Sunday, 13 July 2014

Book Review: Lives in Cricket: Donald Carr - Derbyshire's Corinthian by John Shawcroft

Donald Carr was an all-rounder in the truest sense. An aggressive batsman who scored quickly and attractively; a slow left arm bowler who could remove the best of batsmen and a brilliant fielder anywhere. He was also Derbyshire's captain between 1955 and 1962, club secretary between 1959 and 1962 and secretary of the MCC from 1962 to 1974, besides managing England on three overseas tours.

He was a useful footballer too, playing in two Amateur Cup finals with Pegasus as a winger or inside forward and this excellent book, by local man John Shawcroft, pays appropriate tribute to a man who served both Derbyshire and English cricket well.

It is the latest in the worthy Lives in Cricket series, published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. Mr Shawcroft is an established writer on Derbyshire cricket and his interest in and knowledge of the subject shines through in an excellent book.

That Donald Carr chose the less than salubrious surrounds of the County Ground, when there was an opportunity to play for Gloucestershire or Kent in the 1950s, is remarkable. For the remainder of that decade he played for and captained a side that had as good an attack as any in the country, only being short of a batsman of genuine class and high average to enable it to do better than challenge for the County Championship.

That side felt that a score of 250 would enable them to win more games than it lost, though as one stalwart of that era told me, sometimes they struggled to do better when conditions warranted otherwise. Carr led the side with flair and panache for a number of years, even if his declarations erred on the side of the cavalier on occasions. He was well aware that in Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin he had as good an opening attack as there was in the country, with Derek Morgan and Edwin Smith providing admirable support.

Carr played only twice for England, on the 1951-52 tour of India, when he captained the side, in the Madras Test, to their first defeat in that country. His aggressive approach at the crease perhaps cost him a few points on a batting average that might otherwise have warranted greater recognition, but those who saw him recall a batsman who generally entertained. In 1959 he scored 2,292 runs, a county season aggregate that is likely to remain as a record for all time. Meanwhile his fine hands in the legendary Derbyshire leg trap, with Alan Revill and Derek Morgan,  are still discussed in hushed tones.

His career as administrator included the poorly handled D'Oliveira affair in 1968, although it would be unfair to lay this at the door of Carr, very much a junior man at the table during discussions and decision-making that were, at best, messy. He did much good work during his tenure and worked long hours, also taking pride in the first-class career of his son, John, for Middlesex. He retains a keen interest in the fluctuating fortunes of his beloved Derbyshire, writing to congratulate the club on their 2012 second division title success.

This is a worthy addition to cricket's literature, well-researched and well-written. It deserves to be read and to be successful.

Lives in Cricket: Donald Carr - Derbyshire's Corinthian is written by John Shawcroft and published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, priced £14. It can be purchased from them at sales@acscricket.com or by calling 01529 306272. Their website can be seen at www.acscricket.com

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