Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book Review - Cradle Days of Australian Cricket

Australian cricket has a history going back almost to the start of the colony. The earliest recorded match occurred on the 8th of January 1803, when a game of cricket was played between officers and crew of the MHS Calcutta on a field that is now Hyde Park. Much of the information and knowledge we now have regarding players and techniques of the early eras are drawn from newspapers of the day. Brian Crowley and Pat Mullins have put together a fine collection of the writings in The Australasian by 'Felix', the pseudonym of Tom Horan, into the book “Cradle Days of Australian Cricket”.

Tom Horan was a cricketer of not inconsiderable skill himself; indeed he was a member of the Australian team that were victorious in the first ever test in March 1877. Horan also toured England, and had in-depth knowledge of all the leading players of the time such as Spofforth, the Gregorys, Murdoch and many others. Horan commenced writing for The Australasian in 1879 whilst he was still playing the game competitively, and continued right through until 1916. His weekly review of cricket, entitled ‘Cricket Chapter’, had a strong and loyal following amongst the readers. Horan was, contrary to our current expectations of ex-cricketers turning to the media, a fine writer who displayed an ability to both describe the drama of the moment and also the technical skills that underpin the game.

“Cradle Days of Australian Cricket” is a fascinating wander through the past of our great game, and provides a wonderful insight into the development of cricket within Australia. The observations of the players are memorable, and provide some additional understanding of what would otherwise simply be names from the distant past. One slight downside the book is the fact that collection doesn’t necessarily flow sequentially together. Whilst this problem is naturally inherent within any collection of disparate pieces, it does distract a little from the overall experience, and other collections have managed to overcome this difficulty more easily. Putting this slight criticism aside, any serious fan of cricket would be well advised to track down a copy.


Soulberry said...

Thanks Stuart for the wonderful introduction.

I have to get around to purchasing on-line (to startle you, I have never purchased on the net)since it is almost a treasure hunt to track down a bookshop with a decent collection of cricket books here. As far as rare copies are concerned, one might as well forget. (I'm also certain some of these collector's items will be well beyond my capacity)

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