Martin Chandler | 9:53am GMT 31 December 2023
I began this piece six months ago with a gag on, in that I was able to announce that at long last Gulu Ezekiel was turning his undoubted talent to the writing of a biography of an Indian cricketer of the distant past. Back then I wasn’t however able to give out a name, but I now can. Salim Durani: The Prince of Indian Cricket, published by Rupa, is due around April time.
And I will stay in India for a few titles I missed last time round. Two are autobiographies, from Pravin Amre and Amrit Mathur, Two more I have recently reviewed are an anthology, Indian Cricket: Then and Now which is edited by Venkat Sundaram, and The Great Indian Cricket Circus : Amazing Facts, Stats and Everything in Between by Joy Bhattacharjya and Abhishek Mukherjee.
Those Indian titles not yet reviewed are The Lords of Wankhede: Tales Between Two Titles by W.V. Raman and R. Kaushik and Of Spins, Sixes and Surprises: 50 Defining Moments in Indian Cricket by Shom Biswas and Titash Banerjea.
Moving back to the UK by far the best selling cricket title this festive season would doubtless have been Stuart Broad’s autobiography, Broadly Speaking – if anyone who has bought the book or received it as a Christmas gift would like to review it for us please get in touch.
Fairfield Books published three books in recent weeks, the long awaited biography of Sir Frank Worrell by Vaneisa Baksh, Ricky Ellcock’s Balls to Fly and Kit Harris’s intriguing looking title, From Lord’s To The Fjords, a look at cricket in Iceland. Moving into next year I believe David Tossell’s retrospective look at the 1974/75 Ashes, appropriately titled Blood on the Tracks, is still on schedule. Tossell has, I know, another project in mind, but about that one I am sworn to secrecy.
Pitch have, as always, a number of titles due in the early months of 2024.The first is a re-release, and I believe a genuine second edition, of Barry Nicholls The Establishment Boys, an account of the other side of Australian cricket during the two seasons of World Series Cricket.
Out at the end of February is a new book from Richard Sydenham, Cricket’s Hard Men, sub-titled The Toughest Characters from the History of Cricket. Pitch say the book takes an innovative look at character, psychology and mental health in cricket to produce a fascinating study of the sport’s toughest players of all time. Richard Sydenham consulted prominent ex-cricketers and broadcasters before studying this select band of 22 cricketers from around the world.
At the same time Jonathan Campion’s book, Getting Out, is due. I made reference to this one in July, but it is well worth another mention. Pitch describe the book as telling how Ukraine’s cricketers escaped from Russia’s invasion in February 2022, including first-hand accounts of the war. As the foreign-born players fled the bombings, the team’s Ukrainians took themselves to the front line. The book also holds many light-hearted stories about the surprising and eccentric history of cricket in Ukraine.
A week later and another title appears from the pen of Richard Sydenham, Almost Invincible, an account of the the 1984 series in England which resulted in a 5-0 defeat for the home side at the hands of Clive Lloyd’s West Indians. It was a remarkable summer, as is the realisation it will be the fortieth anniversary of what, in a rather different age, was described as a ‘blackwash’.
A couple years ago Giles Wilcock’s excellent biography of Yorkshireman George Macaulay appeared, and that is followed now by a very different book. Forgotten Pioneers: The Story of the Original English Lady Cricketers tells the story of the world’s first professional women cricketers. They played a series of exhibition matches in Britain throughout 1890 and 1891 before collapsing amid allegations of fraud in the latter season and subsequently have been forgotten by history – until now.
Pitch published an excellent book by Matt Appleby last year, and have another interesting one from him this year. Lost Cricket Stickers is the inside story of the 1983 cricket season, locating lost heroes and discovering their journeys with the help of a Panini sticker album. This is a warm, funny and insightful tale of tracking down a fondly remembered player from each county, each with his unique take on how cricket has changed.
The very earliest cricketing publications, dating back to the mid 18th century, were poems, and again in March Pitch publish Bob Doran’s Cricket in Poetry. Subtitled Run-Stealers, Gatlings and Graces the book is a history of the genre and as a result breaks new ground.
And then there is an autobiography from Steve Perryman (the Warwickshire and Worcestershire seamer and not the rather better known Spurs midfielder), written with the assistance of Brian Halford. This one deserves the full blurb, which is; As a bowler with Warwickshire, he was tipped to play Test cricket for England. An ambition that was killed by coaches who tampered with his bowling action. With the result that, within months, he went from an England contender to free transfer. Steve recalls that time of his life with no bitterness – just humour and gratitude at playing when county cricket was filled with the world’s best. If his derailed career was a test, a much bigger one lay ahead.
“A Cricket Man” is more than a cricket book, it is also a love story and a life story. Perryman became a fine bowling coach, helping Warwickshire to the Championship title. Always beside him, inspiring him was his beloved wife Carol. She was his cornerstone… until their lives were turned upside down when Carol was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away in 2018. Perryman recounts that heartbreaking time in his life, in powerful chapters where his sadness is underpinned by strength, and heartbreak is accompanied by joy at having shared so much of his life with Carol. An ultimately uplifting story is complete when Steve finds a new love.
To digress for a moment George Dobell and Azeem Raffia’s It’s Not Banter, It’s Racism: What Cricket’s Dirty Secret Reveals About Our Society is now due for release on 25 April. The long awaited account will hopefully prove to be worth the wait. It will not however be the only book that deals with that subject to appear in 2024, nor even the first, as Pitch publish From Azeem to Ashes by Jon Berry in March
The sub-title of Berry’s book suggests it will cover similar ground to Rafiq and Dobell; English Cricket’s Struggle with Race and Class. That said the blurb from Pitch suggests perhaps not; the Azeem Rafiq affair made cricket ask itself tough questions about race and class. From the end of Joe Root’s reign to the T20 World Cup and on to Bazball’s triumph at a breathless Oval, this book takes an unsentimental yet affectionate look at how cricket can face up to these challenges. It is written for lovers of the game.
Finally from Pitch the end of March will see the release of Batting For Time: The Fight to Keep English Cricket Alive by Ben Bloom. Described as the exploration of a sport in existential crisis. Lucrative global franchise leagues threaten to leave behind an English cricket structure rooted in the Victorian era. Pitting traditionalists against modernisers, and romantics against pragmatists, the need for change has sparked a host of civil wars to keep the sport alive I fear the book may not make for the happiest summer reading.
After their strong end to 2023 there are as many as half a dozen new books or booklets due from Red Rose Books. Most eagerly awaited, by me anyway, is a biography of JT Tyldesley by Stuart Brodkin, a book that I first mentioned a decade ago.
There are also plans for two more books from Stephen Musk. The first is a biography, Shore Whipped In… Charlie Shore. Primarily a left arm spinner Shore was from the well known cricketing nursery of Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire and played briefly for both his home county and Lancashire in the 1880s before, and this will doubtless be the main focus of Musk’s efforts, bowling with great success for Norfolk between 1895 and 1901.
The other Musk title is The Forgotten Philadelphians: the story of the Philadelphia Pilgrims tour in England in 1921. As Bart King’s biographer Musk is well placed to write this account of what was the last significant tour of a Philadelphian side to these shores, and even then there were, unlike the tours of 1897, 1903 and 1908, no First Class fixtures, and no JB King.
Staying with North America Red Rose are also publishing a new book by King’s ‘other biographer’, Steve Smith, this one about the visit of the 1878 Australians to the USA and Canada following their tour of England of that summer.
Martin Tebay himself has one title due, Someday, he’ll be a better bat than ever I was, which is about the younger of the Roe Green Tyldesley’s, Ernest, more particularly his performances in the Minor Counties Championship in 1906/07/08 – one small spoiler is that, surprisingly, Bradmanesque they most certainly were not!
Another author published regularly by Red Rose is Gerry Wolstenhome and his Essex by the Sea: One Hundred Years of Lancashire v Essex at Blackpool 1924 – 2023 will appear. This one won’t be entirely happy reading for Lancastrians as of the ten fixtures between the counties at Stanley Park Essex have won three with Lancashire coming out as victors just twice, the other five contests being drawn.
Finally from Red Rose will be A Schoolboy’s Cricketing Summer by Roy Cavanagh MBE, which will doubtless transport its reader back to the early 1960s.
Staying in Lancashire I expect three books from Max Books. Firstly another long awaited biography, or at least memoir, this time of 1930s Lancashire captain Peter Eckersley. After that expect a book of cartoons drawn by Neville Cardus, never previously published, plus some other artists cartoons of Cardus. Finally there is a new book on the first and only Olympic Cricket Match of 1900 due to be published to celebrate the return of cricket in the 2028 Olympics.
Further north Richard Miller in Dundee has a number of projects in various stages of preparation, although precise timing is uncertain. Definitely appearing will be A History of the First Scottish Cricket Union 1879 – 1883 by Neil Leitch, and A Complete History of Perthshire Cricket Club by William Sievwright. On the ‘to be completed soon’ list are Reminiscences of R W Sievwright 1930, A History of Arbroath United Cricket Club and The Lost Cricket Grounds of Dundee.
The ACS have three titles currently scheduled for next year. The first, in February, is Cricket Professionals of Oxford by Michael Stimpson, George Brown’s biographer. This book tells the story of cricket professionals from Oxford, from the early days to the present era, covering not only those born in the area but those who came to live there. Charting the development of the game in the city, it is not only about players, but about those who earned their income from the game in other ways such as groundsmen, coaches, promoters, umpires, retailers etc.
In May there will be a statistical book, South Africa Non-Racial Scores compiled by Keith Walmsley. It will contain the full scorecards of the 223 three-day matches played between 1971/72 and 1990/91 by non-racial sides in South Africa, and which were granted First Class status by Cricket South Africa in 1996. This will be the first time these scores have ever been brought together in print. The book will also include an extensive records section relating to these matches.
May will also see a History of Cricket in Suffolk by Simon Sweetman. The book looks at rather more than the history of the County Club over its several reformations, but also at when and where cricket has been played in the county by clubs, schools, works teams and country houses and the development of locally based cricket. Not just the gentlemen’s game, but the game of schoolboys, agricultural labourers and eventually women. The author also explains how the social and political changes have impacted on the game since the middle of the eighteenth century.
CricketMash have three books definitely planned, two by authors they have published previously, and one by someone new. The recognised names are Pradip Dhole, whose A Baker’s Dozen will feature thirteen pioneering events in cricket history, and Mayukh Ghosh’s Played Down will be a compilation of the unsung but pivotal performances in the history of the cricket World Cup. The new face is Rosa Burlong who has penned an unusual book with the working title Legal Eagles, Star Struck and Death Squads: A Book of Cricketing Elevens, which leaves a great deal to the imagination.
What of Cricketweb favourite David Battersby? I am still much looking forward to his monograph on the the single Test fast bowler from the 1960s, Farooq Hamid, and I believe David’s continuing research into the various Pakistan Eaglets touring sides of the 1950s and early 1960s will mean that another booklet on that subject will the light of day at some point in the not too distant future.
And what can we expect from Australia? As always the Cricket Publishing Company work on many projects, but which of those will emerge in the first half of next year? Due imminently are Between Wickets 10 and Paul Sheahan on Keith Stackpole in the Cricketers in Print series. Beyond that a tribute to Brian Booth will surely emerge, and Jack D’Arcy’s autobiography will be with us to coincide with his birthday in April.
Beyond that the runners and riders for the next six months are two more Cricketers in Print, Lyall Gardner on John Watkins and Bill Francis on Richard Collinge. We should also see John Benaud’s book on the 1972/73 series between West Indies and Australia, Bill Francis again on the New Zealand historian Don Neely and Ronald Cardwell and Paul Rodgers on Arthur Watson, a man from Victorian times who the authors believe umpired more matches in New South Wales than anyone else, before or since.
Other Cricket Publishing Company titles due in the coming months are a history of the Sydney branch of the Australian Cricket Society, and a book about Gordon Cricket Club and its players during World War Two. Another I sincerely hope will appear is James Merchant’s Arthur Mailey – The Bohemian Cricketer.
Elsewhere in Australia my enquiries have not thrown up too many new titles, although one I am certainly looking forward to is Max Bonnell’s A Long Way To Go. The book will appear initially in a limited edition of 50 copies before, a few weeks later, paperback and ebook versions are released. It is an account of the first ever series between Australia and West Indies, in Australia in 1930/31, a tour that took place against the backdrop of the great depression and saw the end of the tragically short Test and First Class careers of Archie Jackson.
Another book that is approaching completion is Peter Lloyd’s follow up to his superb biographies of Warren Bardsley and Monty Noble. This one is a comprehensive story of the life of Charlie Macartney, and will once again be a limited edition that has the same ‘no expense spared’ qualities of its predecessors.
News of one title from New Zealand has reached me. Any day a collection of pen portraits by Dylan Cleaver is due for release. Modern New Zealand Cricket Greats is certainly one that will fill in a few gaps in the literature of the game and more particularly the stories of the best of its current and recently retired players.
Returning to the UK for a few more books that are on their way one that will certainly be worth reading is Bill Edrich by Leo McKinstrey, due for publication by Bloomsbury in July. Already the author of acclaimed biographies of Jack Hobbs and Geoffrey Boycott then given that Edrich led such a full life this one will surely be well worth investing in. Another biography is, hot on the heels of Vaneisa Baksh’s book, one of Frank Worrell by Simon Lister, this one published by Simon and Schuster.
Bucking the trend this summer we had two books on the Ashes, one from Gideon Haigh and one from Lawrence Booth and Nick Hoult, but I don’t suppose we will see any more contemporary accounts of Test series before the 2025/26 Ashes. We do however have another three retrospective accounts to look forward to as well as Blood on the Tracks, that being Richard Thorn’s Champions: the West Indies Cricket Tour of Great Britain 1966, the summer that England won the FIFA World Cup and, if there were ever any doubt, Garry Sobers convinced many that he was indeed ‘The Greatest’.
Also due to be revisited are, for by no means the first time, two series when England regained the Ashes. The first is the famous victory under Len Hutton in Australia in 1954/55, and the other the home success in 1926 when, after four draws, a new captain (Percy Chapman) led England to a famous victory at the Oval, built on the bowling of 21 year old Harold Larwood and 48 year old Wilfred Rhodes, and a historic opening partnership between Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe. The authors are respectively Richard Whitehead and Stephen Brenkley, and the publishers Bloomsbury and Fairfield.
There are not so many historical books around this time, but I have managed to locate one, released I believe tomorrow, which will be of particular interest to Essex supporters. Nineteenth Century Essex Cricket is by Richard Cooper.
And finally, a book that uses as its title a very minor variation on what previously used by the great John Arlott. Echoing Greens: How Cricket Shaped the English Imagination by Brendan Cooper is due to be released by Constable at the end of May. In such turbulent times the publisher’s blurb makes for pleasant reading; The importance of cricket to the English imagination has been immortalised in the art and literature of a thousand years. It is a story that is known in part, but one that has never before been explored in full.