Graeme Fowler: Absolutely Foxed Book Review

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I never saw Graeme Fowler play cricket. He was just a little before my time but I knew the name and had heard a little about his contributions to the game and his life, so I picked up a copy of his book with my bookshop gift card that I received for Christmas.

The book focuses on three main things, they are Fowler’s playing days, his work with the University based Centres of Excellence and his mental health.

Fowler comes across as a person who backs his own opinion, a man you wouldn’t want to argue with. At the same time he’s brave enough to be incredibly open about his depression. Like any autobiography, you would hope that the protagonist would avoid ironing out the bad and only offering the good. Fowler does that.

The Lancashire native touches upon the suggestion that some have put forward, that he was fortunate to play for England when others were out of the picture for one reason or another. To that, I say “It’s not about how you get your opportunities but about what you do with them”. However fortunate he was to get the opportunity at the highest level, Fowler scored in excess of one thousand Test runs and recorded three centuries in the process. There are a lot of players who have had the chance and not grabbed it to the extent that he did. Yes there are those that have done even better but to average 35.32 in Test cricket is no disgrace.

As with the examples of other former cricketers such as Marcus Trescothick, Michael Yardy and Jonathan Trott, providing exposure to the mental health issues of international sportsmen, Fowler’s contribution can only help further people’s understanding of mental health, whether it be their own or somebody else’s.

I’ve detailed on my blog before how I think that universities could help breed competitive cricket in England, in the same way that college sport provides budding professionals in USA. Fowler has helped develop cricketers for England through the Centres of Excellence and clearly possesed an indisputable passion for his efforts.

I’m providing Graeme Fowler’s ‘Absolutely Foxed’ with an innings of:

82 not out

Christopher Lee: Howzat Book Review

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It happens to be a rather appropriate time to be reviewing Christopher Lee’s take on World Series Cricket (Supertests and all), what with the addition to the cricket calendar of pink ball day/night County Championship matches that were rolled out for the first time this week.

Lee actually wrote the screenplay for the TV drama of this book with the writing of the book coming post TV production. It’s an insightful read with a clear Ozzie vibe. The focus is on WSC’s chief instigator Kerry Packer, his challenging of the establishment and the changes that WSC cricket brought. It’s not all about Packer though. John Cornell, described by Gideon Haigh as ‘a floating creative catalyst’ is among the others that ultimately changed the way we see cricket today, literally given what they did regards camerawork. The establishment boys didn’t like the changes. Some still don’t. Reading about the pink ball county matches this week I came across one journalist trying to convince the reader that it’s not the weather that’s been at fault but that there’s simply no hunger for late night pink ball affairs. Actually there is. Even if the crowds were no better than usual, if the attendees were different people to the norm then that’s great. Cricket is for all. If some fans can attend day games and some night games then let’s have both. Just because something is new and different doesn’t mean that people need be scared by… CHANGE! Let’s not forget that a lot of people won’t have known about the different schedule for this week’s matches but them actually happening will have caught some people’s attention. Obviously it’s still four-day (First Class) cricket so unlike one-day (List A) games or T20 matches, fans won’t necessarily get a result but let’s not throw the idea in the bin yet. Let’s welcome pink ball day/night games to the County Championship next year with open arms.

Forgive me, I digress but the parallels with cricket today (day/night matches, T20 leagues, international restructure, ‘The Big Three’, TV rights etc) with what was occurring in the 1970s are clear for everybody to see.

Crocodile Dundee even gets a few mentions in Lee’s literature and having seen the Howzat TV drama sometime ago, before I was as obsessed with the sport of bat ‘n’ ball as I am now, I’m keen to view it again. From what I can recall the book very precisely follows the same path as the TV production.

Christopher Lee’s Howzat is essential reading for any cricket geek and now is an acutely appropriate time to read it.

Lee’s Howzat finishes undefeated on…

91 not out

Roy Morgan: Real International Cricket Book Review

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Warning! This article contains spoilers. It’s not so much a book review but a selection of highlights or/and lowlights from Roy Morgan’s exhaustively detailed and passionately presented Real International Cricket. Remember how at school you were told not to use Wikipedia as a source for your homework, well Morgan says ‘Howzat’ to that as he proudly uses Wiki to pool source information for his tables found in the latter pages of this 280-page epic. To be fair, he’s also scoured the archives of the Lagos Daily News, Saint Helena Telegraph and The Philadelphia Inquirer to name just a few!

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Five run outs. Steady on boys, you’ve travelled 345 miles from Toronto to New York for this!

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Poor W.L. Fraser of Scotland. Everybody else made double figures against Ireland but you quacked!

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Two bowlers, five wickets each, both 34 runs. Damn you Bannerman-Hesse for needing that extra delivery!

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Morgan informs us that Danish wicketkeeper Jorgen Holmen popped up once for the national team in 1973. He promptly conceded 13 byes, dropped a catch, made scores of 0 and 0 not out and never played cricket for his country again.

Where are you now Jorgen?

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A good indicator of how cricket has spread around the globe and prospered amongst indigenous or local populations, or not as the case may be, is the French line-up from 1997. Jones, Hewitt and Edwards et al, proper French names!

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6-1 for Maldives’ Neesham Nasir. A bit expensive conceding that run Neesham!

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A 510-run defeat in a 50 over match. New Caledonia’s Boaoutho’s 0-132 from eleven overs was so bad that the umpires even let him bowl an over more than he should have been allowed to!

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The priceless Pritchard Pritchard makes an appearance in 2011 and promptly clobbers 28 not out, including three sixes from just ten deliveries for Samoa.

Another warning! Unless you’re a cricket tragic, this book probably isn’t for you. If however you enjoy reading about obscure corners of the world, sympathising with numerous poor sods that voyaged for weeks to bat at eleven and not bowl or have a good old healthy obsession with the world’s number one bat ‘n’ ball game then this book is well worth a peruse.

Roy Morgan’s Real International Cricket scores an undefeated…

83 not out

Kevin Pietersen: On Cricket Book Review

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Strictly speaking this isn’t an autobiography. KP delves into the technical aspects of taking on the various types of bowling that there is out there, as well as writing about such things as captaincy and the future of the game. That’s not to say that there aren’t autobiographical elements to it, which let’s be fair, would be hard to avoid.

As a highly unsuccessful village cricketer, it’s amazing to read about how a pro reads the ball out of the hand. I can barely see the ball at all in the north England evening light, let alone identify which side is shiny or which finger is rolling over the seam!

Pietersen is adamant that international cricketers shouldn’t be overcooked but is at pains to point out that being a cricketer is a great job and he realises he and his peers aren’t down a coal mine every day.

His thoughts on the future structure of international cricket seem a little half-cooked and as per usual with any book, there are one or two errors amongst the 277 pages that you do wonder how they ever get to print. KP tells us that at Edgbaston in the 2005 Ashes, England claimed the wicket of Brett Lee to level the series. No you didn’t KP. He also tells us that he wasn’t selected for an ODI series in 2000. Too right KP. You didn’t debut with England until 2004!

All in all it was an interesting and easy to read… read.

Silly Point provides Kevin Pietersen: On Cricket with a score of…

79 not out

Steve James: The Art of Centuries Book Review

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I’d like to think that I’ve provided two pretty decent (Honest, thoughtful and reasonably professional) book reviews on this blog so far.

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/tim-brooks-cricket-on-the-continent-book-review/

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/jonathan-trott-unguarded-my-autobiography-book-review/

This won’t be one of them!

Any professional cricketer and one that represented England at that, who is happy to reveal that he got out deliberately, if he ever was in my estimation, tumbles to the bottom of it. Maybe I’ll be accused of being naive and possibly I’m being harsh on James. If what he meant was that he thought the batsman still to come in after him could score quicker than he could, so he then attempted to hit every ball for six and mostly was dismissed to the very next delivery then fine. But if he is genuinely saying that he lobbed a catch to the fielder at will or allowed the ball to hit the stumps then for me that is a big difference.

There’s the odd brag which Glamorgan stalwart James apologises for but after five or six occasions the brag can drag. To be fair, a batsman writing about batting is obviously going to refer to his own efforts. 15,890 First Class runs at an average of 40.63 including 47 centuries and 58 half-centuries (That’s an extremely, extremely good conversion rate!) with a top score of 309 not out suggests that James was unlucky to play only two Tests for England. On Test debut however he allowed Alec Stewart to talk him into wearing extra protection that he wouldn’t normally. You would have thought that an experienced professional (31 at the time) would have known better. James advises that he felt “uncomfortable” and was soon dismissed.

You’d think that Matthew Maynard (87 Test runs @ 10.87) was the greatest batsman in the history of the game judging by the way James waxes lyrical though obviously if you think about it a professional and primarily domestic cricketer will see a lot of his teammates play but probably not actually see a lot of other cricket, not during the summer months anyway and they would obviously see even the best players less often. For the record, Maynard has 24,799 First Class runs at 42.53 and this is mightily impressive.

In the words of Jason Gillespie “Look” and in my own words, this isn’t the worst book in the world, it’s just that James didn’t quite grab my affection the way that some writers have done in the past.

James has an excellent half-century to century conversion rate in First Class cricket but that’s not the case with his score here. Silly Point provides James’ The Art of Centuries with an innings score of…

62

In my previous book reviews I think that both scores were not out. That’s not the case with James. He was dismissed, possibly by his own design!

I’m also not sure how this book will help me turn my career best 47 into 100. If I ever do record a century then I’ll come back and add a few runs to James’ 62!

Tim Brooks: Cricket on the Continent Book Review

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Tim Brooks’ ‘Cricket on the Continent’ is an intelligent and in-depth investigation into… you’ve guessed it, cricket on the continent. That’s everywhere from Albania to Ukraine. What’s great about this book is that it’s clear that Brooks has actually visited many of the countries featured. The book details the past and the present highlighting consistencies and themes in relation to cricket’s failure to prosper in Europe. Brooks also details what he thinks should be done in order to get continental cricket on the front foot.

Trying not to give too much away, Brooks’ observations on the role that Test nations have played both in at times assisting but at others failing to help develop the global game is particularly interesting. The ICC’s pick and choose method in regards to which global nations it wants to help develop comes under the spotlight as well. The author also details how life in general, e.g. employment, immigration and war amongst other things play their part in cricket’s existence and non-existence.

As with most books there are one or two grammatical errors. It’s understandable how when wrapped up in enthusiasm one can make the odd error when typing away that a spell check might not pick up but surely at least two or three people will read a book before it goes to mass print and you question how these errors don’t get ironed out.

On the last page (Don’t worry, I’m not ruining it for you!) Brooks suggests that there is more to be gained by England playing European neighbours than in his words “an instantly forgettable five-match series against Bangladesh”. I agree that derby type match-ups are a great idea and whilst neither England’s ODI or Test series’ against Bangladesh lasted five matches they were highly competitive and exciting cricket series and I feel that this little dig goes slightly against the grain of the book, that of spreading the game globally even if Bangladesh isn’t in Europe.

That shouldn’t detract from the book’s exhaustiveness and inclusivity (Are you listening ICC?) and for that Tim Brooks’ ‘Cricket on the Continent’ finishes it’s innings unbeaten on…

85 not out

Jonathan Trott: Unguarded, My Autobiography Book Review

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I know what you’re thinking…

This book was released a few weeks ago so why is Silly Point only reviewing it now?

Well as much as I’d like to ‘big-up’ my blog, I’m not yet at a stage where publishers are sending me copies of cricket related books pre-release. The South American rainforest were originally charging £15.99 so I waited a week or two ‘til the price dropped to a more like my batting average £7.99!

If I were only allowed a single word to sum up Jonathan Trott’s autobiography it would be ‘honest’. Unless of course he’s not being in which case he fooled me. This is my blog though so I’m not only allowed one word, I’m allowed a century of words or even a Len Huttonesque 364 words if I like.

If you’re expecting some lighthearted memoir about playing bat ‘n’ ball you won’t get it here. Trott’s mental health is a constant in this book and he deserves credit for being brave enough to put it all out there. Many members of the general public may think that professional sportsmen and women have it easy and that to work a shift alongside them in the docks, at the station or on the line would teach them a thing or two about hard work. Most employees get to return home at the end of every day though. That’s not the case for cricketers. Even when playing at home players can be away for a week at a time and when on tour they can be away for months on end. On top of that every action, every decision and every learning curve is seen, analysed and reviewed in the public domain. By the time Trott’s international career came to an end all this was on his mind too much for him to be the run machine that he had been when immersed in what he refers to as his ‘bubble’. He makes valid points about the seemingly premature end to the international careers of Graeme Swann, Matt Prior and of course himself. He also makes some not so subtle hints to the England management about the necessity for ‘proper’ warm-up matches before Test Match series. Advice that Silly Point thinks the ECB would do well to heed.

As you read Unguarded you gain a sense of how competitive the author is. Of course you’d expect a professional sportsman to be competitive. Trott clearly believes that he and Kevin Pietersen benefited from their tough schooling in South Africa rather than having played sport at a young age in England.

The book isn’t exactly in chronological order and the likes of Alastair Cook, Andy Flower, Ashley Giles, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss and Trott’s wife Abi all had plenty of homework to do as their written contributions regularly complement Trott’s writing. If anything there is a little too much of this early on which hinders the reader from finding fluency.

It just occurred to me as I’m writing this, in the words of New Radicals, “I hope I didn’t just give away the ending”. Presumably if you’ve picked up this book you have a reasonable idea of how Trott’s career played out and this read provides a brave, honest and passionate insight into the mind of a man that churned out 6792 international runs across all formats for England. It’s great to see him piling on the runs for Warwickshire again at domestic level. We don’t do 5 stars or marks out of ten ratings here at Silly Point. We have a far more complex scoring system.

Jonathan Trott: Unguarded scores…

82 not out