Cricket: The Game of Life By Scyld Berry
Release date: 01st October, 2015
Publisher: Wisden Sports Publishing
Our Price: £18.00
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Reading former Wisden editor Scyld Berry on cricket is akin to watching a particularly dextrous potter at his wheel, skilfully moulding and caressing his raw materials, in Berryâ€™s case, the English language, to produce something of lasting beauty. Mr Berry has been writing about the game he loves for more than four decades, but I doubt heâ€™s written anything better than Cricket: The Game of Life, an imaginative, engrossing study of how cricket developed and why millions of people enjoy playing and watching it.
Berryâ€™s analysis is both original and compelling. For instance, he identifies the early support of individuals such as the Duke of Wellington, or the sporting bonds formed between the British and Parsis in India as crucial to cricketâ€™s development. Cricket, he maintains, has flourished first in hot spots and gradually woven its magic in nations across the world.
Cricketâ€™s first hot spot was Lascelles Hall in Yorkshire, where, in the mid-nineteenth century, Englandâ€™s finest team were situated. Mr Berry reasons that this unassuming, hilltop village was home to an all-conquering side because most of its inhabitants were hand weavers. The location, coupled with its industry, accounted for unusual levels of hand-eye co-ordination, agility and, as a result of tackling a rather steep hill every day, the teamâ€™s outstanding fitness.
The author also submits a novel theory which, he believes, explains how and why English Test cricketers develop.
"Very few of the 584 Test cricketers born in England and Wales have reached the top without the help of at least one of these four stepladders," he says: "1, A fee-paying school; 2, A close relative who has played either Test or first-class cricket, or will do so; 3, Professional football, with the benefits entailed; 4, Being born in Yorkshire or Lancashire where even small communities have a cricket ground. The majority of the male population of England and Wales does not fit into any of these categories. The waste has been enormous."
There are similarly inventive musings on cricketâ€™s language, its camaraderie, statistics, its spirit and psychology before he concludes: "This game can bring together so many sections of society to play and watchâ€¦ this sport can support us all. Cricket is the game of life."
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