Reviewed by Richard Tutin
Cricket is much more than just a game that we watch. To some it’s a way of life. In the ABC of Australian Cricket Ken Piesse tells some of the stories, real and apocryphal, that demonstrate the love and passion that cricket lovers have for their favourite game.
These stories have given the game some mystique as well as assisting us to realise that cricket is more than the players.
Using the alphabet as his focus, Piesse has assembled a compendium of tales and facts that cover Australian cricket from its inception in the 1860’s to the present day. As well as drawing on stories about those who have played the game at all levels, he reminds us that grounds, officials, spectators and other supporters are important if we are to get a clear picture of what the game is about and how it fits into the Australian way of life. Even those who have no real interest in it celebrate and commiserate about the highs and lows of the national and state teams while enjoying the support a local team brings to small bush and suburban communities.
In respect to the players, Piesse, using his extensive knowledge of the game along with meticulous research of historical records, shows their all too human side as well as their achievements and prowess. I liked the story about New South Wales bowler Len Pascoe who, on returning home late from a cricket function once too often, found his wife tearing up a scrapbook she had been compiling about his achievements on the field as a sign of her continuing displeasure about his behaviour.
Who would have thought that cricket grounds have stories to tell? Piesse does and communicates them well in a short and pithy style that is both enjoyable and memorable. The book’s format lends itself to becoming, after a first read, a ready and quick reference on many aspects of the game. This may be useful as one is preparing for a sports trivia night at the local pub or club.
One thing Piesse shows in the book is the way in which Australian cricket has been changed and shaped over the years into the game it is today. While we often think that it is had its day, Cricket has had a happy knack of reinventing itself into formats that capture the hearts and minds of people of all ages. Some traditional formats remain such as the Sheffield Shield matches between the state teams as well as the international five-day tests. They have been joined by the one-day series and the T20 series especially the Big Bash League that takes up a lot of the summer season to reach its annual conclusion.
Each one, along with the Saturday afternoon local games, has given Piesse rich pickings to delight and entertain the reader. As someone who has watched and enjoyed cricket for most of his life, I found both material I had read in other books as well as new stories that have increased my knowledge of the game.
The books light and humorous style allows us to be transported into the world of willow and leather ball whose characters have been at the forefront of Australian sporting life doing what they love and enjoy with a passion. Without them and their supporters, summer in Australia would not be summer if we couldn’t settle down to watch and play a good game of cricket.
Ken Piesse is the most published living sports author in Australia. He is an in-demand after-dinner speaker, a keynote sports presenter for P&O and president of the Australian Cricket Society. His multimedia awards stretch from TV and radio to newspapers and magazines.
ABC of Australian Cricket
by Ken Piesse
ISBN: 978 176068 750 2