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Tom Cartwright - Tthe Flame Still Burns by Stephen Chalke

Release date: 07th March, 2007
Publisher: Fairfield Books

List Price: £16.00
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Tom Cartwright - The Flame Still Burns
By Stephen Chalke
Fairfield Books price: £15.20 (HB)

With England's cricket team embarking on another World Cup campaign which most pundits believe is likely to prove as successful as the previous eight, it's worth remembering that there was a breed of cricketer that flourished in the county game during the 1950s and 1960s who would have made a real difference to English cricket teams in the one-day game.

Tom Cartwright was just such a man. In the twelve summers between 1962 and 1973, he took more wickets, 1251, than any other bowler and that included names such as Fred Titmus, Derek Underwood and Derek Shackleton. Incredibly, he played just five times for England during this period, suffering perhaps in the earlier years from the combination of Statham and Trueman and latterly by the emergence of John Snow.

What is even more incredible was that he began as a batsman, making his debut for Warwickshire in 1952 against Nottinghamshire at the age of just 17 years and 39 days. He managed 82 not out in the final game of the season. He remains the youngest player to score a half century in the County Championship and the only person to do it twice before his 18th birthday when he scored one run more against the same opposition the following year.

It was three years after his debut that he first got a bowl in first class cricket, and another four before he properly established himself as an all-rounder. In 1959 he passed 1,000 runs for the season for the first time and took 80 wickets. His annus mirabilis was 1961 when he scored a mighty 1,668 runs and took 77 wickets.

After 1961, his batting took a back seat as his bowling steadily improved, with his 1967 tally of 147 wickets being his best. Thanks to his supremely economical bowling, Warwickshire became, with Sussex, the leading counties in the nascent Gillette Cup. Moreover, he was more than useful as a late middle order batsman.

Facts and figures aside, Cartwright was, unusually for a cricketer forty years ago, a proud Socialist and his questioning of the lot of the journeyman county cricketer, ably covered here, was at the heart of his departure from Warwickshire in 1969 and his subsequent dismissal by Somerset. His withdrawal from the MCC tour of South Africa and the selection of Basil D'Oliveira in his place a year earlier had precipitated South Africa's exclusion from international cricket.

Cartwright's formative years were spent in Coventry, a city devastated by Luftwaffe bombs during the Second World War. It is a period of his life brilliantly evoked by author Stephen Chalke, who has produced a procession of memorable cricket books in the last seven years; this ranks as one of his best.

From Warwickshire, Cartwright moved to Somerset, graduating to the role of player/coach. He should be regarded as one of the finest-ever coaches too as among his first pupils were Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Vic Marks, each of whom played in a Somerset side that dominated domestic cricket in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Later, when he moved to South Wales, (where he still remains as coach of Wales under 16s), he went on to produced a long line of players for Glamorgan, including Robert Croft and Simon Jones. Now in his 70s and still going strong, Tom Cartwright provides the perfect example of how passionate sportspeople can perform when the flame still burns. We could do with more of his sort at the Cricket World Cup.

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