The Cambridge Companion to Cricket by Anthony Bateman and Jeff Hill (Editors)
|The Cambridge Companion to Cricket by Anthony Bateman and Jeff Hill (Editors)|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Impressively in-depth collection of scholarly essays on this great sport. Spanning from its development in England to the Indian Premier League, there's something here for all fans.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 306||Date: April 2011|
|Publisher: Cambridge University Press|
Cricket has an international reach which can be rivaled by few other team sports, and this book looks at the history of the game going from England around the world to the other major Test-playing nations. While it's packed full of initially rather dauntingly dense prose, none of the 17 chapters are particularly long – most weighing in at a little under 20 pages – and the writing styles of all of the various authors are very accessible.
In a book like this, everyone will find their own particular favourite pieces, and most will find some they're not quite so keen on. For me, they were nearly all worth reading – I confess that the chapters on Brian Lara and CLR James didn't hold my attention quite so much as the rest, perhaps because I had less interest in the subject matter – but the stand-outs were editor Anthony Bateman's own opening 'Cricket Pastoral and Englishness' and Patrick F McDevitt's 'Bodyline, Jardine and masculinity.' The first of the pair is a beautiful study of the game's development, while the second is an extremely evenly-balanced take on one of the most famous ever series, looking at why the bowling tactics employed by England captain Douglas Jardine and the conflicting views on whether it was, or was not, 'cricket'.
Elsewhere in the book, there are profiles of some of the game's top stars, including Sachin Tendulkar and Don Bradman, the game's biggest developments, such as the Kerry Packer-led World Series Cricket and the current Indian Premier League. They're uniformly well-written, they're packed full of information, but they're short enough to be able to read fairly quickly and due to the variety of different topics it's an easy book to pick up, read one or two chapters of, and put down.
If there's a criticism I have of the book it's that there seems to be a couple of surprising omissions – while Bradman, Tendulkar and Lara are obvious choices, for a book published in England to have little in-depth writing on Ian Botham and WG Grace, to reduce Len Hutton's role to 2 fleeting mentions, and to omit Geoff Boycott altogether, seems rather surprising. Having said that, no doubt if any of them had featured more heavily another chapter would have had to have been dropped and there's such a great variety here that there's no obvious candidate to be replaced without taking something away from the book.
Overall, the really serious cricket fan will be bowled over by this book (sorry!) while casual readers will almost certainly find at least a few chapters on their specific interests really compelling.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: Sports fans who've enjoyed the book but are looking for rather lighter reading would be well advised to try the superb We Could be Heroes: One Van, Two Blokes and Twelve World Championships by Tom Fordyce and Ben Dirs.
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