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on 25 May 2007
A long-standing commitment and affection for England's national game is all too apparent in this fascinating and authoritative book. Sir John demonstrates - as if there were any need - the quality of his research and intellect. Old myths are re-examined, sometimes debunked sometimes confirmed, and a new light is shone upon some of cricket's historic controversies. The references to social mores of the times and the matching political events gives it a different but weighty style. I would recommend the book strongly, especially for those who enjoy history as well as cricket.
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on 1 October 2007
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.
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on 16 May 2008
The point of this book is that no-one is really sure where cricket began. It is largely accepted to have started in a recognisable form in the early eighteenth century and from then it has been constantly metamorphisizing into the game we know and love. Before I read this I had never heard of "single wicket" cricket, played until the mid-19th Century but it would be intriguing to see such a match today between, say Andrew Flintoff and Andrew Symonds. Some of the facets of the game taken for granted today took years of controversey to develop: overarm bowling, leg pads (allowed only after one player suffered horrendous leg injuries) and three-stump wickets. Some of the characters are given, sometimes lengthy, pen-portraits: WG Grace, Fry, Trumper obviously, but also some the early pioneers, Mynn, Felix, Beldham and "Lumpy" Stevens. The early administrators of the game probably wouldn't look out of place in the MCC today, Lords Harris and Hawke being both paternalistic and dictatorial at the same time. This really is a page tuner for anyone interested in the game and an absolute must for anyone disenchanted with the current fashion for cheerleaders, rock music and sledging which has destroyed so much of the game's appeal.
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on 28 November 2007
I picked this book off the shelf more out of curiosity about the author (of whom I am an admirer) than for any special love or knowledge of cricket - and then found myself immersed in the history of the game. The book is full of amusing anecdotes and interesting insights, and I felt I got right inside Sir John Major's mind. But the book could have done with a firmer hand on the editing, in my opinion. It is rather rambling and self indulgent in places, and there were definitely places where some trimming would have been beneficial.
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on 29 December 2008
My interest in cricket has recently been revived by watching my son play. I was looking for something to fill in the gaps in my knowledge - the orgins of the game, the history of Lords, W G Grace etc. This book does exactly that taking the reader as far as the start of the Great War and is written with obvious enthusiasm and love for the game of cricket. It occasionally slows whilst trying to give a historical context to events but overall it was an enjoyable and informative read. Ideal to tide you over whilst waiting for the new season to start!

More Than a Game: The Story of Cricket's Early Years
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on 20 July 2008
The quality of the research and the insight and love of cricket are evident, you can almost hear for better or worse John speaking when reading it. I did enjoy the book but feel some sections were a bit of a slog. This is mainly due to the organisation and editing. The book is not a chronological history but instead discrete chapters e.g The Missionry.., Round Arm rebellion. I was struggling after to reconstruct in my mind when all events took place across the book. It also can lead to some jumping around. One paragrpah 1870 the next 1900 with no date reference. It just makes the big picture harder to picture and it can also seem like repetition.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2008
Anyone who read John Major's autobiography and found parts of it a little stodgy and hard going will be pleasantly surprised at the light touch he shows here.

He traces the early history of cricket, concentrating on the personalities, but also placing them into the wider context to show how social change in the country (and world) at large was reflected in cricket.

There are times when he seems to have half an eye on the assiduously pedantic cricket statistician and goes to great lengths to "show his workings" in order to back up what he is saying, but the book is shot through with a great sense of the author's enthusiasm.
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VINE VOICEon 28 August 2008
John Major's love of cricket is well known and this weighty volume bears testament to it, along with his careful research and fine prose. Dealing with the development of cricket from its earliest days up to the early years of the C20th, Major tells the stories of key characters, places and events with an impressive depth of research but in a highly readable and entertaining way. Vivid word pictures of late C18th and C19th cricket are created and the colourful characters brought to life. Notable too is Major's ability to place cricket within the cultural, social and political context of the times. Highly recommended.
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on 15 September 2011
It is obvious that John Major must have really enjoyed writing this book. He certainly didn't make it easy - by focusing on the first years of cricket, Major picked the time where there are few documentary sources and plenty which are lost to history. Yet he still puts together a comprehensive account of the birth of the game through to the end of the golden age in 1914. It has plenty of detail, but that doesn't make it a dull read. Major is able to pull out the characters and anecdotes to make this a thoroughly entertaining as well as informative read.
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on 10 February 2017
This thick volume came after many month of erudite research by our ex (and cricket-loving) P.M.. He took the thoughtful route of liaising with Roger Packham about the game's early years and this was a wise move. What follows is a wonderfully crafted history of cricket separated into relevant chapters. It is written in a clear and wonderful style and is hard to put down. There have been a few books about cricket's history, but this may well get the nod as the best of them all.
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