Category: Cricket books | reviews and recommendations (page 2 of 3)

Reviews of the latest cricket books.

Is Kevin Pietersen’s book worth buying?

We didn’t get a review copy of KP: The Autobiography. Apparently it was already getting enough attention without a review appearing here in about six months’ time.

We wonder whether we need to read it. The two-page email from Rahul Dravid about how to play spin that features within it sounds interesting, but as far as we can make out, the book’s mostly all about the run-up to his sacking (KP’s, not Dravid’s – who’d sack Dravid from anything?). We felt like we’d pretty much got all of that information after an hour on Twitter yesterday.

Andy Flower’s a mood hoover. Alastair Cook’s a company man. Matt Prior refers to himself in the third person as ‘the Big Cheese’, saying things like “the Big Cheese has earned some beer tonight” (pretty sure that last one’s either a lie or Prior was saying it with great irony, but it is quite funny all the same).

What else?

The interesting stuff that might cause us to read the book falls into two categories.

Stuff about cricket

Like the Dravid email or the observation: “We are on the road for 250 days a year, we wear our England kit on most of these days … It never, ever ended.”

We’d like to know more about this sort of stuff, but is there really any room for it in a book that seems to spend most of its time focused on fall-outs of the recent past.

Accidental Partridge

I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – there’s a book that’s worth a read. But we also love the accidental Partridges pro sportsmen are prone to. Apparently at one point Pietersen says that most England players don’t have many friends internationally “whereas I have friends in literally every single international team,” which is a brilliantly petty piece of one-upmanship.

Sadly, we’d be surprised if his ghost writer, David Walsh, allowed much of this to get through. Having someone filter his thoughts probably means that even if Pietersen doesn’t have the brain mechanism that stops him saying such things, his words generally won’t make it as far as the printed page.

So, in summary: No, we’re probably not going to read Kevin Pietersen’s book. Now that all the best lines have been published on the nation’s sports pages, we’re just not sure there’d be enough in it that’s new to us

Start the Car: The World According to Bumble – book review

We finally got round to reading this. Oddly, this hasn’t clarified whether it’s worth reading or not.

A friend who follows cricket fairly closely but who at the time hadn’t watched much of Sky’s coverage, once asked us about David Lloyd. He’d got the impression that Bumble was this self-consciously zany caricature – a distant cousin to the Fast Show’s Colin Hunt, perhaps. We said: “No, no no. You’ve got it all wrong. Lloyd’s a decent commentator who is capable of being genuinely, genuinely funny.”

And that’s the problem with this book. Put Lloyd in a staid setting, commentating on a quiet afternoon session, and he can be hilarious, but build a book around the quirkier parts of his character and you lose that contrast. Look at the cover. It’s clear how they’re trying to sell this.

Some sections are good. You get some decent insights into the players he coached when he was with England as well as a few nuggets about his fellow Sky commentators. These passages read more like a traditional autobiography and that probably would have been a better approach, the humour shining when set within that more traditional tone. As it is, humour’s the focus, but Lloyd is only really funny in the right context.

We’re not sure whether it’s that the book doesn’t know what it is or whether it’s a byproduct of the deliberately chatty tone, but some of the digressions are really awkward. He’ll be talking about something relatively serious and then it’s almost like a siren goes off to signal playtime for the next three paragraphs. That then leads to further anecdotes and that’s the way things go until the end of the chapter.

This sounds like we’re contradicting ourself, but there’s a big difference between a traditional autobiographical tone dotted with humour and a traditional tone which completely disappears in favour of a wholly humorous tone. The latter is unsettling for the reader.

It’s like reading two different books – a feeling that is only heightened by the subject matter. He talks earnestly about Test cricket in the middle and then devotes a chapter towards the end to his mates down the pub. They aren’t cricketers or anything. They’re just blokes he knows from the pub.

This comes across as being a worse review than it should because the last few chapters are the weakest ones and so that’s the taste that you’re left with. There is certainly some good stuff in here. It’s really just a matter of how tolerant you are to the rest of it.

Should you so desire, you can buy Start the Car here.

Tutenkhamen’s Tracksuit and other Christmas cricket books

A quick bit of housekeeping before the second Test. We received a review copy of Alan Tyers’ new book a few weeks ago and haven’t yet said anything about it.

On a related note, we’ll freely admit to not having read all of the cricket books, so if you’ve any recommendations to make for Christmas, stick them in the comments and we’ll add them to the bottom of the article. It might prove useful to someone, somewhere.

First, the review

And we’d better start with a disclaimer. We met Alan Tyers once and he was an absolute gent. It was on the one occasion we’ve been to Lord’s and it mizzled all day (not that this is particularly relevant).

The premise of Tutenkhamen’s Tracksuit is hinted at by the subtitle – The History of Sport in 100ish Objects. The book is supposed to be an exhibition catalogue for a display at the National Museum of the History of Sport, Orkney. Every item gets a double page spread with a description of what it is and why it is significant, accompanied by an image. It’s worth noting that the whole thing looks ruddy amazing. It’s full colour with art produced by regular collaborator, Beach.

The objects themselves are incredibly varied – and not just because it’s about sport as a whole, not solely cricket. With a few, like Lance Armstrong’s school report, you can see at least part of the joke coming in advance; but others, like ‘seminal hard rock iconography’ are far more opaque at first glance.

That’s the joy of this book, for us. Tyers’ last cricket-themed book, Crickileaks, suffered a little for being obvious in places, but Tutenkhamen’s Tracksuit doesn’t make the same mistake at all. Flicking through it, you find you have to read, otherwise you won’t really understand ‘Iron Mike’s iron’ or ‘the Shola amoeba’.

There is cricket here, but to be honest the entries about other sports are probably more enjoyable because you’re less likely to see jokes coming (although we enjoyed ‘the Barmy Army knife’ regardless of predictability). Having broader material opens up a lot more possibilities and perhaps elevates this above WG Grace Ate My Pedalo in some ways – although we recommend that book too.

WG Grace Ate My Pedalo isn’t the only Victorian-themed book by Alan Tyers, incidentally. He’s also written Gin & Juice: The Victorian Guide to Parenting as well as the impeccably titled Who Moved My Stilton?: The Victorian Guide to Getting Ahead in Business. That might be of relevance if you trust Alan to write well, but need to buy something for some idiot who doesn’t like cricket.

In summary, Tutenkhamen’s Tracksuit is excellent and is also sized to double as a thigh pad should you be in need of one. You can buy it from Amazon here.

Christmas cricket book recommendations

As chosen by our readers. You may or may not be able to find further information about each of them in the comments below.

Chasing Sachin by Adam Carroll-Smith | book review

We’re pretty sure we were meant to get this review up in time for Christmas. Hopefully Adam won’t mind. From reading his book, he seems like the kind of guy who’d understand failure to complete a relatively straightforward task. That happens quite frequently in Chasing Sachin.

Not that Adam’s main aim was straightforward. He wanted to bowl one delivery at Sachin Tendulkar – apparently simple, but ridiculously ambitious in reality. This goal comes about because one of his mates says that when they were children Adam never managed to bowl him while he was doing a Tendulkar impression.

In every quest there are obstacles, but rather pleasingly the obstacles in Chasing Sachin don’t involve being kidnapped by terrorists or having to travel halfway round the world at great expense. They are more about having to combat hangovers, being afraid of bees, or not knowing how to use a satellite navigation system. It’s easier to identify with the protagonist in a book like that.

Aside from occasional references to Ronnie Irani’s mediocrity, there is relatively little cricket in this book. The sport is really just a backdrop and that’s a good thing in our eyes. It’s a story about bickering with friends and family and spelling email addresses incorrectly. It’s kind of pointless and vaguely about cricket. Unsurprisingly, we enjoyed it rather a lot.

Read chapter one here or buy it from Amazon here.

Winning the Ashes Down Under by Andrew Strauss with Simon Hughes

One of our jobs is to read all the cricket news. As a result of this, cricket books covering recent events aren’t all that appealing to us. When we’re presented with familiar information, our brain tends to drift off and do something else, leaving our eyes to do the reading unsupported.

Still, if anyone knows anything about the last Ashes series that we don’t know, it’s Andrew Strauss, so we thought we’d give this a go. It does suffer a little from the fact that he’s still playing and so can’t really lay into anyone or make any particularly jaw-dropping revelations, but it’s still a decent read.

It’s helped by the fact that it’s a good story. We don’t mean that in the one-eyed ‘go England’ sense. We mean that it’s the story of a team that goes from being bowled out for 51 by West Indies – which is where the story starts – to recording a pretty damn amazing victory in a place where most England teams have died whimpering. That’s the climax. There’s also a slightly off-kilter prolonged epilogue that covers the World Cup, which is less joyous, but equally enlightening.

However, the story’s well-known, so the extent to which you enjoy this book will probably depend on how closely you followed the goings-on leading up to and during the Ashes series. We followed that period pretty intently and we still got a fair bit out of this book. It was nothing major, just a slightly different view of a few of the players based on pretty minor anecdotes. We like that stuff though. It fleshes out the characters we see on TV.

Finally, if you don’t buy it, this book is worth finding in a book shop so that you can see the astonishing picture of a mustachioed Kevin Pietersen in the player profiles section at the end. It’s probably the best mugshot we’ve ever seen.

Buy Winning the Ashes Down Under from Amazon

Crickileaks by Alan Tyers

Do you know Alan Tyers’ work? You can probably make your own mind up about this book if you do. Crickileaks is what you would expect from him.

The fake diary is Alan Tyers’ thing. He’s done them for Cricinfo and The Wisden Cricketer (now The Cricketer) many times before and that is what this book is, a collection of fake player diaries.

It’s basically a device that allows him to make fun of some aspect of that player’s character. Our favourites are when the subject is a little unexpected, like the Nawab of Pataudi or other historical figures such as Bradman, who is portrayed as being cricket-crazed, oblivious to others and a little bit autistic.

Less good are those that target the obvious. Harmison gets homesick, Freddie likes a drink etc. It doesn’t feel like the effort’s been put into those. We were also a little disappointed that each diary is only two pages long. That’s okay for some subjects, but others seem to fade away just as they’re getting going and the book can feel a bit flimsy as a result.

Overall, it’s good. WG Grace Ate My Pedalo is better, but Crickileaks is probably worth getting, if only for the two pages detailing the extent of Douglas Jardine’s hatred of all things Australian. That poor koala will never be the same again.

Buy Crickileaks from Amazon

Ashes 2011 by Gideon Haigh | book review

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.

WG Grace Ate My Pedalo | book review

You, King Cricket reader, will love WG Grace Ate My Pedalo. We are pretty much certain of that.

You may all be very different, but you all have one thing in common – this website. Alan Tyers’ book is not a million miles away from what you might expect to see here.

It is basically a spoof 1896 issue of The Wisden Cricketer, but better than that sounds. Imagine what the Victorians might think of modern cricket – that’s basically the vibe.

Favourite sections are many and include an advertisement for the ‘Indian Territories Pre-eminent League’; 24 hours in the life of the Reverend ML Hayden (“Pray to God for a bit, but this degenerates into a sledging contest”); and a delightfully demented work of sporting fiction about vampires at Lord’s – part bloodsucker drama, part Victorian cricket story.

WG Grace Ate My Pedalo also features our favourite ever use of the word ‘harlot’. Buy it from Amazon. It is, frankly, mint.

A Fan’s Guide to World Cricket | book review

A Fan’s Guide to World Cricket is basically a book with which you’ll idly plan holidays. It’s full colour, looks amazing and makes you wish you were overseas even more than you already do.

It covers 55 cities, all of which feature an international cricket ground. You’ll basically leaf through the book, see a picture of somewhere amazing and then think about when you might visit. Unlike other travel books, you’ll also know that you’ll be able to watch cricket on this holiday, so that saves a bit of time.

For each city, there are facts about the ground, a bit of info about the place, average weather conditions and three suggestions of non-cricket things to do. It’s not a wealth of information, but it’s a book you browse, rather than one you use for in-depth planning.

It seems well researched. We checked what we knew and sized up the Manchester page. The caption “Manchester has a rich music history and attracts top bands such as Coldplay” worried us immensely, but the main text namechecks The Buzzcocks and Joy Division among other bands, which is pretty good for a book like this.

Irrelevant Joy Division fact: We were feeding a friend’s cat in Macclesfield the other day when a tourist asked us if we knew where Ian Curtis’s street was. We did, because we’d just been feeding a cat there. “Probably going there for the same reason, eh?” he guessed. Being as we’d been feeding a cat and he’d come to ghoulishly gawp at a house where a man killed himself, you’d have to say he couldn’t have got that more wrong.

Anyway, A Fan’s Guide to World Cricket is a book you’d be happy owning, although we’re not quite sure who’d be moved to go out and buy it.

It might be a good present though. You can buy it from Amazon if you’ve someone it’ll suit.

When Freddie Became Jesus by Jarrod Kimber | book review

First, a disclaimer: we went to Jarrod’s wedding. Set against that is the fact that he’s Australian, so we probably average out as being impartial.

People always talk about the swearing and the sex references when they talk about Jarrod’s writing. Jarrod himself often plays up to this, but he’s doing himself a disservice in doing so. It makes it sound gimmicky, when it’s nothing of the sort. The truth is, he’s a sharp writer and the occasional ‘fucken’ is just window dressing.

When Freddie Became Jesus is about the 2009 Ashes, but it’s best when it’s not about that. The parts about the action itself, while energetically-described, are the weakest parts of the book, because the series is in the past now. It’s far better when he can draw conclusions that still ring true.

He deflates Australian pundits who talk up once-in-a-generation cricketers by pointing out that there were no fewer than five once-in-a-generation cricketers in the 2009 Ashes squad and for someone who would hate to be called politically correct, Jarrod can’t bear the one-dimensional look of the Npower girls:

They’re such great role models for young girls coming to the cricket for the first time: be white, dye your hair blonde, remain under size-12 and apply fake tan and you too can be popular at the cricket.

There’s also a nice running joke about Phil Hughes’s inane contributions on Twitter. “Need to dig deep today.”

The book builds to a climax with the series going to the last match, the wedding in the offing and Jarrod’s media exposure going through the roof (or at least into the loft).

If you buy When Freddie Became Jesus, you will enjoy it. We can’t state it much better than that.

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