Thursday, 18 August 2022

Never knowingly stumped

Stephen Fay and David Kynaston, Henley Town Hall

WHOEVER said cricket was boring? Well, my better half for starters. I suppose the fact that during the summer and at curious hours during the winter the TV in the kitchen will be on for hours — nay, days — showing what to the untrained eye looks like a never-ending game that can be played to its fruition and still achieve no result; where the weather is also a player and sledging is also involved, despite a lack of snow.

Anyway, as the England cricket team prepares to take on Sri Lanka next week, I made a visit to Henley Town Hall to bask in the company of some cricketing legends.

The session featured former England captain Mike Atherton in conversation with revered cricketing journalist Stephen Fay and historian David Kynaston.

The duo have written a book, Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket, which is a fascinating account of the power and influence two cricket journalists, EW “Jim” Swanton and John Arlott had on the game through their reporting in the post-war era.

The session was captained by former England opening batsman and Sky Sports pundit Mike Atherton, who expertly guided the conversation throughout.

The audience, largely consisting of silver-haired cricket fanatics, enjoyed a wonderful account of these two characters that has been thoroughly researched and contains fascinating insights into not only the game as a whole but the players themselves.

One story was retold where players would call journalists asking them to speak to selectors or coaches to try and get players moved up the batting order, such was their influence.

Which of course would never happen these days. Modern players are protected from the media and spoon-fed what they’re meant to say in post-match interviews and would never be exposed in such a way.

Back then, things were very different, clearly.

This book would make an excellent Christmas present for cricket lovers of a certain age and was being signed by the authors as I left the venue.

Paul Carey

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