Thoughts on scribes

The Guardian is touting Gideon Haigh on its Ashes webpage as ‘the world’s best cricket writer’.

That’s the sort of boosterism that I thought those lefties at the Guardian were dead-set against. But I digress.

After all, how would you define someone as ‘the best cricket writer’? Is it because he’s the most readable writer going around, or because he is the most descriptive? And there is two definate styles of writing, the ‘reportage’ and the ‘analysis’. So that makes defining the ‘best’ an even more subjective task.

So in effect, there are multiple writers that could reasonably be classed as ‘the best’, by each individual. And there’s plenty of individuals with their own ideas. Who are your ‘best writers’? And what do you want your ‘scribes’ to be writing about?

Peter the Lord’s cat

Peter the Lord\'s Cat: And Other Unexpected Obituaries from Wisden

Saw this reviewed in a newspaper today, and it looks well worth buying. I might even get it myself unless I can borrow one from work.

In 2005, Aurum republished with success, J.L. Carr’s miniature and classic “Dictionary of Extra-Ordinary Cricketers” – the book reprinted within a few months. Now, in its first collaboration with John Wisden & Co., publishers of the celebrated annual “Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack”, it publishes a similarly eccentric gallery of quixotic and eccentric cricketers, edited by acclaimed cricket writer Gideon Haigh. But where readers of J.L. Carr were never quite sure whether the author had somehow embellished – or even completely invented – the facts about the cricketers he anthologised, the esoteric details and mad whimsies recorded in these obituaries are exactly as they appeared in the august pages of the Almanack itself. Thus, we read of Anthony Ainley, who besides a claim to fame of playing the Master in “Dr. Who”, opened the batting clad in “sunblock, helmet and swimming goggles” and always took his teas alone in his car, “possibly because he despised cheeses of all kinds”.” There is the Rev. Reginald Heber Ross, whose two first-class cricket appearances were separated by a record 32 years. And there is the much-lamented loss of Peter the Cat, who frequented the pavilion at Lord’s for many years. He gets his own obituary.

Peter the Lord’s Cat: And Other Unexpected Obituaries from Wisden – £7.18. Check out the “cricket_books” tag or this post for some book recommendations.

Commentators allured to Twenty20 madness

Last week in Australia was one which may in hindsight be seen as a
historical turning point. Monday night brought the first home Twenty20
international won comfortably by Australia in front of a record crowd for
the Gabba of 38,894 patrons who left slightly deafer than when they came in
thanks to an atmosphere more reminiscent of a disco than a cricket ground.

But this was not the historical event: everyone has known for some time the
potentialities of Twenty20 cricket and their implications, not so much for
Test cricket as for one-day cricket, whose humdrum nature is shown in even
more stark relief. The truly fascinating development was the role of the
Channel Nine commentary team, who abandoned all pretence of being
disinterested critics of the spectacle before them, and turned into carnival
barkers: ‘Hurry hurry hurry, step right up and see the AMAAAAZING cricket
match!’ During South Africa’s insipid and incompetent reply to the
Australian total, viewers were told repeatedly that what they were watching
was the most exciting innovation since penicillin. One expects this from
Tony Greig, of course, who has been selling ghastly gew-gaws for years. But
here were Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Mark Nicholas and Michael Slater, almost
tumescent with excitement, essentially doing the same: selling us a
one-sided one-dayer as though it was the Tied Test. No wonder Rich and
Chappelli had the night off; George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother was a
model of parliamentary dignity compared with Slater’s desperate attempts to
endear himself to his temporary bosses. This reinvention of cricket
commentary as infomercial raised some provocative questions. Is the
commentator there to call the game, or to sell it? Is his duty primarily to
the viewer, to his employer or – strange anachronistic notion, this – to the
game of cricket? The commentators here are on a slippery slope, but they
look determined to slalom down it.

It was almost a relief to watch the comparative dignity of the opening VB
Series game on Friday evening, another damp squib thanks to the serene
inertia of Sri Lanka’s Martin Van Dotball, but with a soundtrack neither so
hysterical nor hyperbolic. It was possible to savour instead the
restoration of heart-warming traditions like the sound of Murali being
no-balled by one of those famously knowledgeable and hospitable Melbourne
crowds – something, of course, to which the commentators were far too polite
to refer. But ho! What have we here, with Nicholas and Healy at the
microphone? Mr Smooth and Mr Shrewd wearing false moustaches as part of a
beer promotion involving a talking Boonie doll! Pure ruddy gold. Kerry
Packer might have gone to his reward, but his spirit is alive and well. If
you can bear to sit through the eye-glazingly dull games, there’s some
veeeeerrry interesting stuff going down in Aussie cricket at the moment.

“Guests welcome”

No, I haven’t turned this blog into an elitist London bar which only allow members (“guests welcome” in smallprint at the bottom). I’m delighted to announce Gideon Haigh, author of several tomes and renowned cricket writer, will be guest-posting here at the CoU.

Gideon’s been writing about cricket longer than many, and is rather good at it too – so count yourselves fortunate that we have someone of his stature here. On that note, it’s over to the man himself…

Pakistan tour diary

Much as Gideon Haigh’s Ashes diary was such a success in the summer for Cricinfo, Andrew Miller is doing the same and it promises to be equally as entertaining, or perhaps more so considering I know and work with him at Cricinfo Towers. It’ll be linked to on the homepage at Cricinfo, midway down under Regulars. His latest entry is here, which includes this gem:

On neither occasion, however, was there the slightest altercation between the concerned parties. It struck me that road rage is a curiously Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, borne of an over-reliance on rules and an unwillingness to accept responsibility for your actions. Here, you embark on a journey on a wing and a prayer, and keep your wits about you, lest others whip them away for you. As my airline pilot might have put it: “In’shallah”.

I’ve yet to go to Pakistan or India – I’m absolutely dying to go – so do keep your eye on his diary over the next few weeks for some..interesting insights among other stuff.

Ashes DVDs and a couple of books

My 3-set Ashes DVD (£14.99) has been dispatched by Amazon – a weekend of beer, pizza and cricket awaits some time in the next couple of weeks! Also, two other books of note:

1) Simon Hughes’ new book, Morning Everyone, is released on October 20 (Thursday). A lot to live up to after his previous two books.

2) Gideon Haigh’s Ashes 2005. One of the best writers around, this should be an excellent – and one of the better – accounts of this summer’s Ashes. Out, too, on October 20.

So rare to have a feast of cricket-DVD-and-book’age happening – and it’s far too long to wait for Christmas! – so get ‘em now like I have.

Cricket books and DVDs coming soon

I confess to not reading a great deal of cricket books. The last, and best, was Rain Men by Marcus Berkmann (thoughts on this here) which, according to Amazon, is now called Rain Men: The Madness of Cricket, which is perfectly apt.

Now the Ashes are safely back home (!), there are a flurry of books and DVDs coming out in their/our honour, all of which I suggest you pre-order from Amazon – and you can do that via me, to give me some extra money, by clicking on the links below!

Calling the Shots: The Captain\'s Story

First up is Michael Vaughan’s Calling the Shots which promises a rare insight into the mind of a captain. Not only that, but the mind of an English Ashes-winning captain – a must-read, therefore. Release-date November 7 2005, £11.39

Ashes Diary

Next is an Ashes Diary by The England Cricket Team. It could just be a load of photos, but is likely to make interesting reading. Release-date September 29, 2005, £10.79

Ashes 2005: The Full Story of the Test Series

I’ve mentioned Gideon Haigh before, and his latest book ought to be well worth reading. Ashes 2005: The Full Story of the Test Series. He’s one of the better cricket writers in the world at the moment, writes for The Guardian and almost everyone else. Release-date October 20, 2005, £6.99 (bargain, that one)

The Ashes - England V Australia 2005

Perhaps most excitingly of all, a three-set DVD of the entire Test Series! The Ashes – England v Australia 2005. It’s Amazon’s top-selling DVD at the moment. Get this NOW! Release-date October 17, 2005, £14.99

Morning Everyone: A Sportswriter\'s Life

As mentioned in January, Simon Hughes’ new book arrives on our shelves in October. His previous ones have been excellent, and this one should be equally entertaining. Morning Everyone: A Sportswriter’s Life. Release-date, October 20, 2005, £10.19

The Greatest Test

This one is available now; The Greatest Test, highlights of the Edgbaston nail-biter. You know you want it. £9.99

What a load of Ashes goodness there is – enough to keep you going for months. Enjoy!

Botham? Who’s he?

English cricket has long sought an Ian Botham replacement. They tried, tried and tried but never quite found him. So, of course, when Fred arrived, the media were quick to label him The New Botham. Happily, I don’t think this will happen again from now on. Andrew Flintoff is now, purely, Andrew Flintoff, as he himself mentions – and as Gideon Haigh makes note of rather more elegantly than I am here. (in his Saturday August 6 diary entry).

To mirror Gideon’s words, Botham is the old Flintoff.

Gideon Haigh’s Ashes Tour Diary

Gideon Haigh, author and cricket writer par excellence, has an Ashes Diary up at Cricinfo which is well worth a read.