This is a quite fascinating book. It's a biography of a big cricketer (in every way) and worth buying for that, but it's more than that. It's also a history of the formation of the Australian Cricket Board. Sounds dull, but it isn't. It's a tale of revenge,spite, manipulation and a fist fight between an Aussie skipper and a selector. Well worth buying (so is Gideon Haigh's book on Iverson, Mystery Spinner)
In the face of such unrelenting praise, is there room for a mildly dissenting view? Haigh is an exceptional cricket writer - The Summer Game is an unimprovable book, and Mystery Spinner is excellent, though it suffered from padding. One of Haigh's qualities is that he examines cricket in its social context, so at its best his writing has depth that is uncommon in sprotswriting. The problem with The Big Ship is that Haigh seems to have got carried away with the notion of being more than just a cricket writer. The clear, clean prose of The Summer Game has become turgid and, oftem, unforgivably pretentious. The text is cluttered with Latin and French expressions and obscure words, as if Haigh felt the need to convince his readers of the range of his knowledge or vocabulary. This is an irritating distraction, which detracts from a very thorough and impressive piece of research. Haigh also falls into the trap of overemphasising Armstrong's importance in the development of cricket, as if to justify such a lengthy and detailed biography. The book is still far better, and more interesting, than just about any other cricket book you'll read this year (or any other) - but I hope that Haigh's next book shows none of the strained style and argument that too often mar this one.
I really like cricket books, having read about more recent legends like Botham and Viv Richards, reading this book though, lets you step into the mind of one THE cricketers who moulded cricket into what it is today. Dissenting to umpires, hard nosed and hard drinking Warwick Armstrong played cricket to win and I think this attitude has been passed on through generations of Oz cricketers. A good read, well researched and well written.