Friday, 29 April 2011

Book review - Cricket Wonderful Cricket by John Duncan

Thanks to everyone for your continued support which has apparently made this blog number seventeen in the Google world rankings. I still struggle to get my head around the success of something that I started as a bit of fun, but I'm nonetheless very grateful.

Last week I received an e mail from John Blake Publishing asking if I would be interested in doing a review of a new cricket book and as someone who has read a few thousand over the years I was delighted to say yes.

I am pleased to say that the book did not disappoint. The premise - getting well-known cricket fans from culture, business and politics to talk about the game - is a sound one and the list of those involved is impressive. From the Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Michael Parkinson, Rory Bremner and Tim Rice through Chris Tarrant, Ainsley Harriott, Bill Wyman, Alan Davies and many more, those involved share their anecdotes and memories of the game in a book which is a joy from start to finish.

Part of the success is that the author, John Duncan, is a former broadcaster and cricket commentator and manages to put the interviews across in a way that makes you feel you are sitting across a coffee table listening to them. We all have our cricket stories but the author has managed to extract some pertinent and amusing stuff from his 'cast list.'

So we hear of the celebrity who was responsible for ex-Derbyshire player Fred Rumsey losing four teeth in a charity match ("you haven't lost them Fred, I've got some of them here...") and the former England legend who thought John Alderton was Graham Gooch. There are tales of Shane Warne showing kids how to bowl leg breaks in the nets when he could have mingled with the rich and famous and of the Duke of Edinburgh agreeing to play a charity match and being given out lbw first ball! How many of us would like to have been Ainsley Harriott, playing cricket with Lance Gibbs and Clive Lloyd in his back garden as a child, or Nicholas Parsons, with a claim to fame of having clean bowled Denis Lillee?

There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, from Allan Lamb's tendency to malapropisms "be careful with him, he doesn't take any pensioners" to David Lloyd's encounter with Jeff Thomson's fastest delivery in the nether regions "everything that was supposed to be inside the box had come outside - through the air holes." Ouch!

It was fascinating to hear how Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber once wrote a thirty minute mini operetta called Cricket, which was staged before a small private audience including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. There were plans to record it but several tunes were used in The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love. The hero's big song in Cricket was All I Ask of Life,sung as the batsman is being battered by a West Indian fast bowler. It later became All I Ask of You in Phantom of the Opera and did rather well...

In short, this book is 267 pages of pleasure. A word too for the publishers who have done the author proud. I have lost count in recent years of the number of books ruined by poor proof reading and people not doing their homework. John Wright's amusing autobiography disappointingly contained several references to his Derbyshire team mate "Fred Swarbrick" and such carelessness must irk others as it does me. Another I read recently had so many mis-spelt names that I was compelled to write to the publishers in frustration.

This book is a perfect union between an author who knows his subject and can write, coupled with a publisher who does all the rest to the highest possible standard. Given that you can pick this up on Amazon for £6.59 (£9.99 in book shops) there's a big incentive to buy, especially with all profits going to the Lords Taverners charity.

Excellent job Mr Duncan. The best cricket book I've read this year.

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