Who only cricket knows | Cricket backdrop

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Posted: 2021
Pages: 447
Author: Woodhouse, David
Publisher: Fairfield Books
Rating: 5 stars

It was in January 2018 that I was able to announce for the first time that projects were underway to publish this one, so its gestation period was long. So there can be no excuse for Who only cricket knows being other than a beautiful book and, I am glad to be able to point it out, none is required.

The subject of Who only cricket knows is England’s tour of the Caribbean in 1953/54, a surprisingly neglected corner of football history. Described at the time as the game’s second most controversial tour, following the 1932/33 “Bodyline” saga, this description remains quite apt seven decades later.

England and the West Indies had played trial cricket for the first time a quarter of a century before the fateful trip. In England, the full strength of the Imperial Master had always been sufficient to ward off the West Indies, although in the two return competitions in the Caribbean, the MCC, by selecting “experimental” camps, misjudged the strength of the opposition. and failed to win either. series there.

After the war, another inferior English team was sent to the Caribbean in 1947/48 and, despite realizing the magnitude of their task, sending master drummer Len Hutton to support a tour led by Gubby Allen. , 45, has always failed. to win a single match at the First Class level, and lost all four test sets 2-0.

This beating in the Caribbean hurt England, but a simple home win was still expected in 1950. In case expectations were mixed up and although England won the first of four tests enough comfortably, they were dismissed by their endemic visitors. in each of the other three.

In 1953, the year of the coronation, England turned a corner and returned to the Ashes for the first time since 1932/33 and so after those two recent losses there was a lot of rest on the Series 53 / result. 54 which was billed in some quarters as being for the game’s world championship. Learning from past experience, England this time took on a full squad and were led by Hutton, the first time a professional ruled England abroad.

Both sides are full of famous names. The West Indies had two of their all-time greats, George Headley and Garry Sobers, although they were playing their last and first tests respectively. On the other side of the coin, however, men like the famous Three W’s, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott were in their prime. 1950’s spin bowling heroes Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine were still young men too, and all the home team really lacked was a serious offense.

At the time, the force of fast bowling was with England, and more specifically young tyrant Fred Trueman. Brian Statham was there to partner with Trueman, and Hutton had three first-class spinners at his disposal in Tony Lock, Jim Laker, and Johnny Wardle. With Hutton himself and Denis Compton in the batting roster, that part of the tourist side looked strong as well.

But there was much more to the 1953/54 tour than a competition between world-class cricketers. Hutton and his men found themselves straddling the old and the new world. They were sometimes received royally by the upper echelons of West Indian society, long established families keen to maintain their old Caribbean way of life and eager to succeed in England. It was, after all, the time of the empire.

The war had changed everything, however, and for the Caribbean nations independence was only a decade away. At the same time, traditional tensions between the islands continued, as did those within individual settlements between their various ethnic groups. It was a situation that required an experienced management team with considerable diplomatic skills. Sadly, England didn’t have one, and that’s a big part of why David Woodhouse has such a fascinating subject of study.

The story of the tour is told in three parts. The first returns to the context of the trip and ends with the departure from Hutton for the Caribbean. Part two takes a look at the tour itself, both on and off the pitch. The series was captivating and in itself is a tribute to Hutton. His team have been comfortably beaten in the first two tests before, with their captain leading forward with innings of 169 and 205, England have won two of the three remaining tests on either side of a draw with a score high in order to align the series. Hutton, in the midst of the storm all day and every day, was comfortably the best batsman in the series, finishing with a Bradmanesque average of 96.71.

There have been numerous incidents on and off the playing field, and some have been greatly offended by the behavior of tourists, sometimes with and sometimes without cause. Hutton’s policy of not wanting his men to mingle with the West Indies team didn’t help, nor did the level of officiating. Trueman in particular drew complaints to such an extent that he lost his tour bonus and, such was the size of the black mark against his name, he was not selected for a tour of England for five years.

As in 1933, the return from the camp to England resulted in something akin to an investigation, fully covered in the final section of Who only cricket knows. Once again, a supposedly errant fast bowler refused to apologize and suffered the consequences. For Hutton, there was more stress ahead, even though he managed to lead England to their famous victory in Australia in 1954/55. One man whose leadership ambitions were thwarted was Trevor Bailey. The versatile hobbyist was considered an almost garden figure at Lord’s, and did himself no favors by publishing the tour of the West Indies, if not in breach of contract, so certainly in violation of the expectations and unwritten rules hobbyists owed. join. To.

Naturally, the Caribbean was also affected by the fallout from the tour and Woodhouse follows the upheavals that the West Indies game saw afterwards which ultimately, although not as quickly as it should have, resulted in the nomination. of Frank Worrell as captain in 1960.

At the end of this beautifully written and well illustrated book, we find the dashboards of the events, the tour statistics, a complete bibliography and a very fine index. Woodhouse’s writing shows great skill and he’s an accomplished writer who clearly has a sense of humor. Outside of his index finger, he keeps it largely a secret in writing about what was, of course, quite serious business, but he sometimes lets her venture into his tale. I especially liked his description of Learie Constantine as a List A cricketer for a day at a time when day cricket was not considered List A.

So Who only cricket knows is about perfect? Well yeah, that’s the answer to that one, although I still have two grunts. The first is that, as with an increasing number of books, there is almost nothing about the author on the jacket. I’m afraid that nothing more than supports Worcestershire but learned his cricket in Hull just don’t cut it *.

My second complaint, and in many ways the most serious, is that with, according to my calculation, three of the protagonists still with us (Ramadhin, Sobers and Bruce Pairaudeau), a book of this quality should really be available in addition in a limited edition in leather. edition signed by the three survivors and Woodhouse, with marbled guards, all gilded edges, a design case and, in the style of Wilfred Rhodes: The Arc de Triomphe, a Trevor Bailey motion picture DVD. I’m going to get my coat ……

* You can learn a lot more about Woodhouse, however, and Who only cricket knows, listening to his appearance on Oborne and Heller at cricket, one of the best of the many cricket podcasts currently circulating in cyberspace.

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