Top positive review
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An outstanding, exceptional book
on 30 August 2012
How refreshing, how vital, to read a cricket book about a man who mattered and still has something to say. In an age when players sell their first 'autobiography' in their mid 20s, Micky Stewart has waited until his eighth decade before printing his comprehensive thoughts on cricket and life. The wait has been well worth it.
Stephen Chalke has written an outstanding, exceptional book about a player who was part of the great Surrey side of the 1950s and stayed in the game long enough to become England's first coach 30 years later. There are few witnesses who have so much of value to say about the game and how it has changed, and the author has captured Stewart wonderfully. The tone and texture of the narrative is absolutely engaging and flows so smoothly. What is clear is that Micky Stewart is a man of substance and principle; a thoughtful man with belief, courage and humour.
Stewart's character was shaped by his race-track bookie father in South London who taught him that life was not about taking short cuts, even if what you are doing is unfashionable. Micky's childhood and development as a footballer and cricketer fill the first half of his biography and Chalke completely nails that world of cricket and society in which Micky grew up; readers cannot help but find it totally believable and genuine. To me it was a delightful education. The school years, the football chapters, the Surrey years and the observations about the amateur and professional branches of sport are brilliantly done. I should also say that the balance between the narrative of Micky's life and the subtext of what it all meant more widely is completed so deftly with considerable skill. These chapters are complete, revealing and humorous, that I was totally satisfied when I reached the point of Micky's professional retirement. What happens after - the modern chapters - are a brilliant encore, almost unexpected.
As a 'younger' reader, I found that the England manager section explained and answered so much that I suspected but didn't really know; the players' dissatisfaction, the lack of a grand plan, the difficult egos. These pages bring a fine balance to a book which is not all about Micky being a star, not all about living happily ever after.
Stephen Chalke and Micky Stewart have completed a complicated assignment brilliantly. Without hesitation, I would recommend this fine work to anyone who has an interest in the development of Engish cricket in the past half-century. And anyone who hungers after the endangered species of intelligent, thoughtful and perceptive cricket writing will relish this book.