As we continue to discuss everything except the actual staging of cricket matches, I thought I would share with you what cricket books sit on my shelves in Matt H Lockdown Central.
Charles Davis: The Best of the Best (2000)
This is simply my favourite cricketing book of all time. It was my first exposure to a statistician having a real crack at comparing batsmen, bowlers and players across eras and disciplines to definitively establish who was the greatest of them all. But it is so much more than that.
Davis examines a series of great players in more detail looking at where they rate for playing under pressure, away performances, consistency, career peak and other measures. He also takes a look at cricket in general, trends in the game and the truth concerning common myths, including the value of a nightwatchman and the science behind declarations. He even does a basic analysis looking for the greatest sportsperson in history. It’s simply a delight form start to finish.
Geoff Lemon: Steve Smith’s Men
A graduate of the School of The Roar, Lemon is rapidly establishing himself up there with Gideon Haigh as the best independent cricket writers in this country. This examination of the Newlands sandpaper scandal looks at underlying causes and along the way shines a light on some of the corporate darkness at the heart of Cricket Australia. This won’t get him invites onto the Channel Seven commentary team any time soon!
Gideon Haigh: Crossing the Line
This mini read by the great sportswriter is almost a companion piece to Geoff Lemon’s effort. Haigh examines and then pretty much lays bare the Australian cricket organisation’s descent into meanness, sledging and poor sportsmanship. It’s a beauty and only takes an hour or two.
David Frith: Australia versus England
This is an essential resource for any Ashes junkie. A history, including pictures and scorecards, for every Ashes Test written by one of the most knowledgeable cricket writers there is. The stories are great, including lots of contemporary views.
ACB: 200 Seasons of Australian Cricket
Put out by the Australian Cricket Board to celebrate 200 years of Australian cricket, this is another valuable resource, covering more than just the Ashes, although in less depth and with fewer insights and David Frith’s Ashes history.
Gideon Haigh: On Warne
Gideon Haigh is one of the best cricket writers going around and here he turns his attention to what makes the great Shane Warne tick. An excellent read, it is not a standard biography, but instead selects a series of anecdotes and observations to flesh out the surprisingly complicated character of Shane Warne.
Malcolm Knox: The Greatest 1993-2008
This excellent history chronicles the rise and rise of the great Australian side of the 1990s and 2000s. Being an Australian cricket fan boy, it always warms my heart!
Ed Cowan: In the Firing Line
This is a superb book by one of cricket’s most insightful players of recent times. Follow the trials and tribulations of a player that we all agree was no Ricky Ponting, as he traverses a season of Shield cricket. The insecurities, highs and lows are all laid bare in a beautifully written book that gives us fans an insight we are rarely privileged to receive.
Jarrod Kimber: Test Cricket
Jarrod Kimber has produced some quality off-centre writing on cricket over the years and this is no exception. It’s essentially a love letter to Test cricket, told by highlighting a series of events and anecdotes from the great game and digging for nuggets. Not a bad read.
Geoff Armstrong: The 100 Greatest Cricketers
I am a sucker for any book that looks to rank players. This one is pretty standard fare, but the biographies of the players are well written and add to the understanding of players I’ve never seen.
Rob Smyth: Gentlemen and Sledgers
This is another book full of cricketing stories, exposing some of the more colourful aspects of cricket and those that have played the game. I bought this book, read it, forgot it and then bought it again some years later. Settling in to read what I thought was a new book for me was a little disappointing. But the first time around it was money well spent.
Shane Warne’s Century
This book would have been better as a Roar article. It’s simply Warne listing his 100 greatest cricketers and then giving a bit of background. It’s an entertaining read (who doesn’t love a list?) almost as much for Warne’s attempts to justify punishing those he didn’t get on with by marking them down in this book. They include Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist.
David Frith: Bodyline Autopsy
This very long read is an in-depth history and analysis of the Bodyline series. It tries to puncture some myths and definitely sides with the English viewpoint of the saga, which made it hard reading at times for me. Frith is no Don Bradman fan either, reading between the lines.
I loved this book. Similar to his stints in commentary, Ponting came across as very passionate and knowledgeable in this book. The prologue where Ponting describes coming back to his club for a game after finishing his career is one of the best descriptions of a love for cricket that I’ve read.
This is not one I will read again in a hurry. It’s fairly straight forward and a little self-serving. It did, however, provide the secret to Hayden’s great success. He worked harder and was as determined as any cricketer in history.
Steve Waugh: Out of My Comfort Zone
The holy grail of cricket biographies. This, to put it mildly, is a slog. At about two million pages, Waugh leaves no stone unturned in covering his life and career, philosophies and views. I would like to read it again one day, but it’s a bit daunting.
Adam Gilchrist: True Colours
I bought this at a charity sale and haven’t read it yet, so the story of the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman of all time is waiting for me.
Finally, these are the books I have lost over the years.
• All my ABC cricket books got left at my parents’ home somewhere and I assume got thrown out.
• Ashes to Ashes. I can’t even remember who wrote it but it chronicles the dark days of Australian Test cricket from the home flogging of 2010/11 to the Mitchell Johnson devastation only four years later. I swear it’s around here somewhere…
• The Nissan Book of Test Cricket Lists from 1982. This treasure trove of information from batting averages to various bizarre statistical anomalies was cherished, never mind that the stats are all nearly 40 years out of date now. But it too has somehow disappeared along the way.
• I have read at least two biographies of Don Bradman that I remember over the years, but they appear to have either been borrowed from the library or lost over the years. The standout recollection of these is of a cricketing machine whose like will never be seen again.