Cricket books of 2012 December 13, 2012

Blagger, swagger, fanatical amateur

ESPNcricinfo staff
As Christmas approaches, we round up a selection of the great and good cricket books from 2012

It takes quite a sense of entitlement to wake up one morning and say 'I'm going to become a cricket journalist'. Miles Jupp, who by his own admission was an out-of-work actor and struggling stand-up comedian at the time, did just that.

The result of Jupp's subterfuge is one of the better examples in a genre that at its worst is unbearably twee - the comic cricket book. Fibber In The Heat: Following England in India - A Blagger's Tale was shortlisted for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award and as well as providing a loosely, humorous read will probably dissuade others from following the same path for several years to come.

Jupp rightly predicts that England's travelling cricket press corps will treat him with suspicion and disdain. He immediately finds many of us to be world-weary, sarcastic whingers with proprietorial swaggers. I was on the tour and my own burst of ill humour is recorded for posterity, brought on by some ill-timed flippancy during a wet day in Chandigarh, but it is the journalist labelled Mr Who The Fuck's That? who will perhaps find the book least endearing.

Jupp is so nervous about what is essentially deception that his tour by definition cannot be a happy one. The same self-deprecating sense of uselessness and lack of belonging that is so vital to his comedy portrayed itself in India in a nervous display of professional inadequacy that did not help him integrate into the sometimes harsh, insensitive and judgmental world of sports journalism.

But he begins to find an uneasy understanding of the life of the cricket writers, even those prone to resent or ridicule his presence. He learns that players loved by the public are often less well respected by the press, and vice versa. At the end of an exhausting tour, awash with the usual irritations and bouts of loneliness, he even begins to appreciate why so many journalists seem permanently stressed, jaded or just cross.

"I suppose I thought it all might be a little jollier," he concludes, wistfully. There were times when I felt that about Fibber - I wished he had debated more with those he accuses, done more imaginative things, spoken to more people - but perhaps that is me surrendering to world-weary, sarcastic whingeing that is supposedly representative of the breed.

At the end, he concludes he is a cricket fan not a cricket journalist. He is also an increasingly respected actor, comedian and writer and in Fibber he puts all three of these talents to decent use. David Hopps

Fibber In The Heat: Following England in India - A Blagger's Tale
by Miles Jupp
Ebury Press

On Warne

Such is the overpowering reputation of Gideon Haigh as one of the world's most redoubtable cricket writers that lengthy reviews of his books can be almost as daunting as writing them in the first place. He has a reputation for masterful insights, worthy of proper analysis, and that reputation will only be enhanced by his biography of Shane Warne.

On Warne brings together Australia's most charismatic cricketer for many a year and its most formidable critic. The result is an affectionate yet judicious study that will probably never be surpassed. Haigh refreshingly avoids the chronological approach in favour of five sections: the making of Warne, the art of Warne, the men of Warne, the trials of Warne and the sport of Warne. David Hopps

A full review of On Warne will follow on ESPNcricinfo at a later date.

On Warne
by Gideon Haigh
Simon & Schuster

The Plan

Steve James' The Plan takes the reader through the 13 years it took England to rise from the bottom to the top of the world Test rankings between 1999 and 2011, while profiling the coaches, captains and administrators who effected the transformation.

The Plan actually comes from a much-used Zimbabwean phrase "making a plan", one that the author tells us is especially used in times of trouble, of which there was a lot for English cricket fans in that 1999 summer. But if there was no cunning "plan" for English cricket in the Baldrick sense back then, there was at least intent on behalf of the ECB, coupled with a fair bit of luck, which helped put some tremendously skilful coaches in position. That refers first to Duncan Fletcher and then Andy Flower, and it is they who the book is most concerned with.

Click here for Sam Collins' full review.

The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket
by Steve James
Bantam Press


As John Stern, the former editor of The Cricketer magazine, writes in his introduction, cricket is a global game, "the sport that never sleeps". But, were it ever to nod off, cricket would have plenty to dream about and much of it is documented in this splendid hardback, which is also chock-full of stunning images taken by the doyen of cricket photographers, Patrick Eagar.

From Tests to Twenty20, Kennington to Kensington, Bradman and Bodyline to India's World Cup win at the Wankhede, Stern tells the story of international cricket in crisp, concise tones. As well as histories of the ten Test-playing nations, there are profiles of great players, snapshots of famous stadia and a choice selection of the game's more enduring statistics. Full of colour and detail, skilfully woven together by a knowledgeable author, Cricket offers an ideal introduction for any young enthusiast as well as a glorious photographic record of a restless sport. Alan Gardner

Cricket - The Definitive Guide to the International Game
by John Stern

We'll Get 'Em in Sequins

One of the several joys of We'll Get 'Em in Sequins is that it is simultaneously a cricket book and not a cricket book. Its overarching theme is what Max Davidson repeatedly refers to as "manliness": what the word means, how the concept has changed over a century and more, and how it has been lived and exemplified in Yorkshire, which just happens to be one of the world's great cricket territories.

Davidson's method is brilliantly simple: a chronological survey of seven Yorkshire cricketers forms a framework within which his mind and pen range far and wide across British culture, history and manners in the 20th and 21st centuries. If this sounds like serious stuff, it is, but the writing is unfailingly entertaining and there are frequent flashes of humour. For the cricket lover there are also insights into the seven main subjects and then many others, with anecdotes both familiar and, to this reader, newly discovered.

Click here for Les Smith's full review.

We'll Get 'Em in Sequins: Manliness, Yorkshire cricket and the Century That Changed Everything
by Max Davidson
Wisden Cricket Writing

The Effing C-Word

Some might consider that the last thing the world needs is another book about village cricket, but Simon White has gained permission from his wife and nothing else can stop him. A paean to the game, from sticky provincial wickets to the bouncy greenswards of the international arena, White shows impressive zeal in covering his subject, including discussion of the laws and umpiring, use of technology, cricket's inviolate spirit and the wonder of kit.

The title of the book refers to the descriptive epithet applied to cricket by White's long-suffering wife, Soph, who has to put up with the game dominating family activities from April through to September. "Was there ever more cause for marital disharmony than seven games in nine days?" wonders White. Perhaps she isn't keen to hear again about the time Dave and Iain ran six byes, or the quest to beat The Legend during winter nets - but there are plenty of fellow tragics who will. Alan Gardner

The Effing C-Word - Cricket: A User's Guide
by Simon White
The White Words

Micky Stewart and the Changing Face of Cricket

This book could have been a dog's breakfast. It is, as its author Stephen Chalke admits, "neither biography nor autobiography, neither survey of the past nor blueprint for the future - but something all of these". A major publishing house might have insisted that it be one thing or the other, but Chalke is a very successful publisher of his own work and can do more or less as he likes. Historians of the game should be grateful, for while there may well be other books on post-war English cricket, they will all draw to some extent on the many interviews with Stewart and others that fill these pages.

Click here for Paul Edwards' full review.

Micky Stewart and the Changing Face of Cricket
by Stephen Chalke
Fairfield Books

Songs From The Barmy Army

Music lovers look away now. When it comes to songbooks, your thoughts might turn to The Beatles, Cole Porter or Bob Dylan. Making its own more unexpected entry into the Christmas book market is Songs From The Barmy Army. Here, then, are the "definitive versions" of Barmy Army songs that, love them or loath them, have been appreciated by the England cricket team for nearly 20 years. A lot of pride is displayed in recording for posterity such staples as "Everywhere We Go", "The Naan Song" (a minor classic) and the unfortunately-titled "Song For Jimmy Savile", which understandably seems to have has lost its appeal. David Hopps

Songs From The Barmy Army: The Best Chants From England's Loyal Supporters
Simon & Schuster
By Paul winslow

More books in our reviews section.