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Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket By Stephen Fay and David Kynaston

Release date: 18th April, 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport

List Price: £20.00
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Readers intrigued by the second part of this engaging book’s title may wonder whether master communicators Arlott and Swanton once shed any light on its whereabouts. Arlott died in 1991 and Swanton in 2000, aged 93, but it appears that, frustratingly, neither man ever revealed where the game’s soul was buried.

If the ‘where’ is a difficult question to answer, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ are considerably more straight forward.

It could be argued that following the advent of the one-day game (the Gillette Cup in 1963 and the John Player League six years later), English domestic cricket began its slow, inexorable journey towards the sporting shadows. Today’s cricket is all about internationals, be they money-spinning Test series, overlong ODI series, World Cups, or the IPL, events and tournaments that have made a handful of cricketers moderately rich while the domestic county game has withered on the vine.

Messrs Arlott and Swanton were never bosom buddies; instead they tolerated each other, but each man saw the writing on the wall, understanding that one-day matches could save cricket and attract a new cohort of younger supporters, though neither envisaged a time when one-day contests would effectively supersede the county game.

The pair disliked the steady creep of bad behaviour on the field of play and neither man was a fan of intimidatory bowling. Swanton felt the only way to outlaw a constant diet of bouncers was to legislate against them; Arlott was more circumspect, preferring the introduction of protective clothing and headgear.

This is a wonderful read for those of us who recall cricket as it once was and remember how Arlott’s Hampshire burr and Swanton’s mellifluous tones captured fans’ attention as the pair chronicled the sport’s high point in print and on the wireless.

Arlott’s description of the glorious summer of 1947 could, at a stretch, be applied to the state of domestic cricket between the end of World War II to the early 1970s: “We had seen cricketing feats of such happy gallantry that we had, at times, been glutted with richness…This, we thought, is something we shall never forget. We were right.”

No longer; who knows where the soul of cricket now resides?

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