Steve James: The Art of Centuries Book Review

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I’d like to think that I’ve provided two pretty decent (Honest, thoughtful and reasonably professional) book reviews on this blog so far.

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/tim-brooks-cricket-on-the-continent-book-review/

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/jonathan-trott-unguarded-my-autobiography-book-review/

This won’t be one of them!

Any professional cricketer and one that represented England at that, who is happy to reveal that he got out deliberately, if he ever was in my estimation, tumbles to the bottom of it. Maybe I’ll be accused of being naive and possibly I’m being harsh on James. If what he meant was that he thought the batsman still to come in after him could score quicker than he could, so he then attempted to hit every ball for six and mostly was dismissed to the very next delivery then fine. But if he is genuinely saying that he lobbed a catch to the fielder at will or allowed the ball to hit the stumps then for me that is a big difference.

There’s the odd brag which Glamorgan stalwart James apologises for but after five or six occasions the brag can drag. To be fair, a batsman writing about batting is obviously going to refer to his own efforts. 15,890 First Class runs at an average of 40.63 including 47 centuries and 58 half-centuries (That’s an extremely, extremely good conversion rate!) with a top score of 309 not out suggests that James was unlucky to play only two Tests for England. On Test debut however he allowed Alec Stewart to talk him into wearing extra protection that he wouldn’t normally. You would have thought that an experienced professional (31 at the time) would have known better. James advises that he felt “uncomfortable” and was soon dismissed.

You’d think that Matthew Maynard (87 Test runs @ 10.87) was the greatest batsman in the history of the game judging by the way James waxes lyrical though obviously if you think about it a professional and primarily domestic cricketer will see a lot of his teammates play but probably not actually see a lot of other cricket, not during the summer months anyway and they would obviously see even the best players less often. For the record, Maynard has 24,799 First Class runs at 42.53 and this is mightily impressive.

In the words of Jason Gillespie “Look” and in my own words, this isn’t the worst book in the world, it’s just that James didn’t quite grab my affection the way that some writers have done in the past.

James has an excellent half-century to century conversion rate in First Class cricket but that’s not the case with his score here. Silly Point provides James’ The Art of Centuries with an innings score of…

62

In my previous book reviews I think that both scores were not out. That’s not the case with James. He was dismissed, possibly by his own design!

I’m also not sure how this book will help me turn my career best 47 into 100. If I ever do record a century then I’ll come back and add a few runs to James’ 62!

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6 thoughts on “Steve James: The Art of Centuries Book Review

  1. I guess Alec was so used to being advised what to do throughout his early career (presumably by his dad, though I’ve not heard his mum’s take on things) he thought little in bugging a nervous debutant to change something… But then if James is admitting to deliberate batting average self harm might he also be a ‘wasn’t my fault’ kinda guy. Had Stewart kept his counsel James’ Test career could have been (Chris) Rogers like rather than just rogered. Nice review, SP, and congratulations on your thousand!

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  2. While I accept your criticism of James admitting to deliberately getting out it is worth bearing in mind that Jack Hobbs (“The Master”) was noted for often giving his wicket away once he had got the century.

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  3. Ah but as any Dr Who fan will tell you, The Master is a deviously evil time lord type who… This isn’t going to help my point…. Scrub that.
    In Jack’s day cricket was a metaphor for decency, gentlemanly behaviour and flogging county attacks for a century was enough. Fast forward to SJ’s day and it was a cut-throat business of soiled pockets and character. I’m with you on this Silly Point, bad show by James. He needs to go sit down (not next to me) in the naughty corner.

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