Category: Cricket products (page 1 of 7)

A review of Afghanistan career mode in Cricket Captain 2018

Back when we reviewed Cricket Captain 2018’s ‘All-Time Greats’ mode, we said we’d also do a thing on playing a career as Afghanistan. This is that thing.

For a more comprehensive look at the mechanics of Cricket Captain 2018, see our review of the 2017 game (it’s fundamentally the same).

So you can play a career as Afghanistan then?

You absolutely can. You can play as Ireland too – but honestly, who doesn’t want to play as Afghanistan?

The first time we tried this, we played all formats – Tests, one-day internationals and T20 internationals. Then we realised that Afghanistan mostly only got to play one-off Tests and we were spending a hell of a lot of time playing limited overs stuff that we didn’t really give a flying full toss about. At this point we started a new Test-only career and played it through until 2029, which seemed like plenty long enough to work out what was what.

One-off Tests sound annoying

Not really. It’s a game, so you don’t have to wait six months before your next fixture – you just roll straight into it. One-off Tests are actually pretty interesting because you tend to really concentrate on that one match and there’s also the chance of executing a mugging on a higher-ranked team.

After a couple of years, Afghanistan start playing two-Test series and this is probably a better number. You can’t really fluke a two-Test series, but you also don’t get bored and fed up in the way you absolutely would if you were getting hammered match after match by the same opposition. A Cricket Captain Test match doesn’t take five actual days, but it still takes a fair while.

So Afghanistan mostly just get hammered then?

Actually no. For one thing, they seem to end up playing Ireland or Zimbabwe (or both) most years and there’s a good chance you’ll win those matches. We also beat England 2-0 (in England) and South Africa 1-0; and drew 1-1 with New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

So it’s not like it’s impossible to experience success (unless you’re playing pissing Bangladesh – for some reason those guys hammered us every single time).

The downside of the scheduling is that even by 2029, we still hadn’t played South Africa, Sri Lanka or the West Indies away or India or New Zealand at home. This is a level of realism that could perhaps be tweaked for the better.

Tell us about your team

Afghanistan being Afghanistan, five of our top six in every match we played were rated as ‘very aggressive’ batsmen (that’s a step up from merely ‘aggressive’). Darwish Rasooli was our most successful, averaging 54.35 after 44 Tests.

If you’re questioning the realism, you have to remember that average has been (only slightly) bolstered by the volume of matches against Zimbabwe and the likes. (Although it’s worth noting that the real life Darwish Rasooli currently averages 82.53 in first-class cricket. He’s only 18. Maybe he’s one to watch?)

Quite a few of our other batsmen averaged over 40. (Specific shout out to Imran Imran for having the best name and also for hitting an unbeaten 271 against Australia in Brisbane.)

The bowling was obviously built around Rashid Khan, but there’s plenty of strategic fun to be had trying to muster a varied attack around him. One way or another, we fielded six bowling options. Decent Afghanistan quick bowlers are few and far between, so it was usually best to get a left-arm medium-pacer in there while lengthening the batting order with a good spinner who could bat rather than a fractionally better spinner who aspired to be Chris Martin.

Despite the image below, we never once picked this guy Najeeb Tarakai. (All the pics on this page were taken from the Cricket Captain 2018 site.)

Anything else to report?

In his final match before retirement, Cricketer of the Realm Mohammad Nabi made an unbeaten hundred in a successful nine-wickets-down fourth innings run-chase against Australia.

This is probably the best thing that has ever happened in any computer game. Love Nabi.


A review of Cricket Captain 2018’s ‘All-Time Greats’ mode

Cricket Captain 2018 is fundamentally the same game as last year. Here’s a review of Cricket Captain 2017 for a broad overview and what follows here is a (not particularly) quick look at All-Time Greats mode, which is one of the new features.

We’ll probably do a review thing about playing a career as Afghanistan further down the line as well.

What is All-Time Greats mode?

What do you think it is? It’s a gameplay mode where you can pick historical players.

You know, all these sorts of guys…

What follows is a true story

To test All-Time Greats mode, we played a series. We played exactly one series and we didn’t save and replay any parts of it and we aren’t lying about any of what follows either. [You’ll see why this statement is necessary shortly.]

An All-Time Greats series can be in any format and up to five matches. We played three Test matches because we thought it would be unfair to make our guys play five matches, what with most of them being quite old and several of them being dead.

We played as England and we played against India because England are playing India at the minute and we weren’t feeling very imaginative.

Step one was to pick our 18-man squad.

Can you pick Ian Austin?

Can you pick Ian Austin? You can pick Sep Kinneir. The Cricket Captain 2018 database isn’t going to let you down. Of course you can pick Ian Austin. You can also play him in the first Test ahead of WG Grace.

Our other major selectorial moves saw Rob Key edge out Graham Thorpe because we ran out of batting spots, while the trickiest decision was whether to go with Bob Willis or Syd Barnes. We went with Willis in the end because we felt our attack needed a bit of pace.

There are two options for selecting the opposition squad: you can either pick it yourself or you can not pick it yourself. We didn’t feel it was in the Spirit of Cricket to be picking the opposition’s squad for them, so we left them to do it themselves.

When we started the match, we were greatly surprised to see that India’s idea of an All-Time Great squad is the exact squad they have right now. They stuck KL Rahul behind the stumps and picked seven specialist batsmen, two spinners and two quicks.

The first Test

Having won the toss and batted, Marcus Trescothick made a bombastic 144. Despite that strong start, there was every chance of a disappointing score until a counter-attacking lower order partnership between Matt Prior (93) and Willis (41). The England All-Time Greats ended up with 431.

Beefy made a duck.

The very first ball of India’s innings was wholly believable with Shikhar Dhawan caught at slip off Jimmy Anderson. The team continued to make great early inroads but then Graeme Swann was totally unthreatening and a large partnership built between Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin.

Obviously we gave Rob Key an over. Much less obviously, he dismissed Ashwin. It was at that point that we resolved never to bowl Key again as there was no way it was going to get any better than that in the field.

It got better with the bat though. As we pushed for a second innings declaration, Key notched a fine 200-ball half century. This then turned into a 300-ball unbeaten hundred.

Alas, there wasn’t enough time to bowl India out and England All-Time Greats had to settle for a draw. It was no-one’s fault.

The second Test

We were keen to get WG Grace into the side to give us an extra bowling option and this sadly meant that we had to drop David Gower. Ian Austin had been unable to bring his one-day form to the Test arena, so we dropped him for Syd Barnes, even though that meant lengthening the tail.

After again winning the toss, we chose to bat. Rob Key notched another 200-ball half century and then pressed on to make a breath-taking 109 off 386 balls.

With rain around, Beefy, Jimmy and Syd Barnes secured an 87-run lead, but England All-Time Greats were again running out of time. We set India 271 to win in two sessions and they finished on 153-5. We can’t remember who took the wickets, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t Graeme Swann because he was still proving singularly ineffective.

Everyone blamed the weather for the match ending in a draw.

The third Test

Swann’s muted performances had left us seeking an additional spin option. While WG Grace had batted competently, his medium-pace offered nothing to a team already boasting Syd Barnes. We therefore dropped him for Wilfred Rhodes, who brought a slow left-arm option to the attack.

With 58 first-class hundreds to his name, we felt confident Rhodes could do a job at number three and his 4,204 first-class wickets suggested he wouldn’t be overawed if the pitch started to turn either.

For their part, India stuck with seven specialist batsmen but this time went with four seamers and no spinner. Interesting decision.

England All-Time Greats again batted first and an under pressure Alastair Cook showed admirable resilience to grind out a hundred. Key, by now in blistering form, raced to 50 off just 120 balls and then 103 off 282 balls before being dismissed. Even with India’s long batting line-up, 477 felt like a good score – particularly in light of the home team’s broad range of bowling options.

India started well enough, but it was hard to avoid the feeling that this was going to be England’s match when even Graeme Swann managed to take a wicket (Kohli). We then brought Wilfred Rhodes on for the first time in the 44th over. He took a wicket with his first ball. And his fourth. And his sixth.

Rhodes finished with 4-16 in the innings. Swann managed something like 3-400 in the series.

India then followed-on and Willis took 5-49 to secure victory by an innings and 69 runs.

England All-Time Greats took the series 1-0 and with no further playing obligations, the players made their way back to their respective homes/old people’s homes/graves.

Series (and game mode) review

If we can play an All-Time Greats series and Rob Key finishes with most runs (344 at an average of 86.00) and the lowest bowling average (4.00) then that to us seems like an excellent thing.

Five stars.

Cricket Captain 2018 is available now on PC, iOS, Android and Mac. For more information, see the Childish Things website.


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.


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