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on 15 July 2014
Interesting story of a fine and influential player often overlooked. Good coverage of his career and some related issues - including his recruitment of Basil D'Oliveira - but I found the style rather grating. Clearly the book was based on interviews but the author's role seemed a bit overplayed.
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on 14 September 2014
I read a lot of sporting biographies & I rate this as one of the top 5 as it gave a good insight into ALL aspects of his life - not just his sporting achievements.
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on 23 April 2014
I was too young just, to see Tom Graveney bat save for one or two benefit matches and Old England XI appearances after his retirement. Andy Murtagh I certainly do recall as a "bit-part" player making up the numbers, without wishing to sound unfair, in the very entertaining and successful trophy winning Hampshire side I loved watching in the 1970s adorned by such luminaries of the game as Barry Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts, Trevor Jesty, David Turner and David O'Sullivan.

The only thing of particular note I recall of Andy Murtagh was a brilliant throw from the boundary to run out the Australian captain, Ian Chappell, in a tour match at Southampton. Since then I'd largely forgotten about him and never knew he'd become an outstanding author after a distinguished career teaching at Malvern College.

This book brilliantly bring's Tom Graveney's career and his batting style back to life and also perfectly captures the personality of Graveney, the man. The only time I came across him was in the old Nets Bar, now long demolished at The Oval when it was packed out at the close of play during a Test Match in the 1980s. It was about my turn to finally be served when Tom Graveney appeared with a few friends. The barman headed straight off to serve him instead of me but Tom quickly sent him back to me saying "That young man over there was here before me". I smiled in thanks to him but was too shy and embarrassed at the time to speak up and thank him properly. After all, this ground was the scene of some of his greatest innings and cricketing moments such as the match clinching the return of the Ashes in 1953. It was also a real free-for-all to get served.

I mentioned this experience later to one or two older friends of mine who immediately said "Tom's all right, he'd never have thought of doing anything else" or words to that effect I've always wanted to thank him in person since, though he's probably long forgotten what for him was an insignificant moment. I had one chance a few years later when he was behind me in a queue for tea in the pavilion at Bristol but decided I did not wish to intrude on his privacy as he was with a few friends.

It's sad to hear that he now needs to reside in a nursing home but of course the ravages of time get to all of us who last long enough. It's salutary to think he is now the final survivor from that Oval Ashes winning side of 1953 but this book brings those times and memories and others from his career back to life.

I purchased 4 or 5 other books at the same time on various subjects but this one quickly became my favourite to read, even though it was the last of my orders to arrive and I'd already started to read some of the others. Anyone who loves cricket will certainly find it a great pleasure to read. Well done, Andrew Murtagh.
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on 10 June 2014
Andrew Murtagh has followed up his very good biography of George Chesterton with an excellent one on Tom Graveney.

Graveney, I believe, is the only player to have scored 10,000+ first-class runs for 2 counties, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire and he was the first purely post WWII batsman to get a hundred centuries and is part of an exclusive club of 25 batsmen. He was also the first ex professional cricketer to become President of MCC.

Murtagh had extensive meetings and conversations with Graveney in order to write the biography. The very essence of Graveney leaps from the pages.

Graveney's Test career had its ups and downs but the latter part was a glorious, golden period when he scored heavily for England. He probably should have had more than 79 caps but captains such as Hutton were not wholly supportive.

Graveney played the game the right way - he played hard but fair and made many long-standing friendships, often with opposition players at both county and Test level.

Graveney was a key player as Worcestershire won the County Championship twice in the 1960's, a feat not achieved at Gloucestershire.

It seems that Graveney was a favourite player of both colleagues and opponents, spectators and pundits. He was, indeed, a much-loved cricketer. His charm, integrity and decency come out in the biography.

Graveney's career did have its controversies with some dust ups with Lord's and being sacked by Gloucestershire in dubious circumstances. However, Graveney rose above these incidents.

Murtagh has done a great job - I commend any cricket enthusiast to read this book. It's a gem!!
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on 21 April 2014
This is an excellent book written by an author who has a gift to make the pages turn. Further more his intuitive feel for matters in the past,show how much Worcestershire gained by Gloucestershire's folly . Tom Graveney was a great cricketer and a good man
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on 20 July 2014
Those of a certain age will recall Andrew Murtagh as a bustling, whole-hearted seam bowler for Hampshire in their successful period of the 1970s. With this book on the legendary England batsman, Tom Graveney, he proves himself an even better writer.

My earliest televised memory of cricket was a Test match in which England were playing the West Indies in 1966. It was the final match of the series in which we has been soundly beaten by a Sobers-inspired team of fine players. Yet for that last Test, Brian Close was recalled as captain and England recovered from a parlous 166-7 to make 527, largely thanks to Graveney, who made a quite magnificent 165, sharing a huge partnership with John Murray, who made 112. We then went on to win the game, which didn't happen that often against the West Indies side of that era.

I still recall the easy, languid style of Graveney as I watched on my uncle Geoff's old black and white television. That high back lift and high grip on the bat, as well as a technique that looked comfortable and organised. He always seemed to have so much time, a sure sign of a good player and his record confirms that he was much more than that.

48,000 first-class runs and nearly 5,000 in Test matches, both at a mid-forties average. Yes, he could play, but it was not so much the runs that he made as the way that he made them - it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it, as the old song goes. Tom Graveney had style, grace, elan and the ability to make a dull day's cricket that much better, simply by taking guard.

The surprise is that he didn't play more for England, but as we in Derbyshire know all too well, the selection of England sides for many years after the Second World War was riddled with bias and snobbery. A man prepared to stand his ground, Graveney upset officialdom at times and their response was to omit him from teams, in favour of others who weren't in the same league.

It was England's loss, but very much his county's gain, as Graveney gave first Gloucestershire and then Worcestershire sterling service. While some international players coasted through their county commitments, Graveney was often the difference between his county winning and losing games, his form for Worcestershire a major reason for their championship successes of the 1960s.

He later became a respected commentator, very much in the Jim Laker vein of letting the pictures do much of the work and chipping in when it was worthwhile. Then, and somewhat ironically in the light of much of what had gone on before, he was elected president of the MCC, where his genial nature and willingness to talk to everyone, irrespective of their background, won him many more friends.

A book on a player of such importance is long overdue and it is to the credit of both author and publisher that it has seen the light of day. Tom Graveney is 87 and not in the best of health but the easy conversational style of the author and the excellent collection of photographs transports the reader back to a time when the player was in his pomp and the game seemed far more innocent than it does today.

A worthy addition to any cricket library and perhaps my favourite book of this summer.
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on 25 March 2014
This book is a fascinating revelation of the wider life of a wonderfully gifted player and of the challenges and obstacles he met and overcame in a long career,marked out by off-the-field controversy and on-the-field performance.One can recall the gifts,the performances, when Tom Graveney batted if one was lucky enough to see him play.This book not only tells of his achievements but does much to explain the controversy,the story behind the conflicts with lesser talents in the cricketing establishment which TG survived with such dignity.
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on 11 August 2014
There is a contradiction running through this excellent biography of Tom Graveney, arguably the most stylish batsman of his era. On the one hand he is presented as amiable, gentle-natured and well-liked by all. On the other, he was involved throughout his long career in disputes with authority which are well described in this book. This is not to say that amiability and controversy are mutually exclusive. Indeed, the fact that Andrew Murtagh (the uncle of Middlesex medium-pacer Tim) doesn't raise the seeming contradiction may be because he sees that such spats with authority were an inevitable feature of a long career in cricket. At least they were perhaps inevitable in the period in which Graveney played.

Tom Graveney is now 87, the oldest survivor of the triumphant 1953 Ashes- winning team. His illustrious career spanned over 20 years, 79 Tests and over 700 first-class matches. But this book isn't about statistics. In cricketing terms it's about style rather than substance, and Graveney displayed that in a way that has long since gone out of fashion in a time of big bats, even bigger shoulders and shorter boundaries. Murtagh does well at conveying the style and elegance of Graveney, qualities that led some (in particular, Test captains Len Hutton and Ted Dexter) to doubt that he possessed the spirit for a fight when the team was up against it. What the author does even better is to chart the social context in which Graveney's career took place. After all, Graveney's career started at a time when he was admonished by his then Gloucestershire captain B.O. Allen in 1950 for the way in which he addressed an opponent, David Sheppard: "you never call an amateur by his Christian name, you either call him Mr or Sir". B.O. Allen is one of those authority figures with whom Graveney did not get on. Graveney tells of the way in which he was given his county cap- it was thrown across the dressing room by an uncaring, speechless Allen such that it hit the unsuspecting young Graveney on the head. The county cap really meant something in those days, not the least significant advantage it conferred upon the recipient was a sizeable increase in salary.

Graveney eventually became Gloucestershire captain only to lose the position in a way in which reflects little credit on his employers. Again he fell victim of the curse of the amateur, the county preferring to replace him, their first professional captain, with the old- Etonian Tom Pugh. For those readers interested in county cricket in the 1950s and 1960s Murtagh gives an excellent, detailed account of Graveney's Gloucestershire days and his subsequent career with Worcestershire, begun after his loss of the Gloucestershire captaincy, where he also became captain and a vital member of the Championship -winning side in 1964 and 1965.

At New Road Graveney developed a close friendship with colleague Basil D'Oliveira. The way in which Graveney championed his friend in 1968 when he was originally left out of the party for the subsequently postponed tour to South Africa is detailed by Murtagh in a way which shows Graveney was not afraid to challenge authority in defence of what he thought was 'right'. Similarly, he gives an interesting explanation of the way in which Graveney was dropped by England for disciplinary reasons as a result of playing in a Sunday benefit match at Luton in 1969, held during the rest day of a Test match. Again, historical context reveals much of the reason for the dispute. Such a game was important to Graveney since it was part of his Worcestershire benefit and would yield a purse of £1000, a large sum in those days, which he could not afford to ignore. His defence before the MCC committee was that he had already informed the selectors of the Sunday commitment and he was selected for the Test with their implicit blessing. But the all-powerful MCC suspended him.

The final part of the book tells the story which brings the themes of the well-liked and respected Tom Graveney and Graveney the challenger of authority together in a pleasant end to his long career in cricket. In 2004-2005 he was elected to serve as MCC President, the first former professional cricketer to hold the honorary post. It is a pleasing conclusion to a well-written book which will bring much pleasure to all who wish to know more of one of England's finest post-war batsmen.
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on 2 April 2014
I have to declare an interest in that Andy Murtagh is a friend and former colleague. He was well known for his perceptive and entertaining reports on pupils in his house and he brings those same qualities to the two books that he has written on Worcestershire CCC cricketers," A Remarkable Man" [ George Chesterton ] and now Tom Graveney.
Murtagh has spent many hours interviewing the man himself and others who know him well, on and off the pitch. He has combined his skill as an English graduate with his professional background as a cricketer with Hampshire CCC and Eastern Province to provide a fascinating insight into the man who is one of Worcestershire's all time greats. This book will appeal not just to Worcestershire cricket fans but to all cricket lovers, for Graveney's batting grace is done full justice by the elegance of Murtagh's writing.
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on 7 November 2014
Another highly perceptive, highly readable cricket biography, from an author whose conversational style brings his subject to life for his readers (not that Tom Graveney has left us yet!) and allows us to feel that we know him as a friend. Very highly recommended for cricket-lovers, but also for those interested in the humanity and fellowship which exists in the sport, sometimes despite controversy and conflict of various kinds which occur from time to time.
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