New Books – An Overview for January 2023
Another year passes, but despite the doom and gloom predicted for various aspects of our great game new cricket literature keeps on finding its way into print, and from there into the possession of those of us with no discernible ability to resist the temptation of acquiring it. Long may that remain the case!
So what did I miss last time I prepared this overview? Not too many I am pleased to see, although I did miss two excellent biographies of West Indians from the late 1950s and early 1960s, Joe Solomon and Wes Hall.
The Gloucestershire Museum, through Roger Gibbons, produced four interesting booklets. Two, on CB Grace and George Pepall, are essentially biographical. Another was on the Bristol Challenge Cup and another on holiday matches played during World War Two.
Richard Miller in Scotland produced three more of his Scottish Cricket Memories booklets, this time on Selkirk, Fraserburgh and Perth. Much further down south Adrian Gault published an interesting little booklet dealing an incident from the New Zealand leg of the famous tour of James Lillywhite’s men in 1876/77.
From Australia have come Ken Piesse’s ABC of Australian Cricket, Greg Manning’s contribution the Cricketers In Print series on the subject of Jack Walsh, and Mike Sexton’s splendid Three Summers of Sobers. Rick Darling’s autobiography, Bush to Buckingham Palace, and Tim Paine’s The Price Paid are two autobiographies. There have also been new books from Roland Perry, and David Somerville.
Which leaves just three titles. Two that we have reviewed are the excellent quiz book Yes, No, Wait, Sorry! and David Collins’ Iconic Elevens. The third is a timely tribute to Elizabeth II that looks at the Test cricket she saw over the 66 year period between her first and last attendances. The Queen at the Cricket, written by Kit Harris, was published by Fairfield Books just a few days ago.
Moving on to what 2023 holds for us there is, of course, one particularly interesting title. It is rare for a cricket book to hit the bestseller charts but, for once, I suspect Azeem Rafiq and George Dobell will accomplish that. It’s Not Banter, It’s Racism: What Cricket’s Dirty Secret Reveals About Our Society is due to appear in May.
Rafiq hit the headlines in September 2020 with allegations of racism at his former county Yorkshire. There have been attempts, partially successful, to reflect the controversy back in Rafiq’s direction, something which is a great shame albeit, given the divisions within our society, hardly surprising. Sad too is the fact that despite his allegations being vindicated Rafiq has, in many ways, still been the loser in what has ensued. He deserves better and, I hope, his book will achieve that.
There are two other stand out titles the first being the long awaited autobiography from Mike Brearley, Turn Over the Pebbles: A Life in Cricket and in the Mind, which I confidently expect to emerge from Constable in June. The second is The Tour: The England Cricket Team Overseas 1877-2022 by Simon Wilde a book which, I suppose, is in many ways a companion volume to his last book, England: The Biography, that appeared in 2019.
In terms of other regular contributors I will start, for no particular reason beyond alphabetical order, with the ACS. The Association’s regular yearbook and Second XI annual will be appearing as will two booklets, on Sussex and Northamptonshire, to bring to a close a series of booklets which will now cover the grounds on which all eighteen First Class counties have played.
In addition there will be one title each from the Association’s established Lives in Cricket and Cricket Witness series, and its new Cricket Tours series. First to appear, in February, will be Andrew Hignell’s Mr Wooller’s Legacy. A History of Cricket at Colwyn Bay and in Denbighshire, written by Andrew Hignell and David Parry. This tells the story of the long heritage of cricket in North Wales and in particular how ‘Mr Wooller’ (Wilfred’s father) helped establish Colwyn Bay Cricket Club and its First Class cricket ground.
The other two should appear in May. No Picnic,The first MCC tour of India and Ceylon in 1926/27 by Jeremy Lonsdale is the second of the Cricket Tours series. The title relates to Maurice Tate’s comment that the tour was not exactly a picnic. With access to many important contemporary papers, including those of Mervyn Hill who kept wicket on the tour, I am told the book provides a fascinating social and political background to the trip, as well as describing the challenges met on and off the field over the six months of the tourists’ travels.
Finally the Life in Cricket is the seldom remembered Horace Snary, authored by Jonathan Farmer. Surviving action in the First World War, Snary appeared in 183 first-class matches, all for Leicestershire, and with his slow-medium bowling took 419 wickets. With an exceptional economy rate of just 1.72 runs per over he provided support to senior bowlers such as George Geary. The book describes the career of an interesting cricketing stalwart and his life after he left the county game.
From A for ACS it is on to B for Battersby and one of our favourite self-publishers, David Battersby. Just out and to be reviewed very soon (by which time the book will almost certainly have sold out) is David’s book on the Pakistan Eaglets in the 1960s. For this coming year it will be the Eaglets again for David, further information having come to light about the tours from the 1950s and, still in Pakistan, something on the subject of Majid Khan is in the offing.
C is for CricketMASH, who have a few projects ongoing, and an eclectic mix they are too. The Afro-Guyanese poet John Agard (Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2012 and BookTrust’s Lifetime Achievement Award November 2021) is doing a compilation of his cricket poetry with a detailed introduction and commentary for the poems provided by Arun Sengupta. The title is Prospero, Caliban and Other Glorious Uncertainties.
In addition, after their success in making Megan Ponsford’s wonderful book on the 1935/36 visit by an Australian team to India available to a wider audience, they are doing the same with the autobiography of the Pakistani writer Qamar Ahmed, More than a Game. The book has been published in Pakistan but until now has not been available worldwide.
Also due is a book by a cricket writer that doesn’t sound much like a cricket book, Arun Sengupta penning a new Sherlock Holmes book in the series that started with his Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. CricketMASH are also republishing, in a new avatar, an old, out of copyright cricket book which is a gem but is rarely available nowadays. Sadly I cannot say which book this is, although I have already spent some time speculating, but will keep my thoughts to myself, just in case I am right.
C is also for Cricket Publishing Company, so it’s off to Australia briefly. Two of their books that I had hoped might arrive at the end of 2022 were a contribution from Mike Whitney to the Cricketers in Print series, and a biography of 1960s Aussie Test batsman Paul Sheahan, so hopefully they will appear early in 2023. It would however seen that both are likely to be behind a biography of Doug Freeman that is due to be launched during England’s forthcoming series with New Zealand. For the uninitiated Freeman was a New South Welshman who, at 18, made two undistinguished Test appearances for New Zealand against Douglas Jardine’s 1932/33 side. His First Class career over before he turned 20 Freeman’s story will doubtless be largely concerned with his life outside the game.
Not for the first time in recent years Pitch will be the most prolific publishers of cricket books next year with a number of interesting looking titles scheduled. The first, due in February, is How To Be A Cricket Fan: A Life in 50 Artefacts From WG to Wisden. The author is the established journalist and writer Matthew Appleby and, from the blurb, the book would appear to be an autobiography.
March will see the first of two biographies in 2023 from the pen of experienced biographer Mark Peel. Gilly: The Turbulent Life of Roy Gilchrist, the West Indian fast bowler who had a brief and controversial Test career in the late 1950s and whose on field and off field lives were as tempestuous as each other. Later, in July, Peel’s Yorkshire Grit: The Life of Ray Illingworth, will be the first posthumous look at one English cricket’s finest captains.
All-India and Down-Under: Peace, Partition and the Game of Cricket by Richard Knott is due from Pitch in March. It is a book that I know little about but the title strongly suggests its subject is the game in India in the immediate aftermath of World War Two.
One aspect of Pitch’s business model that is particularly gratifying is the opportunities they have given to first time authors in recent years, but they are clearly able to attract the leading writers as well as is evidenced by their publishing Scyld Berry’s next book in April. I don’t know a great deal about the subject matter of Disappearing World: Our 18 First Class Counties although the title certainly indicates that it will be important albeit perhaps not happy reading for lovers of county cricket.
May will see another book from John Broom, like Knott an author of a number of previous books on matters military, albeit his book will be his fourth on cricket in as many years. From Darkness Into Light: The Australian Imperial Forces XI 1919 is one that very much follows on from his 2019 study of the game through the Great War, Cricket in the First World War; Play Up and Play the Game.
The last new Pitch publication that I am currently aware of is the autobiography of Ricky Ellcock, written with the assistance of Dave Bracegirdle. Ball to Fly: The Autobiography of Ricardo Ellcock should be an interesting if in many ways sad story. Bajan by birth Ellcock was a highly promising young fast bowler at a time when England didn’t have very many of those and he was picked to go the Caribbean in 1990/91. Sadly for Ellcock injury ruined his trip before it had started and had ended his cricket career by the age of 26.
I now have to make a confession, which I may not have had to do had I prepared this feature, as I usually do, in good time. As it is I have to accept that, having lost emails sent to me on their forthcoming publications, I have rather less to say on the forthcoming titles from Red Rose Books, Max Books and Richard Miller.
Red Rose I do recall have a biography of the former Lancashire, Gloucestershire and England batsman of the 1960s, Geoff ‘Noddy’ Pullar, due soon, and I feel sure that Martin Tebay’s book on Lancashire’s 1904 season must be very close to appearing. That apart however all I can recall is mention of a new title from Stephen Musk, though I cannot recall what.
Turning to Max Books their previously mentioned biography of Peter Eckersley is still on the pending list, and if I recall correctly a new booklet from the Neville Cardus Archive is due. As for Richard Miller he is picking up the clown cricket baton where Max Books and Eric Midwinter left off with a booklet on a Scottish fixture he has discovered details of.
The Sussex Cricket Museum has recently published a weighty tome, by local cricket historian David Boorman. A History of Cricket at Knepp Castle and the Parish of Shipley sounds like a book with a narrow local appeal, which I suppose in a sense it is. But the book features the involvement of four Test players and many county players so is certainly of wider interest. A rather slimmer booklet will appear in the New Year on the subject of Jemmy Dean, a fast round arm bowler who was at his peak in the late 1840s and 1850s.
Of South African interest is an autobiography from former captain Faf Du Plessis. Books by South African cricketers are hardly ten a penny so Faf: Through Fire is certainly welcome, although its appearance does leave me wondering whether the likes of Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis are ever going to go into print. From a different generation a slim biography/appreciation of Hugh Tayfield has just been released. Written by Sanjit Misra The Inscrutable Master: Hugh Tayfield does not purport to be a full biography, but is at least something on the subject of a man who deserves to be much better remembered than he is.
Of particular interest in Australia will be Warne in Wisden, an anthology edited by Richard Whitehead and due for release in May, a few weeks before an Ashes series that will no doubt prompt many to reminisce at length about the man who was, many would argue, the finest exponent of the mysterious art of wrist spin that the game has seen. I am also aware of a couple of Australian titles, a retrospective account of the 1910/11 visit of South Africa from Rick Smith, and an autobiography of David Warner that is being written by Peter Lalor, who assisted Tim Paine with his autobiography, but I don’t believe either title is likely to appear in the near future.
And finally to India, where I haven’t found a great deal, but do see that former national coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar is about to publish Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian Cricket Team is due out in the next few days. Also just out is Gulu Ezekiel’s 16th book, Myths and Mysteries: Indian Sport Behind the Headlines.
If the title sounds familiar, that is because it is, the book being a follow up project to Gulu’s 2021 book, Myth-Busting. There are seven chapters to Gulu’s new book, four of them on cricketing subjects. All are inspired, of course, by inaccuracies that, by dint of being repeated so often, have come to be accepted as fact. The cricketing subjects revolve around the life and times of Iftikhar Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi Snr, the disappearance in 1985 of Cota Ramaswami, the Madras Test against West Indies of 1949 as well as a selection of Anglo-Indian myths, including the question of whether Colin Cowdrey was born in Bangalore or Ootacamund.
As for Gulu’s non-cricketing chapters, and bearing in mind my experience with Gulu’s Cricket and Beyond I expect these to be every bit as interesting as the cricketing ones, so I had better give a little detail on those. One concerns hockey star Dhyan Chand, who helped India to gold medals at the Olympic games of 1928, 1932 and 1936, the story of athlete Norman Pritchard, India’s first Olympian, and a chapter on Davis Cup tennis where, no doubt, double international Ramaswami will earn another mention or two.