Bowled over by a bottle of red — BEFORE lunchtime! Author recalls England’s forgotten cricket experts who influenced the game they loved
- Stephen Fay and David Kynaston recall influencers of British cricket
- They recall the long careers of commentator John Arlott and writer E.W. Swanton
- Arlott had worked as a policeman for 12 years before his role on BBC radio
- Swanton became his paper’s cricket correspondent at the age of 40
ARLOTT, SWANTON AND THE SOUL OF ENGLISH CRICKET
by Stephen Fay and David Kynaston (Bloomsbury £20)
When I was growing up and watching cricket, you were always either an Arlott man or a Swanton man.
John Arlott was the doyen of cricket commentators, with his distinctive Hampshire burr and legendary thirst for red wine. E.W. Swanton was the doyen of cricket writers, Establishment man incarnate, suffering gladly neither fools nor people who simply disagreed with him. They weren’t friends in real life, which will shock no one.
Arlott died in 1991, aged 77. Swanton, less pickled in alcohol, lasted longer, finally dying in 2000, just short of his 93rd birthday.
Authors Stephen Fay and David Kynaston recall cricket influencers John Arlott (pictured) and E.W. Swanton
What binds them, though, is the sheer longevity of their careers and the profound influence each had on the game they loved.
And usefully for authors Stephen Fay and David Kynaston, they both wrote millions of words on the subject. These form the backbone of this fascinating and very particular book.
Arlott went to a state school and spent 12 years as a policeman, before he got a job on BBC radio, occupying the desk that George Orwell had vacated a couple of years before. The cricket commentaries soon became his main source of employment.
Swanton went to Cranleigh School, then trained as a journalist. He was made his paper’s cricket correspondent at the age of 40 and held on to the job for 30 years.
Their politics were also different. Arlott, pictured, stood twice for the Liberal Party in the Fifties. Swanton was a straight-down-the-line Tory. He ran a travelling cricket team, and you were more likely to get a game if you had been to Eton, or were a viscount.
John Arlott (pictured) reportedly loved the sound of his own voice as well as alcohol
Both were romantics about cricket, constantly harking back to a perfect past when it was played properly, by people who were in every way better than you and I are.
Both, you might be surprised to learn, objected strongly to apartheid, Arlott because he had been to South Africa and hated it, and Swanton because he had been to the West Indies and loved it. Arlott, famously, once leaving Durban, was asked by a border guard his race, and answered ‘Human’.
ARLOTT, SWANTON AND THE SOUL OF ENGLISH CRICKET by Stephen Fay and David Kynaston (Bloomsbury £20)
Arlott loved the sound of his own voice nearly as much as a bottle of Burgundy before lunch, while Swanton’s pomposity ended up as almost endearing. A wonderful story is told by Michael Melford, long his deputy.
At Melford’s engagement party, Swanton slipped him a package, muttering, ‘I thought you would like this.’ Melford unwrapped it. It was a signed photo of Swanton.
I’m guessing this was a difficult book to write, and it won’t be an easy sell, either. Who cares about what a couple of long-dead writers had to say about cricket matches of long ago?
Well, I do. This is a magnificent book, a triumph of subtle judgments that makes these long forgotten matches live and breathe as though they were played yesterday.
It’s the perfect book to leaf through as you sit shivering in the stands, while the rain pours down and the umpires announce there will be no further play today.
Source: Read Full Article