The glory of childhood is rekindled for fans of Glory Gardens – a series of cricket books for children by Bob Cattell.
Return To Glory
Charlcombe Books, £6.99
GOOD THINGS COME
Cricket is intrinsically linked to the art of waiting. Wait for the ball, wait for your turn to bat, wait for the umpire to raise the finger, wait for your mercurial allrounder to arrive at the ground so you can start the warm-up, wait for the umpires to call the game off at 3.45 on a Saturday afternoon following four hours of heavy rain, wait for teas to be laid out after a catastrophic lower-order batting collapse. Waiting is what we do and we do it well.
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The 1990s wasn’t an easy time to be a young cricket fan, it was a pursuit that required dedication, resilience and, most importantly, patience. The England team lost everything, kids were still expected to field at fine-leg and bat 11 (I was that kid) and the T20 revolution was yet to take a grip on the professional game. But out of this barren cricketing wilderness a literary work emerged that gave us something to believe in and reminded us all that a team you supported could win a cricket match. The work was Glory Gardens, its creator was Bob Cattell and the wait for more is finally over.
The original Glory Gardens series is made up of eight volumes charting the fortunes of Glory Gardens Cricket Club, a junior team created by a group of friends at their local recreation ground, who, despite not really having any form of coaching and for various noble reasons refusing to select their best side, turn out to be one of the country’s best junior cricket teams. Each book is a heartwarming tale of teamwork, determination and friendship drawing the reader in to be part of the team they always wanted to join. And now there is more.
After 15 years of silence on the matter even the most ardent Gardens fans must have had their doubts. But that’s the thing about waiting, it is the concern that the wait may never end that makes its conclusion all the more memorable. And Cattell’s most recent work does not disappoint.
Return to Glory follows the team of 13-year-olds, funded by a wealthy local businessman, on a hastily arranged trip to Australia to compete against Woolagong CC in a three-day ‘Ashes’ game.
The story, aimed at 8-13-year-olds, is ram-packed with sporting action, selection angst, team politics and cricketing stereotypes – in short: everything that was asked of it and more.
Sure, there’s the odd continuity error, a couple of spelling mistakes and a series of bizarrely misshapen illustrations, but these are nothing more than charming oversights within Cattell’s gloriously well-spun yarn. Rather than defining the book they are an integral part of the perfectly imperfect Glory Gardens experience.
There has been much talk within the corridors of the ECB of new recreational formats, city-based T20 competitions and general revolution within the sport to increase participation and following. For some it might take five-a-side weeknight cricket, for others the lure of the bright lights as London Lions take on the Manchester Powerhouse. For me all it took was a good book. Twenty-one years after reading the first instalment I am still as in love with the series and the sport as ever.