By Marcus Berkmann
There are many cricket books, and they are all the same. 'Don't Tell Goochie', autobiographical insights of nights on the tiles in Delhi with Lambie and the boys; 'Fruit cake days', a celebrated humourist recalls 'ball' - related banter of yore; and Wisden, a deadly weapon when combined with a thermos flask. Rain Men is different. Like the moment the genius of Richie Benaud first revealed itself to you, it is a cricketing epiphany, a landmark in the literature of the game.Shining the light meter of reason into cricket's incomparable madness, Marcus Berkmann illuminates all the obsessions and disappointments that the dedicated fan and pathologically hopeful clubman suffers year after year - the ritual humiliation of England's middle order, the partially-sighted umpires, the battling average that reads more like a shoe size. As satisfying as a perfectly timed cover drive, and rather easier to come by, Rain Men offers essential justification for anyone who has ever run a team-mate out on purpose or secretly blubbed at a video of Botham's Ashes.
Playing Hard Ball
By E.T. Smith
PLAYING HARD BALL is a unique sports book, a cultural comparison of two national games - cricket, English in origin and American baseball - written from the viewpoint of a top-class practitioner of both codes. Ed Smith - the young Cambridge University and Kent batsman - has spent the winters since 1998 in Spring Training with the New York Mets baseball team. It has enabled Ed to contrast and compare arguably the two most iconic of sports from the inside. In fact, baseball had a thriving following in Britain until the Great War: Derby County's former stadium was called the Baseball Ground; Tottenham Hotspur was at first a baseball club. Apart from learning two very different techniques, Ed learned that the sports' ultimate heroes, the Babe and the Don - Babe Ruth and Don Bradman - might as well have come from different planets, whilst baseball's pristine Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is a far cry from the ramshackle cricket museum at Lord's. Ed Smith's PLAYING HARD BALL draws on these intriguing comparisons to paint a two-sided portrait of sports most illustrous 'hitting games'.
Is It Cowardly To Pray For Rain?
The Ashes 2005 saw an almighty clash between age-old enemies: England versus Australia; Freddie versus Gilly; the King of Spain versus the King of Spin; worker versus conscience. For up and down the land, the nation wondered the same question - how can I follow the cricket at work without being given my marching orders quicker than Ian Bell? Help was at hand with Guardian Unlimited's brilliant over-by-over coverage: witty, incisive and occasionally informative, this was a Test Match Special for the Internet generation. Now, for the first time, this unique take on the Ashes is available in wireless book format. Relive again the highlights of England's glorious summer; Kevin Pieteresen's fielding masterclass; Ricky Ponting's paean to substitute fielders; and Channel 4 going to the races as a crucial wicket is about to fall. 'I hope you guys realise that I'm risking my very job just being here?' wails James Holbrook from impending firedom. 'New ICT policy means I can only use t'internet for 5% of my working time. Stuff the economy, I'm on here from 10.30 til I bunk off early at four.' The chance of finishing at 4 on a Friday. Bah! It's alright for some.
By Charlie Connelly
STAMPING GROUNDS follows the Liechtenstein national football team through their defeat-strewn qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup. Drawn in a group with Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Austria and mighty Spain, it was hard to see the principality's part-time players scoring even one goal, never mind adding to its meagre international points total. So what motivates a nation of 30,000 people and eleven villages to keep plugging away despite the inevitability of defeat? Travelling to all of Liechenstein's qualifying matches, Charlie Connelly examines what motivates a team to take the field dressed proudly in the shirts of Liechtenstein despite the knowledge that they are, with notably few exceptions, in for a damn good hiding.Sampling the delights of Liechtenstein's capital, Vaduz, such as the Postage Stamp Museum, the State Art Museum and, er, the Postage Stamp Museum again, Connelly provides an evocative and witty account of the land where every year on National Day the sovereign invites the entire population into his garden for a glass of wine.
By Marcus Berkmann
Ten years after his classic Rain Men - 'cricket's answer to Fever Pitch,' said the Daily Telegraph - Marcus Berkmann returns to the strange and wondrous world of village cricket, where players sledge their team-mates, umpires struggle to count up to six, the bails aren't on straight and the team that fields after a hefty tea invariably loses. This time he's on the trail of the Ageing Cricketer, having suddenly realised that he is one himself and playing in a team with ten others every weekend. In their minds they run around the field as fast as ever; it's only their legs that let them down. ZIMMER MEN asks all the important questions of middle-aged cricketers. Why is that boundary rope suddenly so far away? Are you doomed to getting worse as a cricketer, or could you get better? How many pairs of trousers will your girth destroy in one summer? Chronicling the 2004 season, with its many humiliating defeats and random injuries, this coruscatingly funny new book laughs in the face of middle age, and starts thinking seriously about buying a convertible.
You'll Win Nothing With Kids
By Jim White
On Sunday mornings Jim White has the following choice: visit the supermarket, buy trellising at B'n'Q, or stand on the sidelines of a muddy municipal football pitch, his trouser cuffs wetter than a weekend in Llandudno, shoulder-to-shoulder with a motley crew of mums, dads, step-parents and same-sex life partners all screaming at their beleaguered offspring. You'll find Jim in the same place every week, failing to organise a bunch of lads into something resembling a team while on the far side of the park his opposite number, a wannabe Mourinho in brashly monogrammed tracksuit, struts the sidelines, shouting - always shouting. This is the hilarious story of Jim White's time as manager of his son's football team: the highs, the lows, and the dog turd in the centre circle. At this level, winning spirit is not so much about passion, pride and belief as praying that your star centre forward has remembered his boots. Most importantly, it's about the enduring relationship between fathers, sons and football. This is the story no one who has ever watched his or her child play sport will want to miss.
Ashes To Ashes
By Marcus Berkmann
The Ashes may be the longest and fiercest sporting soap opera the world has known. The anticipation is always intense, expectations are high and, for England fans, disappointment is almost inevitable, as we usually lose. But it's a drug we can never kick. How have we got into this state? Can we ever break free?Marcus Berkmann knows he can't and has stopped even trying. ASHES TO ASHES is the first emotional history of the contest, shamelessly eschewing balance and objectivity to give the punter's view of every series since 1972. This new edition updates the tale to the victorious 2009 series, while remaining brutally realistic about our chances in 2010 and beyond . . .
It's Not The Winning That Counts
By Max Davidson
Sport has always delivered thrilling victories and gut-wrenching defeats, but moments of good sportsmanship are increasingly rare. It's Not the Winning that Counts celebrates, among others, the football team who kicked their penalties wide because they refused to believe their opponents would foul them, the round-the-world yachtsman who turned back to rescue a rival; the tennis player (Jimmy Connors!) who deliberately double faulted in a Grand Slam final to cancel out line calls that had gone against his opponent. In the era of the dive, the head butt and the professional foul, Max Davidson takes a roll call of the white knights of sport, from David Beckham to Freddie Flintoff, Jesse Owens to Mohammed Ali.
Slipless In Settle
By Harry Pearson
Slipless in Settle is a sentimental journey around club cricket in the north of England, a world far removed from the clichéd lengthening-shadows-on-the-village-green image of the summer game. This is hardcore cricket played in former pit villages and mill towns. Winner of the 2011 MCC Cricket Book of the Year, it is about the little clubs that have, down the years, produced some of the greatest players Britain has ever seen, and at one time spent a fortune on importing the biggest names in the international game to boost their battle for local supremacy.Slipless in Settle is a warm, affectionate and outrageously funny sporting odyssey in which Andrew Flintoff and Learie Constantine rub shoulders with Asbo-tag-wearing all-rounders, there's hot-pot pie and mushy peas at the tea bar, two types of mild in the clubhouse, and a batsman is banned for a month for wearing a fireman's helmet when going out to face Joel Garner . . .
By Harry Pearson
Some men are born medium-paced, some achieve medium-pace, and some have medium-pace thrust upon them.Bowlers who take wickets not with pace or spin, but - at speeds between 65 and 85mph - by nagging accuracy are the commonest in cricket. So far, however, nobody has paid them any attention. Yet seam bowling remains one of cricket's most mysterious arts. George Hirst, one of the best early exponents of swerve, was as puzzled by it as his opponents. 'Sometimes it works,' he said, 'and sometimes it doesn't.'Examining the history of medium-pace bowling, explaining how swing both normal and reverse actually works, and telling the story of some of the great and not-so-great dobbers such as Shackleton ('His bowling, like his hair, never less than immaculate,' noted Wisden approvingly), Trundlers will bring bread-and-butter bowlers who 'do a bit off the seam', 'wobble the odd one about' or simply 'nag away at off-stump' out into the limelight for the first time. Warm, affectionate and told with Harry Pearson's trademark humour, Trundlers celebrates dobbers in all their sleeves-rolled-up, uncomplaining workaday glory.
By Harry Pearson
Winner of the MCC Book of the Year AwardHis father was a first-class cricketer, his grandfather was a slave.Born in rural Trinidad in 1901, Learie Constantine was the most dynamic all-round cricketer of his age (1928-1939) when he played Test cricket for the West Indies and club cricket for Nelson. Few who saw Constantine in action would ever forget the experience. As well as the cricketing genius that led to Constantine being described as 'the most original cricketer of his time', Connie illuminates the world that he grew up in, a place where the memories of slavery were still fresh and where a peculiar, almost obsessive, devotion to 'Englishness' created a society that was often more British than Britain itself. Harry Pearson looks too at the society Constantine came to in England, which he would embrace as much as it embraced him: the narrow working-class world of the industrial North during a time of grave economic depression. Connie reveals how a flamboyant showman from the West Indies actually dovetailed rather well in a place where local music-hall stars such as George Formby, Frank Randle and Gracie Fields were fêted as heroes, and how Lancashire League cricket fitted into this world of popular entertainment.Connie tells an uplifting story about sport and prejudice, genius and human decency, and the unlikely cultural exchange between two very different places - the tropical island of Trinidad and the cloth-manufacturing towns of northern England - which shared the common language of cricket.