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Books

The Great Tamasha by James Astill

The Great Tamasha by James Astill

The Great Tamasha by James Astill

The Great Tamasha by James Astill

The Great Tamasha by James Astill

The sub-heading, “Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India” gives clear guidance on what to expect from this book!

Tamasha is an Indian word used to describe a show, performance or  some other form of entertainment. As James Astill makes clear with the title of this excellent book about cricket in India, it is a word closely associated with the game in the country. More so with the advent of the IPL over the last 10 years.

Cricket in India is intrinsically connected with the history of the country. It is influenced by the separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh as much as by the historical caste system. Its history has lead it to the situation today where the IPL is the financial driver of cricket. A tournament derived from conflict within the management of the game in India.

The book was researched and written by James Astill during a stint living in India, working for The Economist. Mostly it has been compiled through his own personal experiences. He has personally interviewed a huge variety of cricketing aficionados. But with history dating back to the introduction of the game by the British in the 1800’s, there is inevitably also some reliance on historical records from contemporary publications. The book is most certainly very well researched, a fact reflected by the awards it has received.

The Great Tamasha – Book Awards

  • Winner: The British Sports Book Awards 2014 (Cricket book of the year)
  • Winner: The Cricket Society / MCC Book of the Year 2014

With the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) currently wielding so much influence on the International game of cricket, Astill’s book throws light on how this situation came to be. Money, business, politics and cricket are intrinsically linked in India, with the ownership of IPL teams attracting corporations and Bollywood stars equally.

If you are a cricket fan and want to understand more about the rise of India as a cricketing super-power, this book is for you. It is a fascinating read.

Wisden at The Oval, edited by Jon Surtees

Wisden at The Oval

Wisden at The Oval, edited by Jon Surtees

Wisden at The Oval, edited by Jon Surtees

Wisden at The Oval

The Summer of 2017 sees the Oval host its 100th Test match, England v. South Africa starting on Thursday 27th July. To celebrate the event, the Oval have teamed up with renowned cricketing publication Wisden to look back on the history of cricket at the ground. A history that features notable events such as:

  • the first Test match to be played in the UK (England v. Australia in September 1880);
  • the birth of ‘the Ashes’ after the Test match of August 1882;
  • Len Hutton’s England record sore of 364 against Australia in August 1938, a record that still stands;
  • Don Bradman’s famous last inings duck in August 1948
  • Devon Malcolm’s burst of 9/57 against South Africa in 1994
  • the famous Ashes match of 2005;
  • the controversy of Pakistan’s alleged ball tampering in August 2006;

With so many historic moments, editor Jon Surtees (Head of Communications, Content and Communities at Surrey CCC) will have had a challenge choosing the moments to focus on. He argues that more memorable events and moments have happened at The Oval than any other ground in the world. We’re sure cricket fans around the world will have a view on that statement!

The book is available from Thursday 1st June, with pre-orders now being accepted. (Hardback and Kindle editions are available.)

Colour Bar by Learie Constantin

Colour Bar by Learie Constantine

Colour Bar by Learie Constantin

Colour Bar by Learie Constantine

Colour Bar by Learie Constantine

Learie Constantine doesn’t have a first class or Test record that immediately jumps out at you looking at statistics alone. Delving a little more into his life, as I was moved to do, highlights how much further than cricket his contribution to society went. I discovered this book through a small reference to it in the excellent Fire in Babylon: How the West Indies Cricket Team Brought a People to its Feet by Simon Lister. A book that was winner of The Cricket Society and MCC book of the year in 2016.

Whilst Colour Bar touches on Learie Constantine’s experience as a cricketer first arriving in England in 1923, it is mainly a book that explores the prejudice faced by coloured people.Whilst it touches on historical prejudices, the real eye-raiser for me was the realisation that so much of the prejudice he reports occurred within the last 100 years and in some cases, as little as the last 60 years.

There can’t be many books that open with a preface that includes a full recital of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and then proceeds to discuss the implications. Fewer still written by Test cricketers!

The reality is that this is not really a book about cricket, so much as a book about the experiences of a black cricketer. As he says in the opening chapter, “if the nations which put their splendid signatures to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights quoted in the Preface to this book had had the slightest intention of honouring that Declaration, there would have been very little in the subject of Black and White for me or anyone else to write about.”

The reality is that many countries didn’t honour it and change took time. Constantine suffered as much as many others, but he was better placed than most to deal with it. He came to England to study law. Cricket, playing for Nelson in the Lancashire leagues, was merely a route to fund his study. In later years, he used his knowledge of the law to successfully bring a successful case against a hotel for discrimination on the grounds of race – Learie Constantince v. The Imperial Hotel.

This is not a book that could be described as light reading. It explores some of the less pleasant aspects of race relations at depth and in a language that is in keeping with the time it was written – 1954. For all that, history tells us some important lessons that should be remembered.

Over 40 years after his death, it remains a book worth reading. Thank you Simon Lister for bringing it to my attention.