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Zimmer Men by Marcus Berkmann

Release date: 18th July, 2005
Publisher: Little, Brown

List Price: £16.99
Our Price: £11.89
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Book review
Zimmer Men: The trials and tribulations of the ageing cricketer
By Marcus Berkmann
Little, Brown price: £11.89 (saving over £5 on the published price)

When Marcus Berkmann's last cricket book, Rain Man, was published a decade ago, it was hailed as one of the funniest ever written about a game which can captivate, infuriate, disappoint and delight - and that's during the course of just one over. Rain Man attained a cult following, described as "shining a light meter of reason into cricket's incomparable madness."

'Zimmer Men', I am pleased to report, is hewn from the same piece of willow, slightly more matured but still wonderfully sculpted for executing a square cut through the amateur game's occasionally flimsy covers.

Having just witnessed the most exciting Ashes Test in history, cricket's stock is at an all-time high and Berkmann's literary second innings appears to have coincided with an upturn in the national side's fortunes. Yet the author's favoured wicket is to be found not at Lords or Edgbaston, but on the nation's gentle rolling fields populated, for a few weeks more of the summer at least, by the village cricketer.

Berkmann is the archetypal ageing village cricketer, a forty-something mixture of Victor Meldrew, part of a homogenous group "who believe wearing baseball caps on the field of play should be punished by death," and the wry observer who meticulously weighs up the impact of a lousy hangover upon his cricketing prowess.

Throughout, it is evident that Berkmann dreads retiring from the game as he ponders about which of his cricketing skills will be the first to give up the ghost. Could it be bowling, fielding or batting and how will he cope with the need to leave the field of play when nature calls? "It's bad enough having to go in the middle of the night," he observes, "but in the middle of the over too?"

Then there are the characters, from his team-mate who opens a nightclub in order to leave his days free to play cricket, to the umpiring he refers to as 'humorous'. This is his definition reserved for those men in white coats unsure of the game's laws, so they constantly call for a television replay, making the appropriate signal to the non-existing television studio beyond the boundary's edge: "very dull after the 50,000th repetition."

The rise in the number of amateur players donning protective helmets is also given short shrift as are those who believe the game should be played in sunglasses, especially when cloud cover blots out all sunshine and they're left looking like one of those idiots "who wears sunglasses indoors at night."

During the course of the last decade, Berkmann has witnessed all manner of change to the game at its most junior level, not all of which he considers for the better, yet he gives each amendment, trend and innovation the same wonderfully observant, immensely funny treatment. Not surprisingly, he reserves his greatest ire for football which, he concludes, has become responsible for devouring all of the world's money. Furthermore, given cricket's recent unacceptable trends in clothing, sunglasses and helmets, he dreads the arrival of the first village cricketer in an Alice band.

Zimmer Man is as funny as Rain Man, the type of book which makes you periodically burst into laughter which, let's face it, is a much-needed commodity in any sport. Can't wait for Berkmann's hat-trick delivery.

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