March 2009
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The weekend read – In It to Win It

March 20th, 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?
In It to Win It: he Australian Cricket Supremacy by Peter Roebuck (Allen & Unwin, pb, 246pp, £8.99 - not available in UK book stores)

What’s it all about?
A perceptive commentary on what makes Australia a winning force

What did we give it?

What did we say?
Peter Roebuck, who is one of a handful of the best contemporary cricket writers, is an elusive character. He is proud and prickly; judgemental and a disciplinarian by nature, who is also easy-going and caring. He writes with the authority of a former player (Somerset and Devon) and the occasional whimsy of someone who can see, most of the time, that cricket is a game.

Roebuck describes this book – written after Australia’s 2005 Ashes defeat and now reissued in paperback – as “a search for Australia through cricket”. The argument, stated briefly, is that until Ian Chappell and Kerry Packer erupted on to the scene in the 1970s Australian perceptions were still informed by Bodyline – “a sense of injustice – never quite subdued – of being thwarted on the very cusp of achievement”.

Aggression replaced the sense of injustice in the ’70s: “Australia needed its spirit, its assertiveness to establish a sense of belonging – it is no coincidence that the disrespect shown by Chappell and Packer to the idea of England was followed by the longest period of domination the game has known.” Rejoicing in success, he writes, arises from a desire to confirm that Australia is a nation state. The logic is fascinating. If Ricky Ponting goes on winning, does it mean Australia will embrace republicanism?

Roebuck is just the man to identify this trend. He shares with Packer and Chappell a disrespect for the idea of England. It grips him hardest here in his account of the final day of the final Test in 2005. The behaviour of the crowd was “jingoistic, self-justification – the mood of the crowd bordered on the demented,” he writes. “The spectators were, manifestly, more interested in England winning than in watching cricket.” Exactly. These spectators had endured years of Australian cricket supremacy, and here they were, behaving aggressively and assertively, just like a crowd of Australians.

He ended the book in 2006 by stating that Australia would soon recover the Ashes: “The Australians have no intention of accepting defeat as part and parcel of the game of cricket.” And before he gets to the end he describes with skill and perception the games that exhibited their cricketing greatness. These teams require and deserve a fine interpreter. As long as Roebuck is writing for the Sydney Morning Herald they have got one.
Stephen Fay, November 2007

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 …

Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments »

My Favourite Cricketer: Robin Smith

March 20th, 2009 by TWC in England, My favourite cricketer and tagged , reader Rich Cridge is the latest winner of our My Favourite Cricketer competition for his entry on the Hampshire and England batsman Robin Smith.

Cricket has always been there for me: Tony Lewis’s Welsh tones in the background as my father would watch the Test on a summer’s evening. My uncle playing for a local team and occasionally dragging me off to play when they were short; and of course it was always best to visit granny when she was doing the teas.

It was 1988 (I was 10). England were on their third skipper of the season and in the middle of yet another beating at the hands of the rampant West Indians.

The exact date was July 21 and a new player, Robin Smith, strode to the wicket to join Allan Lamb with England in trouble again. For a short time something strange happened: these two batsmen stood up to the West Indian bowlers. We could still win, I thought (well I was only 10!). Then Lamb pulled a muscle in his leg and had to go off; the innings crumbled. But that short moment was my awakening. Cricket had got me and it has never let go since.

Over the next five years, the young Smith would go on, along with Graham Gooch, to become one of England’s best players, the wicket most coveted by opponents. He stood almost alone against the Aussies in ’89. He took a full part in the run glut that was 1990 and then scored two hundreds against West Indies in 1991.

So what was it about Robin Smith? If asked back in ’88 I’d have been unable to answer, but by ’91 I knew. His bravery – he was a real (bats)man. There have been lots of brave batsmen, but they’d have had to go some to beat Smith. On the 1990 tour of the West Indies, while batting without the added safety of a helmet grill, a Courtney Walsh bouncer slammed into this cheek. The camera zoomed in and you could see the swelling grow before your very eyes. Smith didn’t flinch, brushing away the worried West Indian fielders and England’s physio.

He owned the best square-cut in the world. He also lived just down the road from me in my home town of Salisbury, and from time to time he’d be spotted about. As a teenager I was taken to see a county match at Hampshire; Smith’s autograph was the one I had to get. I can remember marvelling at the size of his bear-like hands as he took my pen to sign his name across the card.

His international career was cruelly cut short in 1996, at the age of 32. It was thought that he couldn’t play spin. Maybe he wasn’t the best, but then how many people were mastering Warne, Muralitharan, Kumble and co. at the time? Let’s not forget he hit 128 in Sri Lanka at the end of the ill-fated 1992-93 tour of the subcontinent.

He should have played well into this century and would have become one of England’s all-time greats. Maybe that’s part of his appeal – the best always leave you wanting more.

Rich 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’

Posted in England, My favourite cricketer | 3 Comments »

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