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Herding Cats: The Art of Amateur Cricket Captaincy By Charlie Campbell

Release date: 18th March, 2017
Publisher: A & C Black

List Price: £16.99
Our Price: £11.89
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The 2017 domestic cricket season, which officially starts on 28th March, will be the 420th in England since the first reference to the game was made in 1597.

Perhaps one reason for this astonishing longevity is the game’s inclusiveness. As Charlie Campbell notes in his wry, often hugely amusing look at amateur cricket, part of its appeal lies in it being a team sport only in a comparatively loose sense.

The enthusiastic duffer prepared to give half the side a lift to the ground where he is then charged with collecting subs is always likely to get a game. He may not be a particularly gifted player, but the astute captain acknowledges his other strengths, even if they’re not necessarily on the field of play. Indeed, Campbell suggests that the amateur cricket captain “requires a deep understanding of the game and, occasionally, of humanity.”

The author muses over the captain’s other roles: he must create an atmosphere where his team applaud collective success rather than laugh at fielders (their own) when they spill a catch and he must satiate middle-order grumblers keen to see their openers given out as they’re itching to bat themselves.

Given this multi-faceted role, it’s no surprise that Campbell likens cricket to poker, another contest which involves scrutinising opponents for weakness, for appearances can often be deceptive. He has seen 12-year-olds throw down the stumps from mid-wicket and “an obese number seven score a quick-fire 80”, although generally, ‘clothes maketh the man’. There is, he suggests, “always a single to the man in black trainers and at least two to the fielder in chinos.”

These clever, razor-sharp observations will strike a chord with anyone who has ever turned out in an amateur game and grown bored after several hours in the field, only to score a paltry three when called upon to bat, the opportunity to bowl denied. In such circumstances, a captain of Campbell’s calibre would undoubtedly throw an arm around the dismissed batsman and promise him a better day the following week, concluding his brief one-to-one with a “see you at nets on Tuesday night. Oh, and can you pick George and the gang up too?”

Anyone considering captaining their local cricket side or merely wanting to enjoy an amusing sideways look at the game should add this book to their library.


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