6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Unrivalled before 1800; less convincing thereafter,
This review is from: More Than A Game: The Story of Cricket's Early Years (Hardcover)
Sir John is at his best in his descriptions of cricketers before the year 1800. He expertly probes the mists to bring us living, breathing characters - players and administrators (and one or two strident opponents of the game), who are unknown to the vast majority of even cricket's own family. Thereafter, I felt he had less to offer as he is covering territory that has been examined many times before, although he at least does so from the perspective of a man reconciled to the realities of modern sport.
There are some curious omissions - no mention at all of the very first international cricket match (it was between Canada and the USA in 1844, Canada winning in two days), and he seems to dismiss North American cricket altogether as if it did not exist outside the islands of the Caribbean - perhaps in his eagerness to include an old joke about the five day game. But he also gives insightful comments on cricket's likely future being dominated by the subcontinent and explains why England can no longer claim cricket as her own. These insights are thought-provoking, albeit he sometimes disguises opinion as fact.
Sir John's book will remind many of his term of office in that it starts strongly and then trails off. If this seems unkind, Sir John invites the comparison with a swipe at New Labour (over the lottery) that seems entirely out of place and unjustified. There is no doubting Sir John's authority on cricket, but the weakest parts of the book come when he attempts to discuss other sports with the same authority. He also uses the word England instead of Britain on an irritating number of occasions (such as when referring to the winners of the Olympic gold medal for cricket in 1900).
As for describing one cricketer with the words "as English as Henry VIII", I can only wonder if a biography of Gareth Edwards ("as Welsh as Winston Churchill"?) will be Sir John's next venture!
On the whole, though, I am greatly the better informed about the game's early origins for having read Sir John's work. Cricket has given sport the greatest literary heritage of all, and "More Than A Game" will occupy a proud place on the cricketer's bookshelf.