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4.6 out of 5 stars14
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 9 February 2007
Good bladder control is needed at certain parts of this excellent book by young Scottish writer Angus Bell. He got into his baterred Skoda and went off to find strange characters who play cricket in places like Belarus and Slovenia - many parts could be mistaken for Borat's village. Bell photographs a bus painted (mysteriously in English) with the slogan "Ministry for Emergency Situations for Strong and Prosperous Belarus!" He has great difficulty escaping this God-awful country for lack of seventy cents. I laughed so hard I nearly suffered side strain.

His adventures are so varied, from being bullied by bombastic city types when about to play on ice in Estonia, to watching gypsies being arrested for drug smuggling on the midnight express to Istanbul. (Shades of John Hurt being violated by prison guards came to mind.) Bell left the old Skoda parked in Bulgaria and was on his way to Turkey to try and slog the first intercontinental six. He smites a ball from Europe into Asia; this is surely a Guiness Book of Records feat.

This highly amusing book, full of crazy incidents and remarkable characters, is also wonderfully illustrated. A photograph of two elderly Slovak babushkas quotes them saying to the author: "Yes, but we are old and we have herpes".

Anyone who likes travel books will be delighted to see such a new talent emerge. And as for cricket buffs...they'd be daft to miss out on this unique perspective on their sport.
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on 11 February 2007
I bought this book on the advice of a friend before setting off on a recent trip to the Baltic countries. I'm not big into sports and, being American, I didn't even know what cricket was; but by the end of the book I inexplicably found myself rooting for the national Slovenian cricket team and seriously considering a visit to my local psychic. Now I don't know if these are healthy things, but it's a very fun read. It often had me laughing out loud - much to the chagrin of surrounding babushkas.

In short, 'Slogging the Slavs' is hilarious and highly recommended. Some of the included pictures are pretty classic too. The author is a natural storyteller - I'm looking forward to reading his future work.
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on 17 April 2007
I dont follow cricket, i dont know anything about cricket, and all my attempts to try to understand the game have been futile! One does not need to know a thing about the sport to take great pleasure in reading this book! I still dont know a thing about cricket, but I most certainly enjoyed reading about it! Kudos to Angus for spreading on the humour and spinning the tales amongst all the cricket talk! Being an avid traveller myself, I can relate to all his crazy adventure...though the farthest I've ventured into eastern Europe is Croatia! This book makes me want to be more adventurous and risk my life on a daily basis, whether its bribing pretty much every single person in my path, or daring the fates by playing on a forbidden bridge, to crossing borders many would not dare! I've recommended this book to many a friend, and stressed that one does not need to know a thing about cricket to enjoy this book to the fullest! Laughs, laughs and more laughs! Well done...looking forward to book number 2!!!!
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on 2 June 2007
Angus Bell takes his readers on travels across Central and Eastern Europe with this hilarious, make-you-pee-your-pants book about the sport of Cricket and the players behind this sport.

His tales of a Transylvanian Toothache give new meaning to Dental Travel, and the chapter, "It Was Like a Stephen King Novel" is not to be missed. In fact, the entire book is entertaining and delightful. I especially enjoyed the pictures of the colorful characters included.

This book should come with the warning: Read this in public and be prepared for stares as you laugh out loud.

This book rocks! Thanks to the author for making it available. I want to see this made into a movie.
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on 10 December 2006
This is one of the most extraordinary and entertaining books of the year. I followed the author's articles closely in The Wisden Cricketer last year. In 'Slogging The Slavs', young Scots lad and mafia employee Angus Bell is told by a French Canadian psychic he's going to be writing a book. When the words 'cricket and Ukraine' then pop into his head, he discovers cricket teams across central and Eastern Europe. He then sets off in a battered Skoda to uncover how these Slavic people came to play the Englishman's game.

The result is an utterly hilarious, wonderfully detailed, and eccentric journey through eighteen countries, that reads like Lawrence Donnegan crossed with Danny Wallace, Bill Bryson, Jon Ronson, and something completely off-the-wall.

Bell travels to Estonia, home of the world's worst international cricket team, and plays them on ice inside a Soviet munitions factory. He follows up with a hysterically funny episode in a Slovak village, where he finds a team of left-handed market gardeners, all brothers, and ends up captain of their international cricket team. In economically depressed Serbia, he sets up a squad who wish to play in the London 2012 Olympics - even though cricket isn't an Olympic sport!

Each country the author visits provides an extraordinary alternative history of the game, sometimes stretching back centuries. Bell mixes it beautifully with human stories, politics, Borat-esque disaster, and geographical settings. He takes the reader inside people's homes: into Kiev skyscrapers, Alpine lodges, and Croatian military tunnels-turned-wine cellars. The details of the Balkan War, the Ukrainian revolution and life inside communist Belarus are particularly sobering.

That this story is true, and that Bell survived the 8,000 mile journey in his car, and found cricket in almost every country he visited, makes it all the more remarkable. Who knew Belarus had six cricket teams, and that cricket is part of the school curiculuum in Slovenia?

Bell's descriptions of the characters along the way will have you falling off your chair and drying your eyes. The sixty-odd photographs of them make a wonderful addition.

As much travel as cricket (and paranormal), no sports fan or wanderlusterer could fail to enjoy this book.
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on 5 February 2007
One doesn't expect to laugh out loud or to have to visit the bathroom while reading a book, but this happened to me FOR REAL when reading Angus Bell's work of genius.

Buy this book now! You will laugh so much...honestly!
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on 13 August 2007
To label this book as simply about 'cricket' is to do it a great disservice. It's first and foremost a travel book, from its wonderfully bizarre beginnings in the world of Montreal psychics to a Skoda-powered odyssey across the lesser-travelled paths of eastern Europe.

The difference-maker with this book is not only its once-in-a-lifetime subject matter, but its intensely witty sense of humour. It's side-splittingly funny throughout, but it's also painfully honest in its painting of the Balkan underworld in all its dodgy-dealing glory.

From the uniqueness of its achievement to the pantomime cast of characters we meet along the way, Slogging the Slavs is a must for anyone interested in travel off the beaten track. Cricket fans from pitch to armchair will lap it up, but then again so will anyone who's ever had a hard time crossing the border into parts unknown.
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on 11 June 2007
Angus Bell's travelogue of his 8000km journey through some of the lesser visited parts of Europe are linked by one common goal - the search for cricket in far flung outposts untouched by snooty old colonial boys. That he manages to find as much as he does is a remarkable feat.

But to me, to restrict this book to a "cricket" book removes some of its rewards, the search for exotic and interesting characters which turns up a few memorable ones indeed.

My personal favourites are the madly enthusiastic guy in an out of the way village in Serbia who has decided that he would form Serbia's 2012 Olympic cricket team, despite it being neither a current Olympic sport nor one that he has had any previous knowledge of. Or the bunch of humourless customs / immigration officials whose sole purpose in life seems to be in making certain that life is difficult as possible for everyone else in the universe, or some of the colourful hitchhikers Angus meets along the way. This is what the journey is really about, meeting those who don't fit in or belong to any fixed stereotype. This is always going to be found in places like this on a cricket field as many of the characters bringing cricket to these parts have joined-in-but-yet-still-sit-on-the-edge of the societies they now choose to make their lives in. Whether they be Nepalese medical students studying in the midst of Belarus or wanderlusting Aussies who end up in all corners of the globe, this book is about the newcomer, the stranger, the ones who do things a little differently in their new homes with their funny sports.

Oh and rather importantly it is also extremely funny in places too.

So buy it, read it, enjoy it and tell someone else to do the same. Go on, you know it makes sense.
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on 16 May 2007
As a reasonably avid cricket fan and keen traveler, I found Angus Bell's first book on playing cricket throughout Eastern Europe highly entertaining. The situations he got himself into during his tour are often hilarious, and many of the characters he met bizarre (from Serbian MI6 agents to fingerless Czech fielders!).

The book has some black and white photos throughout and some great colour photos. There are also scorecards from most of his international matches.

Although cricket clearly plays a major role in the book, Bell's writing would appeal to anyone with a thirst for travel and adventure. I will definitely be using it as a guide for my first trip to Eastern Europe. Thoroughly recommended!
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on 30 October 2007
I loved this book! I'm cricket obsessed so have a natural bias to any book about it, but this book is much more than that. It describes the writer's travels through eastern Europe to places where you would never imagine cricket being played, and the stories of how the players found the game and fell in love with it are really quite moving. If anything there's almost too much story to pack in - I wouldn't have minded more detail about the games or about the places - which shows how rich the story is. And how much fun the writer must have had.
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