Martin Chandler |
Author: Chave, Annie (Editor)
Publisher: County Cricket Matters
Rating: 5 stars
In these days of massive ECB support for the less-than-popular 16.4, the pyrotechnics of Bazball and the end of the second Elizabethan age, little is certain in life, but after twelve quarterly issues, all coming out on time, we can safely say that County Cricket Matters has become a beacon of stability that fights against the forms of the game we all love while entertaining us at the same time.
As has become the norm, Annie’s editorial is followed by an interview, and the subject of that in CCM12 is legendary West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding. It is not unnatural that Holding’s passionate plea from the troubled summer of 2020 is covered, as are Holding’s years in county cricket and his views on the matter now. Not everything Holding says will resonate with CCM readership, but we cannot ignore the views of a man who has undoubtedly earned the respect he now enjoys.
The other two “big beasts” contributing to CCM12 are Vic Marks and David Lloyd. Marks is one of my favorite authors, engaging and entertaining, and a man whose prose is unlike anyone else’s. Sometimes reading even the best authors can be hard work, but with Marks I always feel like I’m not reading at all, just sitting in the pub with him and listening to what he has to say. On this occasion, Marks talks about the differences between professional cricket as it was played in the third decade of the 21st century and the 1970s and 1980s when he plied his craft on the pitch.
As for ‘Bumble’, I have to say that knowing he loves the county game doesn’t make his views on his future any more appealing, although worst of all is the fact that he’s probably right. On the plus side, he does see a future for eighteen counties, after all, and I, for one, am fast approaching a stage where I’ll settle for anything that preserves that, even if we settle for three divisions and just ten red balls need games every summer.
Anyone feeling gloomy about the advice of Messrs. Lloyd and Holding would do well to turn directly to Dan Whiting’s contribution, The streaming revolution. For obvious reasons, interest in the district championship could never, except perhaps in the late 1940s, be measured by the number of spectators who actually attended the games. Now that it’s possible to watch any of the games from anywhere with an internet connection, the real interest in the county game is becoming apparent.
The article by student journalist Oliver Lawrie gives another reason for optimism. The subject here is Luke Hollman, a man I have to admit I had to look up to www.cricketarchive.com. He has just turned 22 and has had a promising start to his career at Middlesex over the past two summers. An all-rounder who has done well in all formats, it turns out, Hollman is a red ball enthusiast, so amen.
Player profiles are always welcome and there are two in CCM12, which makes it all the better for not being among the ‘usual suspects’. The first is a look at the brief career of a Yorkshireman who, alongside a long academic career, played 16 times as an amateur for Gloucestershire between 1936 and 1938. The author is my colleague Dennis Butts from Redingsens, who could do much worse than turn his article into a much more complete monograph on a man he clearly knew well.
Ken Suttle of Sussex made almost forty times as many first class appearances as Tyler and toured the West Indies in 1953–54 without ever playing a Test. I knew something about Suttle, but I wasn’t aware of the downright sordid way he was treated by his district at the end of his career. As with Tyler, a much longer look at Suttle would be welcome, and perhaps the Sussex Museum could get in touch with writer Ollie Park?
Not too far from a profile is David Windram’s look at Matthew Potts’ phenomenal rise this summer. In part, Windram Potts celebrates the downside, the irony of a district so mistreated by the ECB who then causes other problems by being denied the services of a key member of his team due to the needs of the national team.
There is a strong Derbyshire presence in CCM12, two of the county’s staunch lovers contributing articles. Writer Greg Watts sacrifices a little of himself in his endeavours, but the main purpose is to extol the virtues of BBC Radio’s Derbyshire commentator Dave Fletcher. And then there’s John Stone, who also referenced a commentary team in connection with Derbyshire’s defeat by Sussex this summer after they refused the opportunity to invite the Martlets to imitate. Here are some more general reflections on the subject of modern-day captains who so seldom enforce succession.
A little history? Not as much as some previous editions, but Anindya Dutta provides an interesting comparison between the English summers of 1911 and 2022.
CCM has, as might be expected, featured women’s football many times before, and in CCM12 podcaster Alexandra Pereira looks ahead to the summer of 2022. Hopefully, given the season’s definitive end, CCM13 will show a sequel, with perhaps some glimpses of the T20 turned upside down series with India, which I’ve been following with interest over the past few days.
One thing I am pleased to note as CCM matures is an increasing willingness to engage with cricket’s greatest resource, its literature. There are two special reviews in CCM 12, one by Annie on James Mettyear and one by Patrick Ferriday field of dreamsand the other by Mark Sands on Paul Edwards’ promise summer daysgreat books both.
But that’s not all. There is also my favorite essay in the entire issue, by Stephen Wagg, inspired by a fine quartet of recent books. Two are Duncan Hamilton’s, his biography of Neville Cardus and One last English summer. A third is David Kynaston and Stephen Fay’s look at the lives of Arlott and Swanton and the last is Michael Henderson This will be England Gone.
Having read all four, I can attest that they are excellent books, a sentiment Wagg agrees with. That means he sees something in them that I certainly haven’t spotted. But then Wagg is a professor emeritus and author of Cricket: A Political History of the Global Game 1945-2017, a title that gives a clue as to where he is viewing the books from. It’s a great shame that Wagg’s own book is an academic text with a price tag to match, as if his contribution to CCM12 was anything, it must be an engaging read.
Finally there is a welcome return in CCM12 for Craig Tranter’s Quiz. I’ve generally struggled with this in the past and approached this with some trepidation. The fact that the theme has been the County Championship for the last fifty years has undoubtedly helped me as I arguably had my workout with Stephen Chalke’s most entertaining new book last weekend and for once I was pretty good. On the flip side, at the time of writing this review, my progress with the Princely Entry crossword is, to be blunt, pathetic.
So a rating for CCM12? The problem I have is that having given five stars to each of the previous eleven I can’t really go anywhere, but if pressed I would have to express the view that this one is the best yet.
CCM12 and all previous editions can be purchased here.