On Cricket By Mike Brearley
Release date: 05th October, 2018
Our Price: £13.00
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Book reviewers often approach collections of previously published commentaries, newspaper articles and essays with dread. Theyâre mindful that once a well-known author adds his name to the front cover, he risks being accused of producing a cut-and-paste tome, either to coincide with a forthcoming celebration, or to attain shelf-space prominence during the pre-Christmas book-buying period.
Former England cricket captain Mike Brearley could be accused of neither motive, not least because in On Cricket, he frequently applies the benefits of time and accumulated wisdom to reflect upon, or develop, opinions first aired up to twenty or more years ago, although much of his bookâs content has never been published.
Brearley has âcontextualisedâ and âat least tampered withâ each piece, to update them and ensure their relevance; as his own editor, he has made an excellent job. His relaxed, dextrous, style achieves what most authors aspire to do: make their narrative sound as though theyâre speaking directly to the reader.
But On Cricket is not the assembled musings of an affable, storyteller-at-the-bar type. Brearleyâs effortless manner, an attribute he invariably applied while playing professional cricket, resembles that of a well-travelled uncle reciting a series of engaging tales from his time in a far-off land.
Despite his avuncular nature, however, he is not afraid to air his opinions, be it on cheating and corruption, the Ashes, or cricket commentators. Indeed, the bookâs largest section is reserved for a selection of eight essays dealing with cricket and race.
The section reserved for the often idiosyncratic wicket-keeping cohort is a personal favourite. Itâs easy to agree with Brearley when he contends that the quality of wicket-keeping has deteriorated over the past half century; the upshot, he declares, are too many âkeepers who âlook like fielders with gloves on.â
The statement exempts the four wicketkeepers he has most admired.
John Murray, who played for England between 1961-67, is portrayed in a short essay entitled Elegance, while the âbelligerent and pugnaciousâ Aussie wicket-keeper, Rod Marsh, such a thorn in Englandâs side, is described as âgenial and modestâ off the pitch. Alan Knott, (âutterly modest, and equally free of false modestyâ) and the great Sri Lankan âkeeper Kumar Sangakkara complete the quartet.
Brearley isnât boasting when he prefaces a tale about Knott with, âI remember an innings in the Fourth Test against India, in Bangalore, in 1977â¦â, itâs just that his cricketing (and life) knowledge stems from the fact that heâs âbeen there, done thatâ. His cumulative experience, humour and honesty make for a compelling read. Letâs hope for a second volume of On Cricket.
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