Sunday, 12 April 2015

Book Review: Summer's Crown - the story of cricket's County Championship by Stephen Chalke

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am parochial when it comes to my cricket. Yes, I am a cricket fan per se, and will happily watch people playing it on a beach, but county cricket is my thing. I follow England, but given the choice between a strong Derbyshire or national side, I will take my county every time, thank you.

I still regard the County Championship as THE competition and, that being the case, I was always likely to enjoy this book by Stephen Chalke, one of my favourite cricket writers, on its history from its origins in the late nineteenth century.

Yet to say that I like this book in no way does it justice. Indeed, even in the face of tough opposition from some of the author's other work, this is a tour de force. Seriously, it is that good.

The only negative I could think of is that reading this in bed will leave you in danger of looking like Mike Gatting after Malcolm Marshall rearranged his nose in the Caribbean a few years back. It is a weighty tome, but it could not have been done in such detail in any other way. It is lavishly illustrated, with many photographs I have never seen before, such as that of William Whysall's funeral cortege going through Mansfield, where I went to school. The photographs of old grounds and players are well researched and complement the text well and the overriding feel of the book is one of quality.

The text? As I expected it is outstanding, coupling relevant facts from the decades and years in question, with just the right number of anecdotes to keep it light and interesting, as well as informative. I have been reading cricket books for closer to fifty years than forty, yet came across facts and stories that I had never seen before. Some of these stories can only have been unearthed by someone who has chatted to old cricketers, as they are some way removed from the formulaic rehashing of old tales picked up from numerous books over the years. The author's love of cricketers, as well as cricket, shines through and makes every turn of the page a joy.

The statistics are sufficiently detailed and the layout of the book is attractive. A big plus is the font size, perfect for those, like me, whose vision is some way removed from being 20/20 and who might still struggle if they ate industrial quantities of carrots.

I have not yet finished it, but know that as soon as I do I will want to start again, probably picking up something that I missed the first time around. At £20 it isn't the cheapest book on the shelves, but given its quality it is actually very good value. As we embark on another season of county cricket, this is a book that you could keep in your match day bag, to bring out when the weather is inclement and you need something worthwhile to help you pass the time.

Of all the cricket books I have read over the years, this is probably my favourite. Seriously, it is that good, so do yourself a favour and buy one while stocks last.

Be assured, this one is set for 'classic' status.

Summer's Crown: the Story of Cricket's County Championship is written by Stephen Chalke and published by Fairfield Books. It is currently on Amazon for £20 and is also available from all good book shops.


mark said...

Looks like it could be a decent read. Are you a Wisden fan Peakfan?, I ask because I noticed a large batch arriving at Waterstones the other day, and was aghast at the £50 fee. Used to love them when I was younger, but how they warrant that price is beyond me.

Peakfan said...

Used to get them mate but havent bought one for years. Too much cricket now and a lot of it of less interest to me. My wife got me one for Christmas a few years back but I struggled with the font. Its all on line now anyway so I couldnt justify £50 on any level

Anonymous said...

If you're prepared to wait to the end of the year, you can pick them up for a tenner from the Book Club.
If you're a continuous collector, it's very economical. If you're impatient, not so good!

Chris H