Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Book Review - Champions : the World's greatest cricketers speak - Mike Coward

Champions : the World's greatest cricketers speak conversations with Mike Coward

Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2013                                             ISBN 9781743315613

Mike Coward is the cricket writer nonpariel (to steal one of his favourite terms). Over a long career, his writings, musings and films have always been worth reading or watching for the insights he has provided about the game, and those he has extracted from the players he has spoken with.

Champions continues that rich vein of work. Coward was asked by the Bradman Foundation to travel the world to interview cricketers to begin to  create a video archive of world cricketers talking about themselves and the game. This project, part of the Bradman International Cricket Hall of Fame, will if it continues, become a valuable resource to players, historians and lovers of cricket the World over. Champions is a selection from Coward's interviews, arranged around five themes - Leadership, Badge of courage, Philosophy, The spirit of cricket, Humour and hubris.

This is a great read for the cricket fan - the thematic structure of the book means the fan can see differing opinions side-by-side, which give an insight both into the players themselves, and into the way cricket is played around the World. The excerpts from the interviews are word-for-word, so you really get a flavour for the various characters of each cricketer as well.

If you've read, watched and talked cricket some of the things in the book you'll already know, but there is always something interesting to garner from the thoughts of great players. What is interesting in this book is how they look back at events from later in life. Allan Border thinks he went one year too long in the game, Kapil Dev thought the captaincy was given to him too early and taken away too soon, Kumar Sangakkara describes how cricket was the escape for everyone in Sri Lanka from the horrible war that was going on there.

If what is said in each section can be summed up, it's that some leaders are born not made, but that leaders can be made (Border), and that it is a definite advantage as a leader to know your own game well before you are given the mantle of captain. That courage comes in all shapes and sizes, not just out on the field - whether it's fighting the establishment (Tony Greig), risking death (Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene), being a ground-breaker (Rachael Heyhoe-Flint), or standing up for human rights (Henry Olonga). That philosophies vary, from winning at all costs (Bill Lawry), displaying pride in your race or country (Viv Richards), competing (Greg Chappell), having fun (Adam Gilchrist), enjoying the moment (Matthew Hayden).

The spirit of cricket section is where most of the interviewees come together in believing the game should be played in a tough but fair manner, with respect for the opposition players. As John Wright states - "The spirit means respecting the laws of the game and respecting the people you play with and against so that you can always walk off the park, go to the mirror, look at yourself in it and be quite happy with the person you're looking at."

Humour and Hubris is a lighthearted way to end the book, where we get some insights into the aluminium bat saga, the way players were signed up to WSC, and other tidbits.

If you're a cricket fan, you'll like this book - recommended.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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