March 2009
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The weekend read – Bob Woolmer's Art and Science of Cricket

March 13th, 2009 by TWC in Miscellaneous and tagged ,

Every Friday we’ll be picking a classic cricket book that has been reviewed in TWC to help you pass the weekend. Make your recommendations in the comments below.

What is it?
Bob Woolmer’s Art and Science of Cricket by Bob Woolmer and Tim Noakes (New Holland Publishers, hb, 655pp, £30)

What’s it all about?
Bob Woolmer brings the game’s teaching manuals comprehensively up to date

What did we give it?

What did we say?
An admission: I have not read every word of Bob Woolmer’s Art and Science of Cricket. But I feel little guilt about that. The book is over 650 pages long and not designed to be read from start to finish. It is a reference book that will sit invaluably in a club’s pavilion or on the sturdiest shelves of any cricketing enthusiast.

Even if you have decided that the purchase of one more bat or pair of boots is too much of an extravagance in the autumn of your career, there is much to cherish here. As in all the best coaching manuals it is the specific examples, demonstrating a more general truth, that can captivate ex-players as well as current ones.

The book also serves as a poignant memorial of Woolmer’s life. It will soon become a compulsory text for those hoping to make their way in the game, in the same league as some of the masterpieces of the past. Woolmer, who has collaborated here with the sports scientist Tim Noakes, is quick to acknowledge the quality of some of those gems, like Don Bradman’s Art of Cricket and Mike Brearley’s Art of Captaincy, though he may have regarded both these offerings as rather brief. Where Brearley quotes the Greek historian Xenophon at the end of his book, Woolmer is more likely to quote Dermot Reeve.

On Bradman’s Art of Cricket Woolmer writes: “Yet nowhere in his book does Bradman suggest that his batting method was unique, much less a superior solution to the challenges faced by batsmen; nor does he clearly differentiate his method from that taught in the MCC coaching manual.”

There is no doubt that we have moved on from the MCC coaching manual. For proof we can turn to the section on reverse sweeping, a trademark shot of the Warwickshire side that Woolmer coached in the 1990s. I enjoyed his recollection of a little incident at Edgbaston during that time.

It was agreed at a team meeting that everyone should practise the shot in the nets before attempting it in the middle. But no one informed Warwickshire’s 2nd XI coach, Neal Abberley, something of a traditionalist in these matters. Woolmer remembers seeing a tearful Roger Twose stomping away across the tarmac. Twose had just been expelled from the nets by Abberley for playing the reverse sweep.

It will not surprise those who know of Woolmer’s famous openness to the unorthodox that there is a sequence of photos, with Jacques Kallis as the model batsman, demonstrating the defensive reverse sweep. Yes, the defensive reverse sweep. I am still not sure whether Abberley would approve.

Nor does the MCC manual have sections on the pathology of lumbar stress-fractures in fast bowlers or on tobacco and alcohol. We are informed in this treatise that “the shift in attitude towards alcohol by the world’s toughest competitors hopefully presages a move away from the long and unhappy marriage between cricket and the pub so prevalent in the twentieth century”. Ah, well, welcome to the 21st century.
Vic Marks, November 2008

What did they say?
Everything from the mysteries of swing to sledging and spinal injuries is analysed in this hefty tome (656 pages), with a price to match, but for players and fans alike it is value for money. Just try to keep it out of the hands of the opposition.
Simon Redfern, The Independent

Why not tell us what your favourite cricket book is, or which book you’d like to see in ‘The weekend read’ in the comments below …

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My Favourite Cricketer: 'Batsman, bowler, wicketkeeper and first slip stood frozen in amazement'

March 13th, 2009 by TWC in My favourite cricketer and tagged , reader Graham D. Brice is the latest winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition.

Summer 1968, perhaps ’69. Me a 15-year-old, gangly, six foot-plus youth, with limited cricketing ability, severe hayfever and a neighbour on my paper round who suggests I could be playing cricket at the weekends for one of the sides in my hometown of Yeovil.

A try out with the second XI sees me immediately relegated to what is called the ‘Yeovil A side’. A collection of 20-somethings, of varying abilities and transport, and an unquenchable thirst that is displayed in numerous rural pubs around Somerset in our weekly quest to avoid defeat.

At the end of each game, we are reminded by the captain to check next week’s paper, The Royal Gazette, where the teams are printed for the following weekend, to verify our selection. A. N. Other is a regular in the squad list, and it is only when he fails to show that I am promoted to No.10 in the batting order.

I bowl occasionally, right-arm spin, sort of, but it is obvious that I am there more to make up numbers than bother the scorers.

However, I can catch a cricket ball, particularly in the slip cordon. On one, only one, memorable occasion I take seven catches in the slips, and although it does not affect the result I do receive an honorable mention in the following week’s sports pages.

In addition to all of the above I am also the youngest player.

We play our home matches at Johnson Park, although as the home turf is jealously guarded by the first and second XIs we play mainly away matches.

On one of our rare home appearances a new player is introduced, a stocky, unremarkable youth, whose sole redeeming feature from my perspective is that he is younger than me.

He constantly pesters the captain to bowl or bat higher in the order. Over the next few weeks he annoys his team-mates by displaying ability and a certain arrogance.

First match, opening overs, I am at first slip, the new kid at second. The ball is rifled towards the slips but low to my right and it is obvious that it is going to bounce before it will reach us. My only instinct is to stick out my right boot in the hope of preventing the ball going between the two of us. Just as the ball is about to land in front of my outstretched boot, a hand - connected to a diving arm and horizontal body - flashes across the grass and cleanly takes the catch.

The batsmen, bowler, wicketkeeper and first slip stand frozen in stunned amazement. The umpire, one of their players, is equally dazzled but eventually he raises a finger and the batsman, muttering under his breath, retreats.

A few weeks later our new player is missing, the captain informs us that he is away playing for the second XI. “Not the Yeovil second XI,” he said “Somerset seconds.”

My career as a weekend cricketer died shortly thereafter, I really did have very little ability, but the fortunes of one I. T. Botham continued to rise. Over the length of his impressive career I, along with millions of others, was privileged to watch sumptuous innings and all-round deeds that sometimes defied rational explanation.

But for all his feats and miraculous efforts, it is one catch, that catch, that is forever etched in my mind. The young school kid playing a man’s game and displaying a precocious ability and talent that not one of us fully appreciated or understood at the time.

Graham wins a year’s free subscription to The Wisden Cricketer

To enter submit no more than 600 words on your favourite cricketer to [email protected], subject line ‘favourite’

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