The Nowhere men : Michael Calvin

This is something I would want to read

Extract from F365 below, and link here.

Johnson, Liverpool’s senior scout in the South, shot me a glance. He knew I was obeying the first law of football scouting: reveal only what is convenient to you. The journalist’s news editor would not have been amused. He left without asking what either of us, who admitted to having no allegiance to Southend or their opponents Cheltenham Town, were doing at a League Two game on a Friday night. The ‘Liverpool swoop’ story that was one pertinent question away from realisation remained unwritten. ‘Information, information, information,’ said the scout, with a chuckle.

Will review when I get to read it.


Harold Larwood by Duncan Hamilton

Superb post here from the 99.94 blog — one of the best cricket blogs around; about Harold Larwood, and the award-winning book by Duncan Hamilton.



A few years ago, I fell into conversation with Pat “Percy” Pocock ex-Surrey and England spinner. He jabbed a finger at my son who was sitting behind the laptop, “Just look up George Lohmann and tell me and your dad his figures”. “18 matches, 112 wickets, average 10.75” Jesper replied, wondering if he’d read it right. “What about that?” said Percy to me, my face betraying a slight scepticism. “Sure it was a long time ago – but why wasn’t everybody else doing it?” said Percy. I could only nod in agreement.

Percy’s point holds for Harold Larwood’s performances too – nobody else did it then and few have done it since. And, as Duncan Hamilton’s idolising biography shows, that applies every bit as much to the man as to the bowler.

Larwood the bowler frightened men, hard men who had been through war and the scarcely less terrifying mines…

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Football // Soccer

The perennial debate! This time in Australia. The answer, is right there on the post.

Personally, I prefer “football”, but find myself using the “soccer” in my conversations more often than not. Old habits die hard. Whether you call it “soccer”, “football”, “kicky-kicky-round-thing”, or “wogball” this is a debate that looks likely to continue.

Read. Here.

To add, this is something I’d like to go and check. I loved ‘Football / Soccer with the Enemy’, it’s one of my favourite football books. I bought it int he US, so my copy is the ‘Soccer with the Enemy’ copy. Will have to go and check – didn’t notice while I was reading, honestly.

Which cannot be said of some other books. I own an American copy of Simon Kuper’s Soccer Against the Enemy. The word “football” has been cleansed from the book, autocorrected to “soccer” by the editors.

Even when Kuper is writing about American football – as in gridiron – his words have been changed to “American soccer”, which is just downright confusing. Taking the silliness to another level, Cameroon is described as “the most successful soccering nation in Africa”, surely one of the greatest grammar crimes in sports writing ever.

Whoa! Funny.

Why England Lose: Good, not great

Why England Lose: And Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained

By Simon Kuper, Stefan Szymanski

(Read via Audible).

Bullet-point review:

a) A book of stats, tables and numbers, this does not translate very well to audio
b) Cannot fault the narrator, he does a good job
c) The content is new, fresh and innovative. A book like this should have been written a long time ago. Kuper is a legend, of course…. ‘Football with the enemy’ remains one of my favorite sports books.
d) The content is also the bane. I believe the authors try to say too many thing in this book. What’s covered here has the material for maybe three books…. Therefore, there are individual chapters of impeccable analysis and brilliant insight, and other rather tepid ones.

As a book, it is somewhere down the middle. And for all the people who say that football (soccer) is too low scoring, too random and too fast / continuous even, to be figured out via stats, you are wrong. They said similar stuff about baseball before Bill James, and moneyball.

Chinaman : The Legend of Pradeep Mathew – Shehan Karunatilaka

I read through the book in one go. The last time I did this was with the book on the Martina – Chris rivalry, about 2 years back.

I just could not stop turning the pages of this one, even when it was not night anymore, and even when the Hyderabad heat streamed through from the outside.

Unfortunately, there have not been much sports-based fiction written. What you get are almost biographies, analysis or semi-travelogues. Not that I dislike them… I am a sucker for anything based on sport… but the fiction pieces do have a … what’s the right word here… directness(?) / anger(?) / terseness(?) that the realistic bounds of the fact-based books cannot capture (ps. I thank the stars that Mati Nandi wrote in Bangla).

And here’s one of the highest order. The books I enjoy the most are the ones that tell more than one story. And this is one of those kinds. And Shehan Karunakilaka weaves them all in this wondrous maze of a book. He has a lightness of touch, one that you will come to realise only after you have finished the book. He is able to say a lot of rather pithy things in the garb of humour.

You have read the gushing reviews; you have heard the whispers that this is a must-read. Let me do my bit of gushing to add on to all that. This is a must-read. One of the best sports-based books I have read in a while.

Here’s a proper – and fine – book review – on ESPNcricinfo.

Review: What I love about Cricket – Sandy Balfour

Is not a cricket book. In fact, the parts about cricket are some of the more laboured ones in the book. Sandy Balfour probably has the same problem as most of us have, in that he is not able to articulate too well the deep love for cricket and his village green matches. He doesn’t do half bad with the internationals though.

However, this is a nice, well written, occasionally very-funny (in a stiff-upper-lip british way might I add ….. Balfour has left his South African past behind), sentimental (why, even maudlin at times) and slightly eccentric book about a cricket-mad father and his daughter and her skateboarder boyfriend. You will probably appreciate it more than me if you do have a daughter.

Fever Pitch this is not – as the jacket cover claims. But you don’t have to find a Fever Pitch in every personal memoir on sport. And I was not expecting a Fever Pitch when I opened this.

I rather liked the book. A pleasant, quaint, easy read, it pretty much unfolds like a test match – which is a good thing. Definitely readable. Three stars out of five.

Blossom 3/12 Leaving Bangalore

What better way to bid adieu to Bangalore than through a sudden, rushed book trip to Blossom?

And how better to do it than buying the ones you want for free?

Being multi-bookshelved has its disadvantages; multiple friends, acquaintances, roommates and even an ex-girlfriend had deigned my house a dumping ground for books they cannot carry with them to every new city and new country they relocate to….. What if I cannot carry them along with me to the new city I am relocating to? I am sure they would not need the books anymore- not now, after between three to seven years; not now that their need for those book have surely finished; and especially that I have never had need for those books in any way.

So off went books on Digital Signal Processing; on Graphic Designing and on Java; off went Freud, and Jung, and Foucault; Off went Martin Cruz Smith and Erich Segal; and Kafka and Kahlil Gibran and Eco and Barnes (let them go, rather a good philistine that a poor highbrow) …… and those glossy books on photography and movie-making and creative writing and fitness and even learning Spanish (that’s one I could have kept, but I really do have my own).

These were the carcasses of the whims and fancies of the early-to-mid-twenties of a lot of people who inhabited my life during my own whimsical and fanciful early-to-mid twenties.
They have moved on with their lives. And so indeed have I.

Blossom book stores, Church Street, Bangalore. I sold most, the others, which they refused to buy, were given off to be disposed.

And the following were bought, in order.

My Spin on Cricket – Richie Benaud
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis – Tony Hawks
(I did buy it at last, Suhas)
Open – Andre Agassi
What I love about Cricket – Sandy Balfour
Chinaman: The legend of Pradeep Mathew – Shehan Karunatilaka

and I still had a few hundred rupees left in gift vouchers, which were dutifully gifted to the wife.

Bangalore will not be missed so much as re-visited often. It IS my city, my home. Each book was signed ‘Blossom 3/12/11 Leaving Bangalore’. It didn’t break my heart writing it. It really didn’t.