Racism throughout cricket, incompetent and rudderless leadership from those responsible for English Cricket, and concerns over the increased focus on the short format of the game. Welcome to the 1960s and 70s!
Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket by Stephen Fay and and David Kynsaton would be brilliant if it wasn’t so tragically relevant to today. It is hard to get beyond the view that English Cricket and those that administer it have failed spectacularly in the 60 year period that this book documents the failings.
The book does not set out to list these failings (or so I assume) but in the exceptional narrative about the contribution of these two stalwarts of the game – who did not get along but were united in their detestation of racism in cricket – it is impossible not to see the same issues being repeated time and time again.
On page 2 they introduce racism, yes on page 2! On page 123 ‘the real underlying problem of present day cricket was “the batsman’s mental attitude”‘, on page 196 “until England can produce enough outstanding players to staff seventeen county teams”, and on page 263 “it really looks like the addiction to one-day cricket …… killed the appetite for Test Matches”.
Page 347 “You get keen young men and woman, but in time they will become old and they’ll see a different game:’
Page 349 “Indeed it is a commonplace that first-class cricket is already dying”.
Yet on a more positive note page 355 “English cricket is among the enduring, self-renewing games of the world”. We have to hope so and that the fact that it isn’t dead yet says enough for its inherent strength to survive the latest manifestations of the same old issues.
The book is written very well, and does justice to the style of both the time and the men involved. For me it was a little bit of a journey back in time to visit old friends and haunts, which made the clarity of the writing all the more appreciated: todays generation brought up a diet of social media, you tube clips and 240 character snippets would do well to read this and learn how words really work.
Books like this should strive to to do three things: keep you engaged, make you think, improve your education and for Fay and Kynaston they can feel very satisfied and proud with their 3 out of 3.
Those old enough will welcome a wonderful insight into the cricketing voices of their childhood. Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket reflects upon two titans of cricket journalism and broadcasting. Youngsters can discover them for the first time. Stephen Fay and David Kynaston combine seamlessly to produce a gem of a book — Vic Marks ? Observer ‘Books of the Year’
Magnificent . One of the best cricket books I’ve read in years: it makes long-forgotten matches live and breathe as though they were played yesterday — Marcus Berkmann ? Daily Mail ‘Books of the Year’
A chronicle of 20th-century class difference, elegantly observed through the lives of the two men and their attitudes towards their beloved sport — Emma John ? Guardian ‘Books of the Year’
A wonderfully readable and illuminating account of the game in the last half of the 20th century . Beautifully written, meticulously researched and stuffed with rich sporting and social history, this must already be a candidate for Sports Book of the Year. Unputdownable — Michael Simkins ? Mail on Sunday
A triumph . [Kynaston and Fay] both have inside-outside sensitivities that keep this near-seamless collaboration shrewd, worldly, balanced and fresh ? Times Literary Supplement
[A] delightful and thoughtful book . A nostalgic delight ? Standpoint
John Arlott and EW Swanton defined cricket commentary in the second half of the 20th century . As this wonderful biography shows, they were united by their love of the spirit of cricket, and stood together in resisting anything that compromised it, from bullying moguls to racism ? Daily Telegraph
An important account of English cricket through the post-war decades from the glorious summer of 1947 to one-day cricket and Packer . Cricket has always produced literature that weaves together sport and society and this book certainly presents an insight into post-war England that reaches far beyond the boundary rope ? Country Life
A historian of peerless sensitivity and curiosity about the lives of individuals — Praise for David Kynaston ? Financial Times
John Arlott and EW Swanton were the voices of English cricket for much of the post-war years. This insightful, provocative book gently teases out the differences in their styles, backgrounds and personalities and shows why all this mattered in a society defined by class and in a sport riven by it — Hugh MacDonald ? Herald
‘Beautifully written, meticulously researched and stuffed with rich sporting and social history … Unputdownable’ Mail on Sunday
About the Author
David Kynaston was born in Aldershot in 1951. He has been a professional historian since 1973 and has written eighteen books, including The City of London (1994-2001), a widely acclaimed four-volume history, and WG’s Birthday Party, an account of the Gentleman v. Players match at Lord’s in July 1898. He is the author of Austerity Britain 1945-51 and Family Britain 1951-57, the first two titles in a series of books covering the history of post-war Britain (1945-1979) under the collective title ‘Tales of a New Jerusalem’. He is currently a visiting professor at Kingston University.