Cricket books

OCTOBER 02, 2013

Cricket books

The man behind the top hat

Eric Ravilious' vision of cricketers in top hats has featured in 76 editions of the Wisden Almanack, but very little has surfaced about the man himself. Rupert Bates, in Wisden India, charts Ravilious' history from his less-than-attentive stints on the cricket field to possible sources of inspiration for the iconic engraving.

He said the game went on "a bit too long for my liking and I began to get a little absent-minded in the deep field after tea". He made one not out in defeat, and bowled a few overs. "It all felt like being back at school, especially the trestle tea with slabs of bread and butter, and that wicked-looking cheap cake." He went on to record the comment of the Double Crown captain Francis Meynell that his bowling was "of erratic length, but promising, and that I should have been put on before. Think of the honour and glory there."

SEPTEMBER 19, 2013

Indian cricket

Using cricket to tell India's story

The Great Tamasha mirrors India's rise as a nation to its rise as a cricketing power. James Astill, author of the book, documents the evolution of cricket - with its introduction during the British era to its extravagant and controversial avatar, the Indian Premier League. Speaking to Will Davies of the Wall Street Journal, Astill explains his take on the sport that verges on obsession in the country and believes it is an apt tool to describe the India's story.

I wanted to tell that story, but not through the usual all-India generalizations - not from the usual New Delhi vantage. There have been too many books like that already. Rather, I wanted a unifying theme or a story, which would allow me to reflect on India's broader narrative. And it was only natural that I found this in Indian cricket - which is spectacularly rich and politically powerful, also riven with infighting and corruption, and just unbelievably popular. Most of India loves it. And I love it too

JUNE 26, 2013

Indian cricket

The life and times of Dicky Rutnagur

Dicky Rutnagur, veteran journalist for Hindustan Times and the Daily Telegraph passed away on June 21. Tony Cozier in the Stabroek News reminisces about sharing a press box with "the voice, spoken and written, of Indian cricket through three decades"

I cherish a picture of the two of us in the Bangalore Test during the 1974-75 West Indies tour (later carried in Wisden), Dicky's face wreathed in the typically impish smile that signaled he was holding forth with some yarn or the other. He made friends, and admirers, easily. Wherever his career took him, he had the respect of cricketers of all generations. The tributes that have followed his death confirm that impression.

Raju Bharatan in the Hindu, describes why Rutnagur was good enough to cover over 300 Test matches.

He was to cricket what Zubin Mehta was to music. He conducted himself as the quintessential professional. Not for him the literary flourishes of a K.N. Prabhu or an N.S. Ramaswami. Dicky Rutnagur was first a reporter, only then an opinion moulder. His smooth narrative style held you spellbound. This was reflected in the absorption with which his Editorial Musings and his day-to-day account of Test matches were read -- months after the events took place.

Amit Roy in India's Telegraph paints the various facets of Rutnagur's life - the journalist, the man, the cricket lover and devout Zoroastrian.

One reason I wanted Dicky at the Lord's lunch on Friday was because of what he felt about the ground. I had asked him about the world's most beautiful cricketing venues when I had done a formal interview with Dicky in 2005. "Lord's, of course," he replied. "My hair still stands on end when I go through the Grace Gate (the main gate at Lord's) after all these years. It is a privilege to go to Lord's. I will wear my best clothes to go to Lord's always, even for a county match."

Rutnagur was as noted for his pranks as he was for his opinions on the game, writes R Mohan in Mid-day

A few may have suffered at the hands of the press box joker that he was reputed to be. You were not initiated into cricket journalism until you had been doused by his water pistol. Mercifully, he carried it in days when security was not the watchword it is, otherwise he may have had a tough time explaining what a gun was doing amidst the paraphernalia.

JUNE 18, 2013

Cricket writing

Chronicles of the ghost-writer

In a piece in Man's World magazine, Sharda Ugra shares her experience of being a ghostwriter on two vastly different cricket biographies - John Wright's Indian Summers and Yuvraj Singh's The Test of My Life: From Cricket to Cancer and Back.

Now that the books are done, in hindsight, I think it would be close to impossible to take on an ultramarathon without either affinity or respect for the subject. A key commandment? Abandon your ego and your own stylistic imprints, replicate the narrator's own voice. The book, after all, belongs not to you but to the sportsman whose life it contains. It is he who must speak, authentically and credibly, to the reader and hold their attention. That's what you're there for.

MAY 03, 2013

Cricket writing

Notes from editors, past and present

The longest-running sports annual in history, The Wisden Cricketers' Almanack has remained steadfast through wars and global crises and even technological revolutions. In Wisden India, six editors of the Almanack share their thoughts on what it means to be a Wisden editor.

APRIL 20, 2013

India cricket

Mumbai's cricketing treasure trove in need of revival

The Kanga Memorial Library at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, a beloved haunt for cricket history buffs and probably one of the only sporting libraries in the country, is fighting for survival with administrative apathy. In the Mid day, Clayton Murzello explores the library to find some its rarest classics moth-eaten and dust-laden.

First-timers to the Wankhede Stadium won't find the library without having to ask around simply because there are no sign boards leading to the premises which comes in between the plush Cricket Centre and the Wankhede Stadium. The dark alley leading to the library is indicative of the times.

APRIL 14, 2013

Cricket writing

Wisden: still relevant, 150 years on

Ted Corbett, in the Hindu, says in these days of rapid-fire Twenty20 and so many websites dedicated to cricket, Wisden might not be really necessary, but in traditional cricket circles it still has time to live.

Whenever I visit Lord's I see old men taking their grandsons -- rarely granddaughters I note -- along the same route the old and the young trod heaven knows how many years ago. Those young men will be taught to identify players without names and numbers, to applaud each fifty, each small partnership and even clap the players as they walk off for tea. One day granddad will buy their first bat and grumble about the price, as my mother did all those summers ago, and maybe even present them with their first Wisden -- now £50, the cost of a bottle of champagne -- and teach them to find their way from Notes by the Editor to the funny little tales in the back.

APRIL 11, 2013

Cricket writing

Cricket writing faces up to the game's dark side

Cricket writing is once again finding the diversity in its voice, after years of shying away from big stories. In his review of the best cricket books for the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (featured in the Guardian), John Crace profiles five books, including Bookie, Gambler, Fixer, Spy, that reveal the best and worst of cricket.

Best of all, cricket writing is back on the money. Literally. There is no bigger story in cricket at the moment than its finances - particularly in regard to illegal betting. Predictably, the International Cricket Council is not that keen to investigate; its efforts limited to setting up any number of sub-committees that invariably seem to discover next to nothing. Cricket's writers have been far bolder and more successful on a fraction of the budget.

APRIL 07, 2013

Cricket history

A constant in a disorderly world

Often called the 'cricketing Bible', almost to the point of a cliché, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack will release its 150th edition next week. As he traces the history of Wisden and the challenges it faces in the modern era, former editor Matthew Engel writes in the Financial Times that Wisden offers "the illusion of timelessness, which is at the heart of cricket's appeal".

"I am not sure anyone quite understands it. What I have learnt is that it appeals most to people who love books first, and cricket second, not the other way round. That collectability is crucial. And that what readers love most is the way, searching for one fact, one gets diverted for hours: it is a reference book double-plus. Plus there is that solid, distinctive name: as Australian writer Murray Hedgcock once pointed out, Wisden would never have worked had the founder been John Smith, Jones or Robinson."

In the Telegraph, Simon Briggs says the iconic yellow jacket still marks a fixed point in a disorder world.

Stephen Moss pays tribute to the classic that reminds him of a brick. In the Observer, he muses that perhaps the real reason to collect it is so that "one can build a small house, a protection against the real world that helps its readers forget that time must move on."

APRIL 03, 2013

Cricket history

CLR's wife remembers Beyond a Boundary

There are few books on cricket that have had as powerful and as lasting an impact as CLR James' Beyond a Boundary. Fifty years after its publication, it is still regarded by many as the greatest book on the game. Writing in the Guardian, Selma James, wife of CLR, shares her insights into a book that her husband "had to write".

Establishing early the interconnection between cricket and race and class divisions opens the way for Beyond a Boundary to fulfil its author's full purpose: to draw out other startling connections - cricket and art, life in ancient Greece, even rewriting English social history with cricket's great WG Grace as a crucial figure. As startling as his connections is the light he sheds on each - not only cricket but every subject benefits from shattering boundaries. We are invited to reject the fragmenting of reality, and to see its diverse interconnections without which we are prevented from ever knowing anything fully - including our own reality. What do they know of cricket, or anything, if it is walled off from every other aspect of life and struggle?

JANUARY 25, 2013

Cricket books

Beyond a Boundary: the making of a classic

CLR James' Beyond a Boundary, written while he was in exile, remains the best study on the history of cricket and its impact on a society that was divided along the lines of class and nationality. In this article, Mike Marqusee traces the journey of the book and the immense intellectual insight that James provides, transcending history, sport, sociology and politics.

As innovative in form as it is in content, Beyond a Boundary is uncategorisable, a blend of memoir, history, theory, journalism, political manifesto. For all its diversity, it has what many of today's hybrid texts lack: a commanding intelligence and a distinctive voice, dry, purposeful, thrillingly and theatrically didactic. The book is all of a piece and would be diminished by the loss of any of its component parts.

DECEMBER 12, 2012


Haigh's book among the finest

Gideon Haigh's new book, On Warne, is the finest cricket book of the year, reviews Andy Bull in the Guardian. Bull says that Haigh's book is a "portrait that's expertly painted".

The second chapter in particular, which opens with an intricate description of Warne's approach to the crease and then leads the reader through the four stages of Warne's career, is as good as anything I have read on the game. On Warne is not a biography, but a portrait, and expertly painted. Haigh cuts out the extraneous information and concentrates on the essence, capturing it through judicious use of anecdotes, statistics, quotations and his own observations.

MAY 02, 2012

Cricket books

Top 10 cricket books

In the Guardian Shehan Karunatilaka, the author of Chinaman, picks his ten favourites cricket books, including classics like Beyond a boundary and Don Bradman's Art of cricket.

For more on cricket books, check out our Must-Read books section.

JANUARY 31, 2012


Robin Jackman tells his tale

Telford Vice, writing in Business Day, reviews Robin Jackman's autobiography. Jackers: A Life in Cricket isn’t all about cricket, he says; there is enough there to satisfy aficionados, and a lot else besides.

The value of Jackman’s life is that it would have a book in it even if he wasn’t a public figure. His father, a British army colonel who lost a leg in a shooting accident and wrote sentimental verse, is straight out of Wodehouse. One of his poems was titled Fred’s Erection. No, sport-lovers, it’s not what you think. Patrick Cargill, star of British sitcom Father Dear Father and two Carry On films, was Jackman’s uncle. At 15, Jackman was invited to a lunch to celebrate the completion of the filming of A Countess from Hong Kong, Charlie Chaplin’s last project as a director. It featured Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando.

NOVEMBER 10, 2011


Imran Khan the politician: Sincere but naive

In a review of Imran Khan's autobiographical book Pakistan, A Personal History, the Economist says that the impression left for the reader is of a man who is likeable and sincere, but not much gifted at understanding the motivations and plans of those around him.

But even by his own record, Mr Khan comes across as naive, short on the cunning displayed by Pakistan's brilliantly awful politicians, who milk funds from the state to keep control of their regional fiefs. More important, he still looks unable to organise. He talks grandly in his book of Pakistan's desperate lack of strong institutions, arguing that these are what made Western countries flourish. Yet judge by how his own party has failed to develop over the years, and Mr Khan seems to have little gift for building any structure that goes beyond his personal brand.

OCTOBER 09, 2011


A gripping decade in cricket

Tony Gould reviews Cricket at the Crossroads by Guy Fraser-Sampson in the Observer - a book about the ten years from 1967-1977, a time of political turmoil and bitter rivalry that made it a gripping decade for cricket.

The period goes from the captaincy controversy surrounding Brian Close, through the South Africa apartheid saga and the introduction of one-day internationals, up to the players' revolt over pay, which – combined with the media war between Kerry Packer and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – led to the defection of almost all the international stars to Packer's World Series Cricket. Fraser-Sampson has interviewed several survivors from that era; he also uses the memoirs of John Snow and Derek Underwood, as well as Colin Cowdrey and Raymond Illingworth, to good effect. Though far from impartial, he tries to present the motives of those of whom he is most critical in the best light.

JULY 03, 2011


The Following Game: A piece of rare cricket literature

Aditya Iyer reviews Jonathan Smith's book, The Following Game in the Indian Express. The book, Iyer says, is rare and sensitive literature in the world of sports books, one that doesn’t revert to scandals and controversies to sell the contents within.

To put it more simply, it is about being a fan, a follower, a hero-worshipper. If you’ve ever surrendered to the magic of just following a game or a team or a player and wondered why it begins to rule your life, then with his divine craft of philosophising the everyday, the author justifies that love, putting mania into perspective with a wonderful personal journey as a man obsessed with cricket, rugby, authors and poets ... Diagnosed with cancer in January 2006, Smith — a Welsh-born professor of literature at Tonbridge School in Kent — sets forth on a journey with son Ed to India, the spiritual home of the game of cricket.

JUNE 26, 2011


Sunil Gavaskar: Cricket’s original brand icon on Shyam Balasubramanian and Vijay Santhanam's book, The Business of Cricket: The Story of Sports Marketing in India, which talks about how, a few decades ago, Sunil Gavaskar was a unique phenomenon in India - a batsman-cum-entrepreneur.

There was one more reason Gavaskar captured the nation’s imagination. The 1970s was the era of the angry young man, with widespread frustration over the high unemployment rate, among other things. What the original angry young man, Amitabh Bachchan, was to Hindi cinema, Gavaskar was to cricket. He was the lone anti-establishment figure, irreverent and uncompromising, fighting to the last. His image was well-suited to the national mood of the times, when the country was looking to these anti-hero figures for some sort of respite.

JUNE 20, 2011


The joy of teaching

In the Observer, Robert McCrum writes of Jonathan Smith, teacher and author, and father of former cricketer Ed Smith, and his book The Following Game, a deeply personal memoir centred on family and cricket.

As well as following his son's game, and teaching Vikram Seth, Smith can claim credit for the theatrical career of Dan Stevens, who recently starred as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey. One of the most arresting passages in The Following Game describes how the 14-year-old Stevens auditioned for a school production of Macbeth, expecting to be allocated the part of Macduff's son, or Fleance, and found himself playing the lead.

MAY 24, 2011


Letters to the editor

Steve James, writing in the Daily Telegraph, reviews Not in My Day, Sir, a compilation of cricket letters the newspaper has received over the years. Edited by Martin Smith, the book includes letters which are “by turns acerbic, witty, opinionated and hilarious, and they are always to the point, silly or otherwise”.

It is a wonderful collection, beginning in 1928 when the Telegraph first introduced a daily letters section ... All the major controversies down the years are covered, from Bodyline to the D’Oliveira and Packer affairs to match-fixing.

Kasprowicz would have enjoyed the letter from Douglas J Wathen in 2009: “Sir, I don’t see why batsmen today accept being confronted by bowlers wearing gold necklaces and particularly sunglasses. When I played cricket no jewellery was worn. As batsmen, we liked to see the colour of the bowlers’ eyes. Would an umpire uphold my complaint today if I refused to face a bowler so adorned?”