Category: Cricket products (page 1 of 7)

Books to read at the cricket? Herding Cats: The Art of Amateur Cricket Captaincy by Charlie Campbell

Wormsley Cricket Ground, ‘Words and Wickets’, Actors v. Authors, 2014
The steward in hi-viz races towards me in disbelief as I stroll towards the pavilion in vest, shorts and flip-flops. His disapproving roar has blown over the deckchairs reserved for bums clad in mustard cords.

Edwardian writes

Charlie Campbell is the captain of the Author’s XI. I’ve seen these roosters a couple of times at the Wormsley ‘Words and Wickets’ festival.  In 2014 there was a tent displaying the latest Jaguar cars and the food was provided by Jamie Oliver. I marvelled at the burgers which were about half the size of a cricket ball. We brought our lunch with us.

Campbell’s book is an entertaining foray into the joys and headaches of captaining an amateur side.  I thought about an in-depth review then thought better of it.  While leaning on Brearley’s book, there are many funny anecdotes involving the Authors.  Campbell side-steps names until the end of the book but his XI have featured Sebastian Faulkes (you know the chap, he writes in French for the hell of it then transcribes it all back into English and apparently has time for cricket), Ed Smith, Tom Holland and other scribblers.

Maximilian Hilderbrand favourably reviewed Herding Cats in Literary Review but mentioned from his own experience a batsman who scored a ‘sumptuous half-century’ while high on magic mushrooms. I’d like to hear more from Max. The review in The Cricketer was a bit more guarded.

I enjoyed the book a lot.  It’s a great insight into managing the Authors.  However, I have to say that a part of me wondered whether the book would have been published at all if Campbell wasn’t a literary agent and connected to all the right people. Despite Campbell’s occasional protestations at how difficult it all is, the acknowledgements could be summed up by John Le Mesurier, “It’s all been rather lovely.”

Herding Cats on Amazon.

Have you tried to read summat while at a cricket match? Let us know how it went at king@kingcricket.co.uk


Life Beyond the Airing Cupboard by former Sussex captain John Barclay – a holiday reading review by Ged Ladd

I read Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard in September 2009, while Daisy and I were on a short holiday in Burgundy. We had joined Daisy’s sister, Lavender and her husband, Antonio Ordóñez for a few days, then we stayed on for an extra day or two before returning home.

Lavender and Antonio looked at us quizzically before they headed off when the answer to their question, “what are you going to do after we leave today?” was, “we’re going to the Bresse service station for lunch”. This is not such a crazy thing to do; I should imagine it is the only service station in the world that serves the indescribably wonderful Poulet de Bresse; at affordable prices too.

We also wanted to see Bourg-en-Bresse; I found a wonderful music shop there and bought a good few CDs, including Bach Cello Suites and some cool Parisian jazz.

Then back to the Moulin d’Hauterive for a game of crazy tennis on the hotel’s unbelievably dilapidated tennis court; then some reading around the pool.

As you can see, the hotel was not very busy in September.

Strangely, several years later, Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard came up in conversation, reported on Ogblog – here, with Bill “Wild Bill” Taylor, at Trent Bridge.

Life Beyond The Airing Cupboard by John Barclay – click here for Amazon link.

**** 4 Stars = Highly Recommended.

(The Ged Ladd Cricket Book Review scale: From 1 Star = Don’t Bother to 5 Stars = Essential Reading).

Have you read a cricket book on holiday? Tell us what it was, where you were and give us a star rating. king@kingcricket.co.uk


Cricket computer game graphics through the ages

Last week we suggested that maybe the golden age of cricket videogame graphics had passed; that maybe player likenesses would from now on always be too convincing and insufficiently amusing.

Let’s take a look back on how things have changed, starting with the most recent funny graphics and working our way backwards from there.

Saeed Ajmal in Don Bradman Cricket 14 on the PC

What we especially like about this is that it very much looks like a real person, but very much not like Saeed Ajmal.

Saeed Ajmal is a joyous little ball of sunshine, whereas this bowler has clearly just heard that his pet fish has leukemia.

Gavin Smythe is hit in the balls by a Chaminda Vees delivery in Ashes Cricket 2009

What we like about this is that Gavin Smythe has been hit in the balls. We also like that all the players’ names are slightly wrong.

Slightly wrong faces plus slightly wrong names equals great amusement. Ashes Cricket 2009 was also a perfectly adequate game.

Cricket Revolution, which was out at roughly the same time, also scored well when it came to made-up player names.

Sri Lanka batsman in EA Cricket 2007 on the PC

We would still consider this game to fall within the golden age of cricket videogame graphics. When you get a player close-up, you do actually have somewhere up to half a chance of recognising the player.

This, to us, seems the optimal level of clarity.

Sri Lanka batsman in EA Cricket 2000 on the PC

At this point, players were all-but-unrecognisable. However, they did move like puppets playing proper cricket strokes, so that was still pretty funny.

Sri Lanka batsman and inexplicably fleeing Australia bowler in Brian Lara 99 on the PlayStation

We like this one because WHY WOULD THE BOWLER BE DOING THAT?

Sri Lanka batsman in Brian Lara Cricket 96

Could be anyone. Anyone right-handed, at any rate. Anyone right-handed who had played for Sri Lanka before the game came out in 1996.

Robin Smith in Graham Gooch World Class Cricket on the Amiga

Clearly Robin Smith. Or at least it was in the full version of this screenshot which featured his name in writing.

Big head, Robin Smith.

Honestly No Idea in Ian Botham Cricket on the PC

We think this one fits in here, chronologically, but we’d argue that these are the shittest graphics of all – worse than those that follow.

But that’s funny too, so a perfectly acceptable route to take by the developers.

Geoff Marsh in Allan Border Cricket on the Commodore 64

Is that his mouth?

Bill Athey in Graham Gooch Test Cricket on the BBC Micro

You may believe that the ball has been edged behind, but actually the keeper has large, square, jet black nads (possibly gloves).

The end

Because it’s 10pm and we can’t be arsed trawling through any more YouTube videos for what is, after all, an almost entirely pointless nostalgia trip of benefit to no-one but ourself. And not really of benefit to ourself now that we come to think about it.

Still, it’s more interesting than reading about Ben Stokes losing sponsorship deals, right?


Ashes Cricket to be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

What do you love most about cricket videogames?

If you answered “the deep customisation options” then good news – the developers of the upcoming Ashes Cricket have been listening to you.

“Time and time again players tell us the feature they love most about our cricket games is the deep customisation options,” said Big Ant CEO, Ross Symons.

The good news is that Ashes Cricket is basically an updated version of the actually-very-good Don Bradman Cricket, which we reviewed in 2014 (and here’s a bit more information about changes made for Don Bradman Cricket 17).

The bad news is that they’ve employed “photogrammetry technology” to capture the players’ likenesses.

We have no idea what this technique entails, but the screenshots seem to imply that this is the moment when videogame cricketers cease to be visually amusing.

Look at Jonny Bairstow, for example.

Very disappointing.

When we look at that, we think, “there’s Jonny Bairstow,” rather than, “ha ha ha, look at Jonny Bairstow” – which would have been our reaction to seeing him in any game before this one.

And look at Nathan Lyon. This Nathan Lyon arguably looks more like Nathan Lyon than Nathan Lyon does.

The other bad news is that the game’s fully licensed, which means that Michael Stirk won’t be opening the bowling for Australia and Jimmy Understone won’t be fulfilling the same role for England. Presumably that’s where the deep customisation options come in.

Ashes Cricket is out in November. You can already order the PS4 and Xbox One versions from Amazon, while the PC version will appear on Steam nearer the time.


Cricket Captain 2017 – PC review

Cricket Captain – formerly International Cricket Captain – has been updated pretty much annually ever since it first came out in 1998. It’s always been a must for fans and also for administrators. However, we haven’t actually reviewed it in ages, so we thought we’d better address that.

Let’s deal with the obvious question first.

Can you pick Kevin Pietersen as England’s spin bowler and bat him at nine in a Test match?

Of course you can! He didn’t complain or anything. We took this as definitive proof that they could have kept him around after all and it wouldn’t have been a problem. Maybe he wanted to bat at nine and bowl more all along. Maybe that’s what they should have done.

That said, we were slightly taken aback when KP took 5-98 in his first match back in the side. We were far happier with his feisty lower order 41 off 37 balls, which was exactly the kind of thing we were looking for when we selected him.

Can you restrict the game to just Test matches?

Yes! It may not sound much, but this is perhaps the single most important tweak we can remember in the history of the game. In early versions we’d spend hours honing our Test side only to effectively sabotage its chances by half-arseing all the one-dayers. Playing meaningless one-day series was boring, but if you skipped them all your best players lost form.

You can also choose to focus wholly on one-day cricket, T20 or any combination of the three formats. This holds true at both domestic and international levels.

Are the graphics any good?

Do you care? Do you honestly care? This is a strategy game. It’s built on numbers, tables and graphs.

The graphics are fine, albeit far less amusing than those seen in Ashes Cricket 2013 with its ominously waddling umpire and his spectacular effect on fielders.

The menus are clear enough; the main highlights are maybe a bit dated looking, but perfectly serviceable; and Hawkeye is pretty much the same as on TV (although you can’t review decisions, unless we’ve missed something).

Are the numbers, tables and graphs any good?

Yes. Even those who are unconvinced by the worth of beehives, Manhattans and pitch maps in TV coverage will see their value here. They give you a means of deciphering what is and isn’t working in your attempts to bowl out the opposition.

Consult the graphics and you can quickly and easily see where the batsmen are scoring runs and where chances have been created.

Probably worth bowling a bit straighter at Imad Wasim.

Can you play the 1998 series between England and South Africa?

Yes.

Donald v Atherton; Dominic Cork deliberately being an arsehole to Brian McMillan to get him out; Darren Gough suffering from the wild shits; and good old Angus Fraser.

We’re not saying the game simulates all of these things, but you can play the series and fill in the gaps using your imagination.

Any flaws?

We’ve spent long hours playing this game over the years, so there’s an element of nit-pickery about this, but we’ve always thought that it was slightly caught between two stools.

There’s the strategy game, where you pick players, train them and combine them to make your team; and then there’s the tactical game, where you set your field, decide where to bowl and make your bowling changes.

The two are obviously linked, but there are times when the tactical side can feel like time-consuming micromanagement that’s keeping you from discovering whether your long-term masterplan will come to fruition. Sadly, autoplaying matches is still greatly counterproductive, so it isn’t really an option.

Does it feel realistic?

This is often a stumbling block for cricket games. When you’re forever being bowled out for under 100 or you can’t help but rack up 500-plus every time you bat, gameplay suffers, regardless of whether the opposition is making similar scores.

We haven’t done a full 20-season test run-through, but from what we’ve seen so far, the game performs well in this department. Batsmen approach Twenty20 with the correct boundary-hitting intent and Test totals have taken in everything from whopping declaration totals to fourth innings skittlery on a deteriorating pitch.

Worth the investment?

It’s available via Steam for £18 at the minute, which isn’t too sizeable an outlay in this day and age. If you haven’t played it before, it’s definitely worth a go. If you have, you may find the latest version resolves a few of the irritations from some of the older instalments.

We’ve found T20s particularly good because you can come up with a system and the games are of manageable enough size that you can watch more of the highlights and get a bit more of a feel for how things are panning out.

There are mobile editions too, although we haven’t played those. Let us know if you have and what they’re like in the comments section.


Don Bradman Cricket 17 is the best cricket action game there’s ever been (+ video)

We’ll freely admit that we haven’t actually played Don Bradman Cricket 17 yet, but our keen deduction skills have allowed us to reach the conclusion that is the best ever cricket action game anyway.

Our reasoning, in short: Don Bradman Cricket 14 was the best cricket action game at the time of its release, they’ve improved it a bit since then, and nothing else has come out in the meantime.

Sure, the developers could have utterly sabotaged what they already had, but that’s pretty unlikely. It’s just not how things work. Annual videogame updates generally mean ‘new database’ and ‘improved menus’. They’re not actually new versions in any conventional sense.

You can trust us on this. Once upon a time we used to review computer games as a sort-of-job. We are therefore an authority on this subject.

don-bradman-cricket-17-screenshot

Career mode is still ‘the thing’

You create a player, you play the game only as that player and you (hopefully) rise to international cricket as you get better at everything.

This alone is enough to elevate Don Bradman Cricket above all of its zero rivals.

You may be aware that playing even one Test innings demands quite a lot of concentration. It is therefore utterly baffling that other simulations demand that you play as all eleven batsmen. Before this game came along, many a pad-mashing cricket innings was cut shot by a bit of ‘actually, I’m kind of sick of this now – let’s see if we can defend 120’ slogging.

The big career development for this 2017 instalment is that you can be a woman. And we don’t mean being a woman controlling an on-screen man. You can be a woman controlling an on-screen woman, or a man controlling an on-screen woman.

don-bradman-cricket-17-screenshot-2

Tattoo mode!

You can also tattoo your player in this latest version.

We presume you can go for the classic modern ‘sleeve’. If so, remember kids – the tattoo denotes the ‘doing arm’.

More about Don Bradman Cricket

Here’s our full review of Don Bradman Cricket from back when it came out.

And here’s a link where you can buy it from Amazon. It’s available on PS4 and Xbox One and quite possibly on PC via Steam, although we could only find the demo when we looked earlier.


Unguarded by Jonathan Trott – book review

Sam writes:

My shelves are groaning under the weight of cricket autobiographies.

The best – among them Coming Back To Me by Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain’s Playing With Fire – are well-thumbed.

The others tend to blur together. Tales of pushy parents, age group potential, Test debuts and tearful retirements can almost be written by numbers.

If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, give Michael Vaughan’s A Year In The Sun a whirl. Bet you won’t make it to the end without chewing your own face off.

When Jonathan Trott’s new effort appeared on my doormat, I raised a sceptical eyebrow. Would this tell me anything I didn’t already know?

I needn’t have worried. Unguarded is a wonderfully honest, brutally painful account of how one of England’s most reliable batsmen decided he could bear the pressure no longer.

As a long-time Warwickshire fan, I have followed Trott’s progress since his county debut but never entirely warmed to him.

Regular readers will know all about my obsession with Trott’s middle order colleague, a chap named Ian Bell.

While Bell flashed, dashed, posed and perished, Trott was the guy at the other end. A solid plodder, quietly getting on with the job.

Needless to say, as the years went by he became a firm favourite. He proved you don’t have to be a show-pony to win the hearts of England fans; you just need to score runs. Lots and lots of runs.

Most sportsmen and women sit in press conferences and burp out platitudes about how their chosen discipline has come to define their very existence.

“It means the world to me,” they gush. “I’ve worked so hard to get here.”

This is the story of a man who became so consumed by cricket that it swallowed him whole.

King Cricket once wrote an amusing piece of fiction in which Trott plays his kids at table-tennis for two whole weeks, relentlessly refuses to let them win a game and “feels immense satisfaction with his performance.”

Reading that again now, it takes on a whole new perspective. Living every second for cricket is all very well when you’re churning out the hundreds. When things started to go wrong, there was nowhere else to turn.

The book is structured in an odd way – it might have made more sense to tell the story chronologically rather than jumping around – but there is no disputing its power.

Wisely, he decides not to spend too much time on his childhood and dives straight into the beginnings of what was later diagnosed as situational anxiety.

Unusually for such a self-centered genre, each chapter features contributions from Cook, Pietersen, Ashley Giles, Andy Flower, and Trott’s wife Abi.

The other voices only serve to reinforce Trott’s fundamental character traits: decency, modesty, determination and a hard-won sense of self-awareness which was perhaps lacking during his international career.

You can buy Unguarded from Amazon here.


The Periodic Table of Cricket by John Stern – book review

We own a periodic table. Mostly it’s a footrest, but periodically – typically when we have visitors – it reverts to being a table. Apparently there’s another kind of periodic table too which lays out all the chemical elements according to atomic number and whatnot.

The Periodic Table of Cricket attempts to do something similar with cricketers. John Stern, the former editor of The Wisden Cricketer and current editor-at-large at All Out Cricket, has tried to put all of the most significant cricketers into groups and then slotted it all together to create a rather nice pull-out poster thing on the inside cover.

The main categories are:

  • Defenders and pragmatists
  • Stylists and entertainers
  • Mavericks and rebels
  • Innovators and pioneers

Needless to say, not everyone easily fits into one category and some players might have suited different parts of the table at different stages of their career, but Stern cheerfully admits that there’s occasionally a touch of forceful shoving into a given pigeonhole. That’s half the point. The table is a great place to start if you fancy a pointless cricket argument with someone – and who doesn’t enjoy a pointless cricket argument?

The meat of the book comprises profiles of each of the players. In length and tone, they’re not unlike the ones you see on Cricinfo player pages. You probably wouldn’t sit and read a whole series of such things ordinarily, but we found the fact that they’re organised according to style of play rather helpful in this regard. It can be hard to get a feel for players from the distant past, but seeing someone as part of a lineage of obdurate openers or Fancy Dan middle-order stylists helps commit them to memory.

You could probably predict most of the players who have been included, but the innovators and pioneers section in particular allows for the inclusion of more leftfield names such as Mohammad Nabi and Bernard Bosanquet.

The Periodic Table of Cricket isn’t really a book you’d sit down and read cover to cover, but we rather suspect it is one with a long lifespan. At any mention of a largely unfamiliar great player from yesteryear, you can have a quick check and get a feel for who they were. The profiles tend to tick off all the major aspects of a player’s career but the text isn’t dry. The Ricky Ponting pull shot is described with reference to his “thick, hairy forearms” for example.

Think of it as a kind of great player reference guide with the periodic table thing an oddly helpful way of slotting cricketers into your memory. You can buy The Periodic Table of Cricket from Amazon.


Test Cricket by Jarrod Kimber – book review

Full disclosure: We went to Jarrod’s wedding and were also sent a free book to review. However, we did also have to pay £3 in bail money to release said free book from a Royal Mail prison after it had been charged with insufficient postage, so we pretty much balance out as impartial.

There is a need for this book, you will learn from it and you will enjoy it. We can pretty much guarantee all of those things, so in many respects the review ends here. That is all you need to know. Buy it now before you forget and then read it whenever. If you for some reason need a bit more convincing, read on.

Warts and all, but with more focus on the warts

You will not struggle to find books about the history of cricket. Where this one stands out is that most of those books sand away rough edges whereas Jarrod’s inclination is to seek them out and preserve them. It makes for a truer account of the sport and one which is way more readable. At times, it has an unsettlingly authoritative air about it. To offset this, we pretended that Jarrod had stuck a line break in after every frigging sentence like he always used to, and then we felt okay again.

What’s it about? It’s about the history of Test cricket; all the most significant characters and events that have brought it from where it started to where it is now. It’s the kind of subject matter that in other hands might lead you to glaze over, but this book is light on stats and heavy on hyperbole, which keeps you interested and sneaks the facts into your brain as a result.

Asking Don Bradman to understand why people rated Victor Trumper above him is “like asking a calculator to understand a painting.” In the early days of cricket, a sticky dog was “a wet pitch that got a bit dry and behaved like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.”

Those two lines are on consecutive pages. the book maintains roughly that tone from WG Grace to the three Ws to Imran Khan to Brendon McCullum.

In summary

Test Cricket: The Unauthorised Biography is a serious book. It’s an earnest story told colourfully, rather than a funny book that makes serious points. It’s not that Jarrod’s lost his sense of humour so much as that he’s looking to inform more than he was before; a shift in emphasis rather than an outright change in approach. Whether that’s an improvement or not is probably a matter of opinion, but if the alternative is knocking out the same sort of writing as he did way back when, it would be subject to the law of diminishing returns. This feels new and fresh and is as page-turny as anything else he’s written.

History books can be staid and tiresome and hard to engage with. This is anything but. If we had to pick someone to do the research and tell the story of Test cricket, we’d pick Jarrod. Fortunately, we don’t have to because he’s already done it.


A Nightwatchman for Christmas?

Send him in. Let him weather the marketing and do all the preparations and cooking. Then you can just swan in on Boxing Day to eat leftovers and get drunk.

No, this is Nightwatchman with an upper-case N. The Wisden cricket quarterly is doing gift packages.

If you don’t know what it’s all about, they’ve helpfully provided a few samples – a Select XI to be precise.

The point is that it’s cricket writing that isn’t so time-sensitive. They’re longer musings on the game and its effect on people. The samples include a piece by Gideon Haigh about cricket writing and a piece about the psyche of the nightwatchman (lower-case N) by Jon Hotten.

There’s also a poignant piece by our friend Sam Collins about making his film Death of a Gentleman while simultaneously trying to cope with the slow death of his mother. We knew that this was the backdrop to the film for Sam, but having read the piece we might now go and watch it again with that in mind. We daresay the whole thing’ll take on a different hue.

Each year’s Nightwatchman is £30, but if you put in the code XMAS15 you can get the 2015 Collection for £25 plus postage and packing.


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