More Than A Game by John Major | Waterstones
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- More Than A Game: The Story of Cricket's Early Years by John Major (Hardback, 2007)?
- History from the heart;
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Playing a straight bat
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Follow the instructions for creating an Afterpay account, or sign in if you're already a customer. Once you're finished with Afterpay you'll be taken back to Trade Me. Afterpay will email you a payment schedule. That earnest passion flows through every page of his history of the birth and development of the game. There are personal touches to the narrative, among them a poignant account of his schoolday exploits 'I was no cricketing prodigy but nor was I a complete mug' and of his sadness that neither of his parents ever saw him play.
But in the main this is a solid, meaty work of research. The story has been told many times before, but it's likely that, as a work of reference, More Than A Game will supplant its predecessors. As such, it will be gratefully seized upon by the legion of cricketing fact fanatics, nit-pickers and statistics addicts spread across the world as they debate such hot issues as the appearance of the third stump and the round-arm controversy of the s, and argue over whether Lumpy Stevens would have been a match for Alfred Mynn.
Major takes a scholarly, even pedantic, pleasure in putting earlier authorities right. The man who came out with a bat the same width as the stumps was Thomas White of Reigate - 'not, as sometimes claimed, Shock White of Brentford'. The sister who started John Willes on his revolutionary, round-arm way was Christiana, 'not Christina as is sometimes thought'.
Major accepts that a Hambledon Cricket Club was playing in , but sniffily describes the identification with the famous Hambledon club of Broadhalfpenny Down as 'very questionable'. Something similar might be said about some of his own efforts in the This Sceptred Isle school of history.
The first authentic recorded reference to 'creckett' dates from the s, when - according to Major - 'England was astir'. Not long after, 'the joyless spirit of Puritanism began to creep across the land'. By the s, 'Britain was in a ferment of change' and 'the aristocracy, the meritocracy and the working man were all at odds'. Things were better by - 'leisure time increased Still, at least Major tries to provide a context for the growth of the game.
He also does his best to rescue the dim legends of the distant past. Unfortunately cricket - like most other good things in life long ago - owed its advance to the nobs and bigwigs with the money and the time to promote it. The story gains substance and the pictures become sharper when the blue bloods, top hats, braces and curved bats give way to something recognisable as the modern game, with the first Test matches and the emergence of the county championship.
Major vividly captures the flavour of the age, with its rampant commercialism and sharp practice; and draws a compelling portrait of the man who defined it: W. Grace, bully, cheat, mercenary and genius. He is refreshingly free from illusions about that Golden Age which ended - as does More Than A Game - with the outbreak of war in He appreciates the dark side - the cheating, the snobbery, the financial insecurity - as much as he relishes the feats of W.
Major is no Victor Trumper among cricket historians. To put it in the context of his beloved Surrey, he is a Barrington rather than a Peter May. He nudges and dabs and his occasional attempt at an elegant stylistic cover drive tends to land him in trouble.
More Than A Game: The Story of Cricket's Early Years
But - as I'm sure Major would be swift to remind me - Barrington's test average and aggregate were much superior to May's. I composed much of this review in my head while mowing my club's ground in preparation for the new season. I reflected on how my life, like his, has been - in his words - 'immeasurably enriched by a love of cricket'. I'd be prepared to bet that long after all the self-serving political memoirs his own included have been utterly forgotten, More Than A Game will still be settling arguments and giving pleasure across the civilised, cricket-loving world.