Sunday, 1 May 2016

Book Review: The Good Murungu: A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected by Alan Butcher

I always liked Alan Butcher as a cricketer. He was a committed character who always gave of his best and, as such, was a player with who fans could easily identify.

After his coaching role at Surrey ended, the book reveals his struggles, but a phone call from Dave Houghton alerted him to the possibility of coaching the Zimbabwe national side. Whatever your impression of Zimbabwe's fragmented cricket and nation, it will only be heightened by this extraordinary read, which documents Butcher's three madcap years in charge.

At times it is like reading a good review on Trip Advisor, but that is far from a criticism. For the many who have never been, nor considered going to a troubled country, it highlights the beauty and the issues of that country, while giving a compelling account of why working in it can be so frustrating and difficult.

After forty years as a player and coach, little could really prepare Alan Butcher for what he encountered, including accusations of racially motivated selections and conflict with cricket bosses and selectors alike. His efforts to improve team morale and technique were not always met positively and slowly but surely, even his natural positivity was drained.

Despite it all, his tenure saw Zimbabwe's first Test win in six years, which was followed by a one-day series win, as well as victory over neighbouring South Africa in a tri-nations tournament.

It is a compelling read, one which should be essential for all cricket fans. It left me sad that a once proud and talented cricketing nation has been consigned to international also-rans, but is a book that I enjoyed from start to finish.

Well worth opening your wallet for!

The Good Murungu: A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected is written by Alan Butcher and published by Pitch Publishing. It is available from all good book shops, priced £12.99

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