Reviews ReviewsRSS FeedFeeds

Review: A History of Cricket in 100 Objects

History for those who hate reading it

A charming collection of essays that bring out several interesting facts, prompting a reader to research deeper into the subject

Suresh Menon

August 18, 2013

Text size: A | A

Cover image of <i>A History of Cricket in 100 Objects</I>
Enlarge
Related Links
Players/Officials: W.G. Grace | Sachin Tendulkar

Henry Ford might have thought that history was bunk, but here's evidence that it can be fun. Most histories of sport tend to suffer from two handicaps: they tend to be centred around one region and thus miss the bigger picture or they are overly sombre and ignore the fact that sport is fun, and that digressions and distractions only add to its tale.

When you set out to write a history in 100 objects (which means in effect, 100 essays), you acknowledge that being comprehensive is not part of the package, but what you gain - as this book does - is a lightness of touch, and a non-linearity that can be quite charming. You can dip into it anywhere and be guaranteed of an unexpected fact or a startling connection that traditional histories miss.

A History of Cricket in 100 Objects is entertaining, the tone disguising the research involved. Some of the conclusions are provocative enough to send the reader rushing to a deeper study of the subject, which is as it should be. It is a book both for the specialist and the casual reader, especially when you consider that the latter is unlikely to read the tomes by Altham and Swanton or Rowland Bowen, or even more recent histories of the game.

Despite (or perhaps because of) answers to the essential questions of origin and evolution of cricket lacking in historical authenticity, and thus our having to make do with the most likely theories and intelligent guesswork, the game is well served by its myths and legends, which have gained by repetition. Such words and phrases as "Hambledon", "Nyren", "Bat and Ball", "Fredrick Louis", "Christina Willes" and others evoke a set of responses that have solidified over the years, thanks to history books.

In bringing these and other elements together and spreading the net beyond Hampshire and Lord's and the MCC, the author has attempted to reflect the global nature of the game, which originated in England but is claimed by other countries as their own too.

Thus you will find here Lord Hawke as well as Sachin Tendulkar, WG Grace as well as Hanif Mohammad, Lord's as well as Eden Gardens, the first-ever international (US v Canada, 1844) as well as the IPL. Written in a chatty, informal style this is a history of the game for those who hate reading about the history of games.

In keeping with the tone, chapter headings are not generic. Under "Sitar", there is the story of Hanif - I couldn't find a connection other than the exaggerated stereotype that everybody in the subcontinent is either a sitar player or has elephants as pets. Under the Beatles' single "Love Me Do" is the story of the end of the professional-amateur divide in English cricket. The connection? The year, 1962. Under "Protractor" is the story of Muttiah Muralitharan, possibly because of a throwaway line in the essay about the bowler's skill - "Pass that protractor, this could get complicated…"

There is, too, the story of Charles Darwin arriving on the HMS Beagle in New Zealand and being unimpressed until he saw a cricket match, which evoked England and cheered him up. The strength of the book is in details like that.

A History of Cricket in 100 Objects
by Gavin Mortimer
Serpent's Tail
£12.99, 317 pages (hardback)

Suresh Menon is the editor of the Wisden India Almanack

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.

    Worst keepers, and honours at Lord's

Ask Steven: Also, most keeping dismissals on debut, seven-for at HQ, and youngest ODI centurions

    From swinging London to Maco country

Diary: Our correspondent walks and buses the streets of the English capital, and then heads for the coast

    When Pidge strayed

My Favourite Cricket Story: Brett Lee remembers how Australia nearly lost the Old Trafford Test in the 2005 Ashes

    How we misunderstand risk in sport

Ed Smith: Success, failure, innovation - they are all about our willingness to take risks and how we judge them

When Jesse went pongo

Beige Brigade: The boys discuss the throbbing excitement of the World Cup, spot slow Bodyline in England, and attack the TV coverage's technology

News | Features Last 7 days

Vijay rediscovers the old Monk

The leave outside off stump has been critical to M Vijay's success since his India comeback last year. Contrary to popular opinion, such patience and self-denial comes naturally to him

Ridiculed Ishant ridicules England

Ishant Sharma has often been the butt of jokes, and sometimes deservedly so. Today, however, the joke was on England

England seem to have forgotten about personality

They have to see a glass that is half-full, and play the game as if it is just that, a game; and an opportunity

Bhuvneshwar on course for super series

Only 15 times in Test history has a player achieved the double of 300 runs and 20 wickets in a Test series. Going on current form, Bhuvneshwar could well be the 16th

Ishant's fourth-innings heroics in rare company

In India's win at Lord's, Ishant Sharma took the best bowling figures by an Indian in the fourth innings of a Test outside Asia. Here are five other best bowling efforts by Indians in the fourth innings of Tests outside Asia

News | Features Last 7 days
Sponsored Links

Why not you? Read and learn how!