From Tuffers to Hobbs via Fletcher and Flower: the latest in cricket books


The Sports Bookshelf spotlights a selection of new cricket books published during the last month.

Tuffers' Cricket Tales

Author: Phil Tufnell
Published by: Headline

Phil Tufnell used to be known as The Cat for his fondness for dressing room naps, when not sneaking off for a crafty cigarette. These and other examples of an unorthodox approach to cricket turned him into a cult figure as a spin bowler for Middlesex and England. Now more commonly referred to as Tuffers, he has developed a second career as a broadcaster and reality show contestant.  "Tuffers' Cricket Tales" is a deliciously eccentric collection of his favourite cricket stories, featuring a cast of colourful characters he has encountered in dressing-rooms and commentary boxes and who have provided him with dozens of entertaining and insightful anecdotes, told with warmth and humour.

The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket

Author: Steve James
Published by: Bantam Press

In 1999, after losing a home series to a modest New Zealand team, England were bottom of the world Test rankings, below even Zimbabwe. Yet only just over a decade later, England had reached the top in a transformation driven largely by two men, the coaches Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower, both of who, ironically, emerged from cricket in Zimbabwe.  Journalist and former England batsman Steve James tells the story of the renaissance of English cricket from a unique perspective, as the former batting partner of ECB managing director Hugh Morris, a player under Fletcher at Glamorgan and Flower's closest confidant in the press corps. It is the tale of a refusal to be second best.

Jack Hobbs

Author: Leo McKinstry
Published by: Yellow Jersey

Cricket's appreciation of history tends to preserve the memory and reputation of its greats and yet time has done an injustice to Jack Hobbs, who remains the most prolific runscorer of all time even 78 years after he retired but somehow tends to be recalled less readily than Hammond, Hutton, Bradman and Grace, even though he was the first professional cricketer to be knighted.  McKinstry, a heavyweight among biographers with acclaimed works on Sir Alf Ramsey, Geoff Boycott and the Charlton brothers on his CV, seeks to put this right in a sweeping study that captures the spirit of a decent man from humble origins and of the times in which he lived.  Published in hardback in 2011 and shortlisted for the British Sports Book Awards, this is the paperback edition.

Third Man in Havana: Finding the Heart of Cricket in the World's Most Unlikely Places

Author: Tom Rodwell
Published by: Corinthian

Tom Rodwell spent his career in advertising but it was while he on a cricket tour of India that he began to believe his love of the game might be a force for change.  Inspired by the joyful reaction of some street kids when his team donated their kit to them, he hit upon the idea of setting up charity cricket programmes in parts of the world where daily life was dominated by hardship and conflict. Touching and amusing, Third Man in Havana describes Rodwell's experiences in such unlikely settings as Guantanamo Cricket Club in Cuba, whose opening bowler, called Stalin, played in Cuba's first ever match against an England XI, and Beersheva Cricket Club in Israel, where the pavilion was a converted nuclear bomb shelter. Tom Rodwell ran the charity Cricket for Change for eight years, and is now Chairman of The Lord's Taverners.

An Evening with Johnners

Author:  Barry Johnston
Published by: Quiller Publishing

Brian Johnston, the much-loved broadcaster, was most famous for being a member of the BBC's Test Match Special team for almost 30 years.  He died in 1994 but had he lived he would have been 100 years old this year.  To mark the occasion, the best-selling An Evening with Johnners, based on Johnston's touring theatre show of the same name, has been updated and republished by his son, Barry. It contains much material from the original sell-out tour, as well as additional stories from a second tour and Brian's skill and warmth as a master raconteur shine through on every page.  There are hundreds of hilarious memories, stories and anecdotes, all told in his inimitable, friendly style, including of course the famous 'leg-over' incident with co-commentator Jonathan Agnew.

In the Best Interests of the Game

Author: Darrell Hair
Published by: HarperSports

Few officials in international sport have been as controversial as Australia's Darrell Hair, the man at the centre of the storm when Pakistan refused to complete the 2006 Test match against England at the Oval. First published in Australia last year, this is the paperback edition of his story: the complete story that he feels some of cricket's most powerful decision makers and players may feel uncomfortable about. It was Hair's charges of ball tampering against Pakistan that led to unprecedented scenes and his description of what followed more befits a John Le Carré novel, as administrators went into almost unfathomable damage control that eventually forced Darrell into a premature retirement.

Warwickshire CCC On This Day

Author: Brian Halford
Published by: Pitch Publishing

One of a new batch of On This Day titles from Pitch Publishing, Warwickshire CCC On This Day offers a unique trawl through the long and colourful history of one of the world's most famous cricket clubs. The book embraces all of Warwickshire's most significant characters, its controversies and dramas, triumphs and struggles: from the unprecedented treble success of 1994 to the battle for survival in the early years; from Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott underpinning England's batting to Warwickshire mustering just 16 all out against Kent at Tonbridge in 1913. It has its quirkier tales, too, making reference, for example, to deliberations once conducted at committee level over the towels in the members' lavatory.  Author Brian Halford has covered the fortunes of Warwickshire CCC for the Birmingham Post and Mail since 2000.

There are also new On This Days for Nottinghamshire , Essex and Hampshire cricket clubs.

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