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Twirlymen: The Unlikely History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers [Hardcover]

Amol Rajan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 13.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

5 May 2011

They are the masters of deception, the jokers in the pack; illusionists conjuring wickets out of thin air with nothing more than an ambled approach and a wonky grip. Not for them the brutish physicality of the pace bowler nor the reactive slogging of the batsman. Theirs is a more cerebral art. They stand alone in a team sport. They are Twirlymen.

Having himself failed through a combination of injury and indolence to become a leg-spinner of renown Amol Rajan pays homage to that most eccentric of all sporting heroes - the spin bowler. On a journey through cricket history Rajan introduces us to the greatest purveyors of that craft, from W. G. Grace to Graeme Swann via Clarrie Grimmet's flipper, Muttiah Muralitharan's helicopter wrist, Shane Warne's ball-of-the-century and all the rest.

With illustrations that lift the lid on even the most mysterious deliveries, Twirlymen is full of remarkable matches, incredible stories, and characters with more twists than a googly.

Frequently Bought Together

Twirlymen: The Unlikely History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers + Graeme Swann: The Breaks are Off - My Autobiography
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yellow Jersey (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224083236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224083232
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 212,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Enchanting. Twirlymen is packed with anecdotes that fizz like a Murali doosra" (Spectator)

"Rajan captures the distinctiveness of spin bowlers, a tribe within the wider nation of cricketers" (Literary Review)

Book Description

From W. G. Grace to Shane Warne, Twirlymen is an essential look at that most eccentric of cricketers - the spin bowler

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Overall this is a fascinating and delightful look at cricket's leading spin bowlers, from the earliest spinners at Hambledon, through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan and spinners in the Indian Premier League.

It is essentially a series of miniature case studies of each bowler, giving a flavour of his character and achievements, looking at his place in the development of spin bowling and analysing his technique - and is full of entertaining anecdotes. The technical analysis is perhaps the book's most distinctive quality and is clear and well done.

Two features of this technical analysis are particularly worth noting. The first is a series of diagrams showing how the various spinning deliveries - leg-break, googly, flipper, carrom ball, etc - are actually bowled. These are the best I've seen. The second is the author's research through early cricket literature and photography to identify examples of particular deliveries decades before they were generally thought to have been invented. This is fascinating and for the paperback edition it would be really handy if detailed page references could be added to help others examine the evidence.

I did wonder if the author really wanted to write a history of wrist spin and its associated mystery deliveries alone, rather than also cover finger spin. Leg spinners generally receive more extensive and insightful coverage than finger spinners - there are more pages on John Gleeson than Wilfred Rhodes, for example - and I would query why certain great finger spinners have been omitted altogether, perhaps most notably Colin Blythe.

My major reservation, though, is about the book's tone and its tendency to exaggerate its arguments.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Start on page 20 3 Aug 2011
I was given this book as a present and having read some of the author's articles in the Independent, I was looking forward to it.

I found the introduction so heavy going (flitting back and forth in time and a little self-indulgent) that I almost gave up. Fortunately I persevered. From the start of chapter 1 on page 20 onwards, I found it a fascinating book and an easy read with a lot of detail about the off-the-pitch characteristics of the spin bowlers. The attempts to explain the different deliveries were useful - I'd love to see them on YouTube.

The chapters though were a little long. Am I the only person who thinks, 'I'll just finish this chapter'? Chapter 10 was over 80 pages!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Cricket Book Ever 17 May 2011
I have read every cricket book going and this is without doubt the wittiest, most charming, and most vividly described I have come across. Packed full of insightful and hilarious anecdotes both from the game itself and from the lives of these tremendously interesting characters, this is a series of bite-size biographies that reads with the flow and gripping narrative of a novel.

It covers a huge range of player's and their personal journeys; from modern great like Warne and Muralitharan to the Golden Age of post war cricket when Jim Laker was taking 19 on a turner at Old Trafford.

The loving manner in which the stories are told makes this book equally accessible to the cricketing novice and the MCC member and would make a great gift for a friend or family member. I'm getting my old man a copy of his birthday. I know he'll love it.

I await Mr Rajan's next publication with baited breath. If he could bowl wrist spin like he writes, I'd be tipping him for an England cap....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give us a twirl 24 May 2011
By J. Wise
THAT'S it. It's cricket or nothing for you lads now the football's over, bar the tennis babes and long dozes in front of the golf. Still, the battles between leather and willow will keep you busy, and this masterly book sets you up as an instant expert on spin bowling, past and present.
Once ground into submission by skull-splitting pacemen, the "twirlymen" are back and better than ever, and Amol Rajan gives us the who, why, when and where of their fabled order. Warney and Mura get a good workout, of course. But so do past heroes like Underwood and Laker and others you've only ever seen in sepia-toned photos but whose input to the world of spin make even the modern masters look average.
Rajan's wonderful book (with its stunning "Thirties Railway Poster" cover) suggests there's even more of the dark art to come, with the revival of the 80mph spinner to make a batsman stain his whites. Best give yourself a bit of space to read it, though, `cos you'll be wanting to follow the diagrams and tips to try out your action, demolishing a few lampshades or mantelpiece nick-nacks in the process.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Twirlymen- must read for cricket lovers 26 Oct 2013
A fantastic read for any cricket fan- not only does it give you some great cricket history, but you also learn an awful lot about the mechanics and physics of spin bowling. Well worth checking out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting a spin on bowling 4 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amol Rajan (self-confessed frustrated would-be spin bowler) takes us through the history of spin-bowling, identifying those who have particularly contributed to its evolution, proved especially proficient practitioners, or both. Helpful diagrams describe the different techniques, so the enthusiastic-but-ignorant TMS addict will finally understand when Aggers tells us that Swann has just bowled an arm-ball.

Rajan himself is clearly an enthusiast of his subject, with knowledge to match. If his book has one shortcoming, it's that, despite the fact that he is describing in many cases some of the great 'characters' of the game, the work is a little dry; perhaps he should have asked Simon Hughes to give it a once-over before publication. Nonetheless, a wholly worthwhile purchase for any serious devotee of Cricket.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars bought as present for avid cricket fan
My son was thrilled to bits with this book - I don't think I could have made a better choice.
Published 5 months ago by stiltz
5.0 out of 5 stars Birthday present.
Ideal fro a birthday present for a best friend who loves cricket.I know he will enjoy this book it's a bit different.
Published 9 months ago by Angela Rowe
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Gift
Bought this for a Cricket fan who appears to have read everything about Cricket but not this! It arrived promptly and was well received.
Published 9 months ago by GrandmaM
4.0 out of 5 stars The perfect spin
This is one of the best cricket books I've ever read (and I've read quite a few). The writing is by turns witty, philosophical, learned, profound. Read more
Published 17 months ago by A. J. McGowan
5.0 out of 5 stars No googly here
I got this for a cricket-mad friend on the recommendation of a review in The Oldie magazine, which raved about it. So did my friend, so I was not disappointed.
Published on 19 April 2012 by L. E. Metcalfe
2.0 out of 5 stars only if you are a twirlyman
This book tries to combine a historical perspective of spin bowlers with a scattergun of anecdotes about a range of famous cricketers. Read more
Published on 25 Jan 2012 by M. French
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Bought this for my brother - very pleased except for lack of mention of Lancashire stalwarts Roy Tattersall and Tommy Greenhoulgh
Published on 4 Jan 2012 by John D. Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magical book
This history of spin bowling,with its useful guides on how to do it, will be a magical Christmas present for any one who is a lover of the really beautiful game.
Published on 11 Nov 2011 by Christopher Boddington
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Such a great book it makes me want to go out and rekindle my leg break bowling

I enjoyed this book so much I can even overlook the fact that the author picked Warne over... Read more
Published on 10 July 2011 by mikebirty
4.0 out of 5 stars Twirlymen
Great gift for a UK ex-pat who loves cricket. Lots of details that cricket-crazy folks exchange among each other--facilitates one-upmanship!
Published on 4 July 2011 by akhennessey
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