Books and, presumably therefore, from Stephen Chalke. In addition one wonders whether the new edition of David Frith’s biography of Archie Jackson might be the last major book we see from him. There will however always be other great writers around and, after his wonderful biography of Neville Cardus appeared this year, we will have the pleasure of another cricket book from Duncan Hamilton next July. One Long and Beautiful Summer sounds like the title of a joyful celebration, although the sub-title, A Short Elegy for Red-Ball Cricket confirms its subject matter is pleasures past, rather than anticipated future enjoyment of the hundred or the sadly further emaciated County Championship that will be on offer in 2020.
And what of the English dealer/publishers? I can confirm that Boundary Books have a couple of projects are underway, although sadly they may be the last two we see from them. One is a memoir of David Rayvern Allen that Mike Down himself is writing, and the other is a new book from Tony Laughton. Having done much new research Laughton has written an account of a tour of the West Indies by an MCC side led by Lord Brackley in 1905. The trip is long forgotten but was an important step along the road to the West Indies becoming a power in the world game. Brackley’s side contained a sprinkling of Test players, including the underarm bowler George Simpson-Hayward, and enjoyed a successful trip but the fledgling home side gave them a fright in the second representative match and during the tour Barbados and Trinidad (twice) recorded comfortable wins.
John McKenzie, who issued his 200th catalogue last year also has a couple of books planned. The first is by Vic Rigby and is a biography of Richard Keigwin. An unfamiliar name but Keigwin was one of those multi-talented people who we no longer see in this age of specialisation. He wasn’t a great cricketer but was certainly a good one. He was a hockey international who excelled also at racket sports. Keigwin also had distinguished a academic career and was largely responsible for the game gaining a foothold in Denmark – oh, and if that isn’t enough he was decorated for his naval service in the Great War.
The other McKenzie title due is by Paul Akeroyd and this one should certainly prove popular. It is a biography of the great West Indian fast bowler, Wesley Hall. There is already a book about Hall, one of those not very good 1960s ghosted autobiographies, Pace Like Fire. A full account of Hall’s life will be a welcome addition to my bookshelf and, I am sure, of many other cricket lovers.
A couple more recent releases will close this piece. The first is a 400+ page history of the women’s game written by Raf Nicholson. I believe that Raf is currently looking for a mainstream publisher, but in the meantime Ladies and Lords is obtainable from Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. And finally, but by no means bringing up the rear, is from Mayukh Ghosh. In a League of Their Own: Celebrating Cricket’s Great Characters is a collection of short and entertaining pieces about interesting cricket people. Most of those featured are, naturally, players, but not all.