Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Geography 101 for Cricket Journalists

Clearly, Geography 101, as well as Logic 101, need to be included in mandatory training for journalists.

Take this brilliant excerpt from Myles Hodgson of the Press Association, as he attempts to explain why relatively few English players are likely to sign up with the IPL.

"Unlike the other Test-playing nations, England is in the Northern Hemisphere so they have less breaks than most international teams simply because they play in their summer and then go abroad to play in another summer."
Ponder that for a minute, if you will. And then ask yourself a couple of questions.

Firstly, when did India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean countries shift south of the equator? Or is it, in Hodgson's view, only South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia and New Zealand that, along with England, rank consideration as "real" Test-playing nations? I won't even go where some people might take this one!

Secondly, if England play at home in the summer, and go abroad to play in the southern summer; and all the other teams are in the southern hemisphere; then who exactly are England playing against, if you take Hodgson's premise that no other team has to play both home and abroad in opposite summers?

Unbelievable - how does this tripe get past an editor?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mr Cricket - an example for everyone

I've written about how poor Viv Richard's autobiography was. I've pilloried Prabhudesai on Dravid, enough to receive a long and impassioned defense of his work from the author (material for another post someday). Steve Waugh's epic was sadly, decidedly within his comfort zone. Generally, sporting biographies and autobiographies turn out to be as banal as can be.

With that in mind, I wasn't impressed when my wife spent a few dollars on Mike Hussey's book - and yet here I sit today, complimenting her on her astute choice.

For once, we have a book by a cricketer that actually talks about what it means and what it takes, to be the cricketer that he is. It is open, honest and insightful, and apart from a few graphics to illustrate how good a cricketer Hussey actually is, everything in it is information I cannot glean from elsewhere. I actually feel like I learned something from the book, not just about Hussey and his struggle to the top, but about myself as well.

Sure, he doesn't have the literary skills of a Dumas or a Mitchell, but boy does he deliver some meaningful content. I would countenance any young player looking to make his way in the game to read this. Hussey's methods may not be for everyone, but there's little doubt that this book can be a tremendous guide to anyone.

Friday, February 15, 2008

How good is David Mitchell?!

I observed back when I read Black Swan Green that David Mitchell appeared to be a prodigiously talented writer. Now that I've read Cloud Atlas I can safely say that my original assessment was a massive understatement and I did Mitchell a great disservice. I don't even know where to begin to describe the masterful tapestry that he has woven, so I won't.

It shall have to suffice to say that he has got to be one of, if not the, most innately talented authors I have ever come across. His mastery of each of the half-dozen completely different voices that he adopts is quite incredible, and the only reason it took me more than one night to read the book was the fact that I had to get up early each morning to drive down to the WACA for the small matter of a Test match.

One contrarian caveat that I must throw in here for clarification. The book itself I found to be excellent, but I'm not sure it's really an all-time-great novel in my own estimation. It's up there near the top of modern literature to be sure, but I'm not sure I'd even rate it above one of my other recent reads, The Time Traveler's Wife.

Perhaps it wasn't wise to read For One More Day right after Cloud Atlas, but in any case, I'm simply glad that I didn't actually spend money on this book. There's nothing egregiously bad about it, but it didn't particularly have anything going for it either. Repetitive and thus predictable, it smacks of a short story masquerading as a novel. An author can pull that off, if he has the sort of literary skills that Mitchell possesses. I suspect even Mitch Albom fans would struggle to say this was a really great piece of work.

The Inheritance of Loss was an interesting read, mostly in that I really struggled to figure out where the author was coming from. Astonishingly, there wasn't a single positive character in the book. Every one of them was in some way a pathetic caricature, and I use that word to emphasise the lack of depth that often existed. Oddly, I found myself wanting to skip chunks of text, and yet continue reading - perhaps an indication that Ms Desai's writing didn't resonate with me, but that the story that might have been told, did? Again, nothing terrible about the book, but not one I'd particularly recommend, and I am stunned that it won the Booker prize! An almost very good book that didn't quite make it.

Jasper Fforde, take a bow. I've been wanting to try Fforde out for a long time, and I finally took the plunge. The Eyre Affair is outrageous stuff, and pure entertainment, but in a quality, rather than cheap way. Light, yet sumptuous, and oestensibly trite, yet captivatingly brilliant. No question I'll be reading his entire collection now, and if you are into your literature, but also enjoy suspending disbelief, then I have little doubt that you will love the neither utopian nor dystopian world that Fforde has created.