Friday, 2 August 2013

Two more book recommendations

Well, I got sent this too:

The Bodyline Hypocrisy by Michael Arnold (Pitch Publishing).

And it is utterly fascinating. It changed my understanding of the farrago completely.

Excuse me for using some of the blurb to explain:

"Australia was a young, isolated country in the midst of the great depression where - just as today - sport was a religion, winning was essential, and the media prone to distortion in order to sell newspapers. In England, the MCC was pressurised by a British Government fearing trade repercussions, leaving Harold Larwood and Douglas Jardine to be hung out to dry on a clothes-line of political expediency."

That's right - "and Douglas Jardine". As Arnold asks, "Had Australia won that series, would anyone have put Jardine's personality under the microscope? In fact would anyone have cared?" In fact, the picture that emerges is not of a stern and supercilious commander of fable. As he cogently argues, the problem wasn't him but the culture he stirred up, not to mention the lack of support he received from a cynical and opportunistic British Establishment.

Time changes everything. It allows Arnold to look at the series in a clearer light. Consider this: in 2010 Ian Chappell argued that Flintoff should use the same theory of leg bowling to Ricky Ponting. Consider this: 16 years after Bodyline, the MCC invited Larwood to become an honorary life member. Might that have anything to do with the intervention of the Earl of Gowrie, then president and former Governor General of Australia? Why did John Major award him an MBE at the the age of 88? Was he trying to right a very obvious wrong? Were the Australians' failure to cope with Larwood's pace exacerbated more by religious and racial discrimination, along with more mundane selection blunders?

It's an utterly convincing argument. One doesn't wish to provide spoilers, but it's almost impossible not to agree with Arnold's argument that "Today Douglas Jardine might have been knighted and instead of having to emigrate, Harold Larwood would have continued as a national hero...Both these men...were treated in a shabby fashion in England for political reasons by a dishonest political establishment for merely doing their best for their country. The names of those who conspired against them have sunk from sight. Their own names will endure far longer."

I've also been sent this:

Outside Edge by Marc Dawson (Pitch Publishing)

It's just a collection of cricketing facts and figures, so it doesn't warrant a conventional review. Instead it has to satisfy two criteria:

1) Are they well-presented?
2) Are they interesting?

Pleased to report the answer to both is a huge "yes". If you're a tragic like me, buy this book. And now I can get on with quoting some of my favourites, to pick three sections at random:

- Danny Alexander got out a former Sussex Second XI batsman for 0 in the only game between the MCC and Lords and Commons before rain came.
- Matthew Hancock MP tried to play cricket on the North Pole, but was stopped by frostbite.
- David Cameron suggested Darren Gough should run for a Commons seat, and Gough hung up thinking it was a prank call.

- In 2007/8, Peshawar had two fast bowlers who were both later murdered.
- A cricket fan was killed by an umpire in Bangladesh in 2012 after running on the pitch upset over a dismissal.
- Umar Gul's house was raided in 2012 with a family member suspected of harboring a militant.
- So far seven test cricketers have ended up in jail.

- Inzamam ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar run a successful chain of meat shops.
- Jonathan Trott's career was almost ended by booze.
- Harold Larwood (see above) went on to work on for Pepsi-Cola as a driver.

You get the gist. It's a perfect toilet book. And not in a bad way.