Tom Graveney at Lord's
Methuen, 237pp rrp £18.99
I approached this book with a degree of weariness - another book on Lord's - there are almost as many as there are books about this summer's Ashes - and one seemingly concentrating on the tenure of Tom Graveney as MCC president. I expected a fairly routine tale of the comings and going in St John's Wood. I am happy to admit that I was very wide of the mark.
Stephen Fay, the former editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, has managed to produce an entertaining and informative behind-the-scenes account of a year in the life of Lord's . Graveney's one-year reign gives the book its frame, and he is a colourful character in his own right, but it is the daily machinations of a multimillion-pound business that really captivate.
The last major book about life behind the scenes at Lord's was by Geoffrey Moorhouse in 1984. In the intervening 21 years, the world has moved on, and even Lord's has been dragged kicking and screaming from the 19th into the 21st century.
Here I must declare an interest. As a member of MCC, perhaps this book appealed to me a little more than it might to some others. But while I thought that I knew a fair amount of what the running of the ground involved, Fay soon made me realise I didn't really have the first inkling of what went on when the crowds had left.
Lord's does so much more than just stage cricket. MCC organises more than 400 out -matches against clubs and schools each summer as well as high-profile overseas tours to emerging countries. Its role running world cricket might have all but disappeared, but that has been replaced with the important one of being the ambassadors and nurturers of the game.
It's the characters that provide the colour. From the groundsman who would prefer that people stayed off his pitches, to the pride of the man responsible for producing the members' passes, to the men who take more than 30,000 people a year on guided tours. All have their tales to tell, and to his credit, Fay gives them the space to do so.
Graveney's time at Lord's also coincided with the beginning of the end of Roger Knight's time as Secretary. That he has now also assumed the title of chief executive highlights that MCC has ceased to be a private members' club and is now a business. And perhaps there is an element of regret over what has happened when he says: "We talk about cricket too little ... there is a huge danger we become just a money-making machine."
The appointment of Graveney as president shows that it's not all a smooth system. His son was asked about his father's health - there were doubts whether, at 77, Graveney was up to the task. That query was mistaken as a formal invitation and it pre-empted any change of heart by the powers-that-be.
The book is illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by the talented Karen Neale, the MCC cricket artist this year. While it would have been tempting to use well-worn photographs, Neale's vignettes are a refreshing addition.
All in all, this book would appeal to anyone with an interest in cricket, all the more so if they happen to be an MCC member or a regular visitors to Lord's. Perhaps we will all be a little more attentive to the details on our next visit.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo