Benedict Gardner reviews Cricket on the Continent, written by associate and affiliate expert Tim Brooks.
Earlier this year, in the aftermath of England’s Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland, a tweet did the rounds, reading “Oh bloody hell, they play cricket too”. For most, this was probably the first they had heard of cricket in Iceland. While the plight of associate and affiliate nations is often discussed, largely the countries talked about are confined to Asia and North America, with the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland, USA and Nepal casting a shadow over the other countries outside of the world’s top 10, especially those in mainland Europe.
If you read Tim Brooks’ excellent book Cricket on the Continent, you will realise what an awful shame that is. You will also learn about the fascinating histories of cricket in many countries – 38 receive their own sections – and you will discover much about the present, the challenges these countries face, the nuts and bolts of their funding and the tournaments they play in. And perhaps you will be persuaded by Brooks’ well-thought-out vision for the future of the game. If it were up to him, cricket in Europe would become much more than a punchline to England’s perennial footballing failures.
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This is a worthwhile read for many reasons. Firstly, the book is thoroughly researched, containing many fascinating anecdotes and asides – take the example of Felix Mendel, Germany’s leading inter-war cricketer, who defied Nazi rules banning any contact with workers brought into the country from occupied territories to organise matches with Dutch and Danish cricketers. Or that of the Netherlands’ nail-biting victory against the 1964 Ashes-winning Australians, secured in the last over with three wickets in hand – an upset for the ages. These stories, and others like them, should be much more famous than they are, which makes this book seem all the more important.
Secondly, it is very well-organised. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it isn’t. The topic is a huge one and the decision to break the book down into the Past, Present, and Future, with further subsections, makes it easily digestible and suitable for dipping in and out of. It would have been easy for Brooks to try and to tie too many strands together at once, and get lost in the process. Instead he gives the facts about how cricket is or was played in each country, and then dedicates sections to highlighting the themes and narratives that run through them, which makes his thought process easy to follow. The book works as a cohesive whole precisely because of its separation into parts.
And most of all, you can be sure of the accuracy and quality of what you are being told. There are few, if any, more qualified to write about associate and affiliate cricket than Tim Brooks, who has not only covered the game for many years as a writer and commentator, but has also worked with administrative bodies in several countries, including ICC Europe. This book shows, both in its level of detail and infectious enthusiasm, the passion for cricket that exists outside of its more established boundaries. And that is something that the game’s governing body would do well to remember.
Cricket on the Continent is published by Pitch Publishing Ltd and is available to buy here