A History of Cricket in 100 Objects by Gavin Mortimer
|A History of Cricket in 100 Objects by Gavin Mortimer|
|Reviewer: Iain Wear|
|Summary: As with his previous book on football, there are aspects here that didn't sit quite right, but this is an ultimately interesting and comprehensively researched book.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: June 2013|
|Publisher: Serpent's Tail|
|External links: Author's website|
A History of Football in 100 Objects was a brave attempt, but was slightly let down by being a little too clinical. Being a game imbued with passion, the book lacked this which took some of the edge off it. Cricket, whilst inspiring passion amongst devotees, has a slightly more laid back following; one that may work better in this format. That said, being a game that has been played for five centuries, narrowing it down to just 100 objects is no less an undertaking than for football.
Once again, there is a lot of history going on here, with the first object being taken from the mid-sixteenth century and the last discussing the issue of Twenty20 cricket and the potential effect it may have on test match cricket if it continues to grow unchecked in the way it has over the last decade. The catalogue of objects used here run from items as small as a pen or a diamond stud earring to as large as the Lord's Pavilion. There are items as seemingly insignificant as a little dirt, to those of vital importance such as the laws of the game or the Ashes urn.
Some of the objects selected are a little obscure, such as a leather jacket for the Hansie Cronje scandal (he used to wear one) and some are a bit too obvious and unimaginative, such as a photograph of a specific event. But each one of them is well explained and the importance of each in the history of cricket, whether it advanced the game or brought it into disrepute is not in doubt by the end of each segment.
There were a couple of objects that annoyed me slightly, however. In the introduction, Mortimer suggests that he's only using inanimate objects instead of people. However, using W. G. Grace's beard and Merv Hughes's moustache as objects to discuss those particular men seems to be straining at the boundaries a little. Whilst both were iconic examples of facial hair, they didn't strike me as being inanimate objects in the traditional sense and I find it hard to believe that Mortimer couldn't find something a little more in keeping with his aims in discussing them, as he did with the aforementioned diamond stud earring for the section on Shane Warne.
Mortimer's tone is once again more in keeping with a lecture at points, particularly when he is discussing the ineffectiveness of the sport's governing bodies. Both the MCC and the ICC come in for a little flak on more than one occasion here and whilst such points are well made and seem both relevant and often deserved, Mortimer does become a little more strident when talking about them. This doesn't quite seem in keeping with the subject at hand, especially for someone who has spent many a Summer listening to the soft, soothing tones of the Test Match Special commentators on the radio – a subject which also merits its own object.
As with the football book, however, the success of the undertaking is ultimately impressive. There may be a couple of aspects that the reader may send for a DRS review, but for the casual fan of the game that I am, there was much I didn't already know in here. The research and knowledge on display here is comprehensive and whilst the tone might not be quite as hushed as the game sometimes demands, this is a very readable book, particularly with the short, sharp chapters that resemble a Twenty20 innings more than a test match one. As with his earlier attempt, this would make a great gift for a cricket fan for the novelty value alone.
For another book on cricket generally, try The Cambridge Companion to Cricket by Anthony Bateman and Jeff Hill (Editors) or for the best cricketing biography I've seen, give Jack Hobbs: England's Greatest Cricketer by Leo McKinstry a look. You could Shelves A History of Cricket in 100 Objects next to Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan. You might appreciate Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things by Steven Connor, if you care to think about it.
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You can read more book reviews or buy A History of Cricket in 100 Objects by Gavin Mortimer at Amazon.com.
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