Only a Bloody Game!

Tony Rossiter

Read May 2004

There is a honorable tradition in cricket writing, if not in the game itself, of the "village cricketer": a passionate but slightly unrefined sort who tries to use brute force to compensate for his many shortcomings of talent. The term, indeed, can just as easily be used of the gentleman cricketer, who, if anything, compensates for an even greater lack of talent with both brute force and, when all else fails, social standing.

The village cricketer is, then, an easy target of mockery, but just beneath the ribbing lies the realization that we're almost all village cricketers. Tony Rossiter's book, whose subtitle is The Ins and Outs of Village Cricket, is simultaneously an anthropology, mockery but also paean to those who keep the sport alive. He is never more accurate than when describing the pointlessness of bowling spin in games featuring such cricketers, for all the subtlety of that art is entirely lost on the batsman whose reportoire contains only one response: the agricultural slog.

Mind you, this is not high literature. What would drive a person to read such a book? First, an all-too-long absence from the game, which I had just seen live for the first time in fifteen years. Second, a long plane trip back to the US from England. Under the circumstances, the book hit the spot just right.