Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan

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Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan

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Buy Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Sport
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A well researched and very detailed book on the art of spin bowling, which gets a little bogged down in tehcnical aspects and lacks a little on the personalities.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Yellow Jersey
ISBN: 9780224083256

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Although they may lack the bang and bluster of the fast bowlers, the three leading wicket takers of all time in Test cricket are all spinners. They may look calmer in their run ups and action, but the effect they put on the ball can be incredible. Rather than blasting a batsman out, they bamboozle them. That's why Amol Rajan thinks them deserving of a book all of their own, and Twirlymen is the result of that belief.

Twirlymen is a history not just of the bowlers that confounded the batsmen, but also of the balls they used to do it with. As if borrowing from the spinners' dual weapons of drift and spin, Rajan manages to present his subject both chronologically and thematically. He begins in the 1770s, talking about how one spinner resulted in the creation of the wicket as we now know it and takes us to the present day and the two men who currently top the list of wicket takers; Muralitharan and Warne. Whilst doing so, he tends to focus mostly on a particular form of delivery that was most popular during the period in question and frequently refers forwards and backwards through history to other proponents of them.

Along the way are some delightful interludes, showing us how it is done. On these pages, are diagrams and descriptions of some of the balls spinners utilise. These show bowling positions and the flight of the ball, to the extent that a novice would gain enough to be able to pick up a ball and at least give them a try.

Despite having been a Twirlyman himself, Rajan is not looking at them through rose-tinted spectacles. Admittedly, he does enjoy the fact that Twenty20 cricket has not resulted in the predicted death of spin bowling, but he doesn't fail to point out that the wicket was possibly created in response to a spinner's disgust. He is not blind to the faults of spinners; Warne's lifestyle, Muralitharan's action, the vast girth of a number of spin bowlers.

Unfortunately, there is too much technicality and too little colour here. In talking of the spinners, Rajan talks more of the balls they bowled, describing bowling actions and the spin and drift of the ball in far more detail than he does of the men themselves. This, added to the interludes with diagrams of how it is done makes this feel more like a manual than anything else. If you're looking for a manual, as a coach or player, that's no bad thing, but for someone seeking a little bit more rounded, Twirlymen doesn't quite deliver.

Admittedly, there are some amusing stories and mentions of careers and how they can be interrupted, but such is the high degree of detail here, it's a tough book to read, particularly for the novice. For the cricket fan and perhaps even more so for the aspiring spin bowler, the detail would be welcomed. But for the more casual cricket fan, it's not quite readable enough to be entirely successful. Indeed, this is a book whose readership and subject seem to be one and the same. It's well written and the research and the level of detail are impeccable but, unlike the sport it is based upon, it fails to entertain. This book is a ball that pitches on a perfect length, but doesn't spin enough to deceive the batsman and results in neither runs nor wickets.

For something a little more general, but also a little more readable, A History of Cricket in 100 Objects by Gavin Mortimer is worth a look.

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Buy Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Twirlymen: The Unlikley History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers by Amol Rajan at Amazon.com.

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