Ashes 2011 by Gideon Haigh | book review

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If you spend much time reading about cricket, you will know Gideon Haigh. He is the cricket writer whose arse is most frequently kissed by other cricket writers.

But why is this? Why is Gideon Haigh so highly regarded? Having just read Ashes 2011, the answer is fairly clear. He thinks about what to say and then he thinks about how he says it.

It’s not writing that blows you away. It’s not like a Shahid Afridi innings. It’s more like an Alastair Cook knock, even if that sounds a bit unflattering. What we mean is that good decisions are made repeatedly and there’s never any laziness.

You won’t get anything faintly resembling a cliché from Haigh, so your mind never wanders. Everything is expressed simply, but in a fresh way. This keeps you hooked, no matter what the subject. The proof of this is that while books about cricket series aren’t our bucket of chicken, we read this far quicker than most we’ve reviewed.

To prove Haigh’s consistency, we’ll pick some pages at random and we guarantee that there’ll be a decent turn of phrase on each one.

Page 21: “Above all, where is the spin to come from, the incumbent Nathan Hauritz suddenly looks like an outcumbent.”

Page 139: “Trouble proverbially comes in threes, and so it has for Ponting: batting, bowling and fielding.”

Page 201: “When he’s in the mood, he just stays and stays and stays, his objective of long-term settlement somehow expressed in the repeated furrowing of his guard, where he might be intending to plant a row of beans.”

In writing terms, it’s just doing the basics well. But that’s surprisingly rare.

As for the subject matter, you know the events, so you’re looking for insights. Haigh isn’t a full-time cricket writer, so he’s perhaps less influenced by the press box, which can only be a good thing. He has his own opinions – a belief that young Australian players such as Phil Hughes are being overhyped being one that recurs.

The book is actually a compilation of his columns and articles and it’s interesting to read them with the benefit of hindsight. As we said earlier, books about past sporting events don’t particularly appeal to us, but we still recommend this because Haigh’s writing makes subject matter far less important. He could write a book about differential pressure sensors and it would be readable. Buy it from Amazon.


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  1. I have read many of Haigh’s articles on cricinfo, and I cannot help but think how wonderful it’d have been if he had concentrated his efforts to producing a book about, say, the history of our wonderful game, instead of spending countless hours trying to tell people the BCCI is an evil organization.

  2. Oh, I just checked his wikipedia page – his list of books seems to be much longer than I expected.

    1. We know what you mean by that, but it works pretty well in this instance because there’s a narrative linking them all.

    2. Ok, I’ll have to take your word for it though.

      I’m a bit remidial when it comes to reading. It’s probably why I like coming on here.

      It’s taken me nearly 3 months to finish Larwood’s biography Price lent me.

    3. Did I lend that to you?

      Was I drunk or hungover at the time?

      What a stupid question. Of course I was

    4. Yeah, you were very hungover.

      I’ve got Beyond a boundary as well. At this rate you’ll get that back sometime in 2015.

  3. The writing’s great, but for me it’s all about maximal gloating. A gloat is a post-event activity by definition – you can’t gloat about something while there is still uncertainty about the outcome. But neither is it possible to fully gloat in the past tense. For truly profound gloating, you have to exist somewhere inbetween. Books like these put you straight in the right place. You finish reading about Day 3, the author wonders what might happen on Day 4, BUT YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS ON DAY 4, AND IT’S BRILLIANT.

    Sometimes, actually reading about Day 4 spoils it.

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