WG's private party
Such was the draw of WG Grace that after a public spat with Gloucestershire, who he had captained since its formation in 1870, he was able to move to London and help establish a side that within a year had been given first-class status
82 pp, hb
Much has been written about WG Grace - perhaps more than any other cricketer with the exception of Don Bradman. But while his 19th-century exploits are well documented, less is known about the twilight of his career, and in some ways that is one of the most interesting periods. Such was the draw of the man that after a public spat with Gloucestershire, who he had captained since its formation in 1870, he was able to move to London and help establish a side that within a year had been given first-class status.
Brian Pearce's Cricket At The Crystal Palace helps to fill in the gaps about the brief history of the London County Cricket Club (by 1905 it had lost its first-class status, a victim of financial troubles and poor attendances). But in those five seasons, it was jazz-hat cricket at its best. Led by Grace (he only missed one of their first-class matches), LCCC attracted some of the best players of the era and also took on a quasi-MCC role of nurturing and encouraging the best young cricketers. The club was dominated by the Old Man, and Pearce manages to convey the sense of what it must have been like to play with and under him.
This book is not just about WG. It gives the story of the Crystal Palace, which dominated the whole enterprise and ultimately led to its demise, and of the LCCC. Pearce injects colour and life into the narrative, and the illustrations are copious and interesting.
This is clearly a labour of love but Pearce has managed to produce a book well worth buying. It's not long - 82 pages in all - and if there is a criticism it is the rather slapdash and poorly formatted statistics. But that is one minor gripe which does not really tarnish the overall product.
To order this book, please send a cheque for £20 (inc p&p) made payable to J. W. McKenzie to the following address: J. W. McKenzie, 12 Stoneleigh Park Road, Ewell, Epsom, Surrey, KT19 0QT
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo