Cricket: A History of Its Growth and Development Throughout the World

The whole story

An admirable attempt to "tell the full history of the game"

Suresh Menon

August 2, 2008

Text size: A | A



A game of cricket in progress at the Artillery Ground in London in 1743 © Getty Images
Enlarge

This is the better written, wider, fuller, deeper history of the game than the Anglocentric one by HS Altham 44 years earlier, in 1926. In the introduction CLR James writes: "This is a type of history which I have never read before, and whose forbears either in method or material, as far as I know, do not exist."

"It is my purpose to try and tell the full history of the game, and without confining the survey to one class, or one section, or indeed, one country. In order to achieve this much has to be said which will be found in no previous history of the game," Bowen writes. He traces a reference to cricket in France in 1478, in "criquet", and even if the British prime minister John Major has dismissed such a connection in his recent history of the game, it does take it forward from the "creag" in the wardrobe accounts of Edward I in 1299-1300. But it is not the research alone, impressive as that is, or the anecdotal evidence that Bowen presents that is impressive. What gives the book its unique character is the manner in which events across continents are placed in context.

Thus, the Golden Age (1894-1914) is called that not just because of the skills of the players of that period - WG Grace, Ranjitsinhji, CB Fry, Archie MacLaren, Syd Barnes - or for the fact that cricket was being better organised centrally, but also because it saw the great age of Philadelphia cricket as well as the establishment of national championships in other countries. Cricket, in fact, was "being taken seriously" everywhere.

Bowen's refusal to give in to romantic folk histories of the game is made clear in his treatment of Hambledon, often called the "cradle of cricket". Despite its short-lived eminence, says Bowen, "the Hambledon club has achieved an importance in the minds of cricket lovers far beyond its merits". Elsewhere he says, "One does not put a lusty young man into a cradle."

A major strength of the book is the "Chronological Appendices" at the end. The first part deals with dates in cricket history till 1850, the second with the period 1850-1970 in the cricket-playing countries, and the third with the dates of the first matches by English counties. We learn from these notes that the tea interval was first mentioned in a match in 1892, that in 1942 Indian-made cricket balls were sanctioned for use in Ranji Trophy matches, and so on. This section of the book alone is worth its weight in gold.

From the book
"It has been the custom to think of the modern period of cricket as starting in 1864 and it is difficult to find a more suitable date... overarm bowling was legalised, it was as though there and then the game became what we have now... the first overseas tour to four of the countries which would be playing first-class cricket against England had taken place or were about to be played... but the greatest of all was the rise of WG Grace, who became a folk hero just like Pele in Brazilian football...

Cricket: A History of Its Growth and Development Throughout the World
by Rowland Bowen

Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1970

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

RSS Feeds: Suresh Menon

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Suresh MenonClose
Suresh Menon Suresh Menon went from being a promising cricketer to a has-been, without the intervening period of a major career. He played league cricket in three cities with a group of overgrown enthusiasts who had the reverse of amnesia - they could remember things that never happened. For example, taking incredible catches at slip, or scoring centuries. Somehow Menon found the time to be the sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and the editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently he is a columnist with publications in India and abroad, and is beginning to think he might never play for India.
Related Links

    Trott's torment

Mark Nicholas: Cricket - batting specifically - defines Jonathan Trott, which makes his continued suffering all the more painful

    'Commentators must stop stating the obvious'

Bowl at Boycs: Geoff Boycott on hyped-up TV coverage, and the appointment of Peter Moores

    All change in Pakistan's domestic structure. Again

Osman Samiuddin: A recent proposal to shake up the first-class set-up reinforces that change is the only constant in Pakistan

    The cricket tragic who bowled Bradman

Former Australian PM Bob Hawke loved cricket. And he once left the Don speechless with the force of his political convictions

A man with two first names

Paul Ford: New Zealand's selectors have taken a punt on 27-year-old offspinner Mark Craig, highlighting the anaemic state of spin bowling in the land

News | Features Last 7 days

Crunch time for Sehwag and Gambhir

The former Indian openers haven't been shining lately, but the IPL presents an opportunity for them to show their class

England's Pietersen folly

They were making good progress in building a world-class side, but not getting rid of Kevin Pietersen after the texting saga in 2012 cost them greatly

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it

'Sri Lankan fans embrace the team, not just icon players'

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara go over their World T20 win, and feel grateful to have fans whose support remains unwavering in victory and defeat

The captain's blunder

Plays of the day from the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi

News | Features Last 7 days