Peter Della Penna: Inside the Selection Room Book Review

I’ve long been an admirer of Peter Della Penna’s work. I’ve read articles by him on Cricinfo that focus on Associate Cricket with USA often at the forefront of his efforts. When I saw that he had a book out that was about selecting a team beyond the Test world, I just had to get my hands on it…

And so it was that a 453 page tomb in size 10 (Maybe ?!) font arrived through my door! Even I felt daunted but it turned out to be right up my street.

The book details the trial and selection process for an ICC Americas XI that competed in the West Indies domestic 50-over competition in 2015. We’re provided with back stories of the players and later, a Where are they Now? section. If you’re not already aware, this book highlights the fact that cricket beyond the Test world relies heavily on players from celebrated cricketing nations, namely in Asia. It also pinpoints what those players are up against in a constantly changing and often poorly organised system both in their own countries and in international tournaments. As well as all this, it highlights, as is one of the main points of the book, that T20 franchise cricket could be an absolute game changer for some of these players and inspire many more from all over the world.

Cover star Ali Khan is the, errr… star of the book. The chapter surrounding IPL auction day highlights how many people are interested beyond the player themselves and the pressure this brings. His desire for opportunity on the franchise circuit whilst being in demand to represent USA, does showcase the challenging and often fixture clashing environment that players face. Of course this happens for Test players too but an Associate player having to decide between what competition to play in can have serious consequences… good or bad!

I suppose one criticism could be that the book displays a hint of repetition when referencing players’ past achievements etc. To be fair, so many player’s histories straddle the same events that it’s unavoidable.

This book isn’t for everybody but if your a stats freak who is passionate about cricket beyond Test stars and even T20 icons then it could be for you.

Peter Della Penna’s Inside the Selection Room is unlucky to be caught at square leg for… 88!

Nihar Suthar: The Corridor of Uncertainty Book Review

The first chapter of this book is a little simplistic and I was worried about how the read would turn out…

However, it developed into a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful read. I wasn’t completely blind to Afghanistan’s development as a cricket nation and the characters involved but it was fascinating to hear about some more. There were one or two trips over the border, or at least the return, that were skipped over a little briefly for what was presumably a big deal but still, the book provides added depth to the team’s history.

At less than 200 pages, it’s a digestible read whilst still informing the reader of numerous details.

Nihar Suthar’s The Corridor of Uncertainty: How Cricket Mended a Torn Natiom scores…

81 not out

Krish Dutt: Cricket… Right Here!! Right Now!! Book Review

Hi all

If you’re looking for a great way to have some fun with a friend then check this out. It’s fantastic for on a journey too. It really is a clever idea. I can’t recommend this book high enough. One crucial thing that it’s got going for it is it’s longevity. Every game that you play will be different.

I suppose my only bug is occasionally scoring 10 runs which is why it doesn’t quite reach a ton for me.

Cricket… Right Here!! Right Now!! scores…

95 not out

James Buttler: Following On Book Review

This book is a decent read. Buttler has interviewed a number of players, past and present but also relies on second hand information.

I found his Joe Bloggs question a little lacking in logic if you really think it about and there’s a few errors in the text, missing words etc that I always find frustrating when you think how many people must’ve read a book before it hits the shelves.

My enjoyment of the book may have suffered from me reaching a tipping point having feasted on so much cricket literature. There’s definitely food for thought if you have children and it provides quite an insight into Jonny Bairstow’s ‘The whole world is against me’ mindset. If you’ve been sheltered and protected throughout your life then it’s no wonder that when you receive criticism aged 28 you respond like a fourteen-year-old!

Buttler does make an astute point about sometimes asking not well thought out questions but how cricketers/coaches can save them with an interesting answer but a football player/manager may be less inclined to do so.

James Buttler’s Following On scores…


Dan Waddell: Field of Shadows Book Review

It’s safe to say that I wasn’t expecting a book about an English cricket team’s tour to Nazi Germany in 1937 to be a comedy!

That’s not strictly true but the first chapter in particular highlights Waddell’s humour and it’s maintained throughout the book.

As a cricket tragic who once spent a fortnight in Berlin, I found the book extremely enjoyable and interesting. Waddell delves into as much cricket specifics as sources will allow but also takes the book beyond on-field activities. He informs the reader how a player performed at the wicket but also details their background and what they wrote on postcards as well as which tourist spots they visited and what was hidden out of sight at those locations. He later goes into detail about the players’ wartime efforts educating the reader about the war in general.

Much of what Waddell writes about is clearly based on firsthand communication with family members of the players as well as access to their scrapbooks.

The detailed specifics of the actual cricket may not be for everybody but for cricket tragics I can’t recommend this book high enough.

It’s achieved a new career best score here at Silly Point by finishing the innings undefeated on…

99 not out!

David Gower: Half-Century Book Review

David Gower’s Half-Century: The Fifty Greatest Cricketers of all Time, is an essential read for the cricket enthusiast. It’s a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with details of players from bygone eras, ones that you may have heard of and have some knowledge of but for whom acquiring more information on would be healthy. Isn’t part of being a cricket fan having strong knowledge of the achievements of those in the past, of those who helped shape our game and the success that the current crop of players strive for?

Not surprisingly the book is in bite-sized chunks, overs if you like. Each player gets about four pages and a photo, allowing you to pick up and put down the book at convenient stages.

I’m often appalled at the numerous spelling and grammatical errors that modern publications are riddled with but I’m pleased to say that they are few and far between in this book, just the odd play and miss but no losing your wicket!

I know David Gower more from They Think it’s all Over than anything else and he writes well, in the style that I’m led to believe he provides in his commentary. He had some help from Simon Wilde and provides strong statistical analysis as well as crucially going beyond the numbers including recalling first-hand experience. He does this without sounding above himself.

I read this book in a matter of days. That’s unusual for me but when you’re reading about something that you’re interested in it’s more easily done… than if you weren’t interested. Like I say, the bite-size reading chunks helped!

Get your hands on a copy and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

David Gower’s Half-Century: The Fifty Greatest Cricketers of all Time scores…

95 not out

Well batted!

Upcoming Reads!

Please don’t let the image above mislead you. They’re some of the cricket themed books that I’ve already read. You can find out more by clicking on the link below…

I’ve since read a few more as well, so please check out the Book Review tab on my homepage.

I’ve still got a few TBR (Is that what BookTubers call it?) in my drawer but there are some writings due for release soon that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on.

Former Zimbabwe captain come priest come selector Tatenda Taibu’s autobiography should be an insightful read. It’s due for release next month.

Former England spinner Vic Marks, widely and on this occasion correctly regarded as one of the more endearing and astute voices on the game, also has some scripture due for release this summer.

Are there any cricket books that you’ve particularly enjoyed reading or are looking forward to doing so?

James Astill: The Great Tamasha Book Review

As with Peter Oborne’s A History of Cricket in Pakistan, when reading James Astill’s The Great Tamasha, not only do you learn about cricket but the country as a whole.

Firstly, let’s get the criticism out of the way. Occasionally Astill dismisses the careers of some domestic players whose batting averages weren’t particularly lofty. Whilst he draws attention to the fact that many players were presented with opportunities that they didn’t merit, one or two mentioned deserve a little more respect. There are ranges in people’s abilities in all walks of life and not every batsman in Indian domestic cricket can average north of sixty.

Moving on, what rings true in Astill’s work is that he’s clearly immersed himself in local culture. He’s lived and breathed the streets, slums and cricket fields of India and not just the tourist spots. Astill performed many interviews with folk who are or were involved in the game at all levels of the cricket spectrum. It is interesting to have read this book five or six years since publication. The IPL is clearly still very much part of the cricket calendar even though there was great uncertainty and controversy during and before the time of writing.

Lalit Modi courts a lot of page time as do the owners of the IPL franchises. Astill’s explanations of why Indian’s watch cricket and their reasons for doing so are particularly insightful.

For enthusiastic fans of the global game, this is essential reading and scores…

84 not out

Shehan Karunatilaka: Chinaman Book Review

Errr…. ?

So I’ve finished reading this book and don’t quite know what to make of it but fortunately not in the same way as that ‘cricket‘ book that Barack Obama was reading!

It’s absurdly fictitious (I think!) but based on reality (Well, sort of).

I don’t read much fiction at all but being cricket literature written in the first person, Karunatilaka’s Chinaman is not that far removed from my usual readings.

I was starting to find it a little drawn out during the fourth day’s play but a change of innings on the final day re-awoke my interest.

Some people might scorn at one or two slightly fanciful things that appear on various pages and many of the character names are a little too ‘combine two genuine Sri Lankan cricketers’, see Marvan Arnold but the book is still original. Chinaman manages to stay on track despite heading off in different directions. Go figure!

I enjoy writing but am utterly hopeless at reviewing things (Can you tell?). At least I made it to the end unlike that 700-page sci-fi work about living on Mars. Next up I have Barry Richards’ autobiography but might be squeezing in some non-cricket books beforehand.

Back to Chinaman, Shehan Karunatilaka’s effort reaches the close of play undefeated on…

78 not out