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?
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.