The Weekend read: Pommies – English cricket through an Australian Lens

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

What is it?
Pommies: English cricket through an Australian Lens by William Buckland (Troubador Publishing, £15)

What’s it all about then?
A scathing attack on the structure of English cricket.

What did we give it?
4/5

What did we say?
Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack has been the guardian of the English game for 145 years but, it seems, even that venerable tome can get too close to its subject to see the wood for the trees. “Startling” was how Scyld Berry, this 2008 editor, described the points raised by William Buckland, a 41-year-old management consultant and England fan, in his remarkable new book Pommies – so startling, in fact, that he invited the author to join him in the pulpit by quoting him at length in this year’s Notes by the Editor.

The basic premise is this: English cricket is run by and for the exclusive gratification of the 18 first-class counties. They cream off most of the game’s profit in subsidies and force the elite to risk injury and burn-out by playing almost non-stop to fund them. In return the counties provide neither international-standard cricketers to replace the exhausted stars, nor sufficient affordable access for the next generation of spectators – leading to situations such as occurred in the 2005 Ashes, when 10,000 fans were locked out of Old Trafford on the final day of the Test, because there are no grounds in the country large enough to satisfy a support-base that exists in spite of the status quo.

The book requires no over-egging on the part of the author to reveal a game in hazardous and desperate decline. For large tracts Buckland does nothing more than join the dots, from one tale of bankrupt decision-making to the next, but he does so with such clarity of thought that, at times, you’ll grind your teeth at the ineptitude of England’s rulers.

Each point has been raised on more than one occasion in the past – usually just after England’s latest drubbing by Australia. But rarely have all the gripes been stitched together so analytically to form such a bleak tapestry. Viewing the situation from the perspective of England’s most regular conquerors, and taking as his starting point the schism of World Series Cricket in 1977, Buckland argues that England is long overdue a Packer-style revolution of its own. Not least because it would end once and for all the amateurish fallacy that success in sport is cyclical.

If the book consisted only of the first two chapters it would still be worth its £15 cover price.

Andrew Miller, June 2008

What did they say?
“Should be compulsory reading for everyone in cricket.” Simon Barnes, The Times.

“Opinions on English cricket are varied and often prejudiced. This well-researched book fills an important gap.” Mike Atherton.


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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2 Responses to The Weekend read: Pommies – English cricket through an Australian Lens

  1. Paddy Briggs says:

    William Buckland’s brilliant book “Pommies” requires us to think out of the box about the absurdities of our current County system. His is not an argument against domestic cricket – far from it. What it is is an argument for the creation of a proper structure with six or maximum eight classy teams playing in a Premier League in matches that matter, in decent venues – the finishing school for England squad potential players. That is a structure that is affordable, concentrates efforts and finances rather than dilutes them (as at present) and should ensure that with the Kolpaks packing their bags we at long last take a real leadership role in World cricket.

    The delusion that this competition matters in the 21st Century are shared by a sad few spectators who have lost a bit of touch with reality. Oh and around 18 Chairmen of the First Class counties whose delusions surround the preposterous proposition that the best way to create a continually winning England side is to continue to subsidise their outmoded competitions and nineteenth century organisation and structure.

    Buy Buckland’s book to read the best analysis of the rot that is English County cricket and the way forward. It’s well researched, written in a lively style and in turns naggingly and infuriatingly sad (but accurate) and hilariously funny.

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