Apart from the occasional school English assignment into which cricket found its way, and a paean to Sunil Gavaskar (written in the afterglow of his Oval double-century in 1979) which Christopher Martin-Jenkins was kind enough to read and comment on, my first writings on cricket appeared in The Cricket Statistician in the mid-1980s. The most prominent of these was a long piece about the man who – long before he found Test cricket a tougher proposition than he could ever quite handle – was the flavour of the age: Graeme Hick.
I did quite a lot of research – mostly just by writing letters to the right people, including Hick’s father – and brought many of his extraordinary early batting feats to public attention for the first time. I say ‘to public attention’; I may be flattering myself, but the article was probably read by a few hundred people. This was doubtless somewhat fewer than read Hick’s later, ghost-written book My Early Life, which contained most, if not all, of the same information. For the first time, but certainly not the last, I was left to reflect that someone else had done what I wanted to do, only better. But, in technological terms, those far-off days were as different from these as chalk is from cheese. The Hick piece was bashed out on a manual typewriter and posted to someone who may or may not have agreed to publish it; now it would be read all over the world before Hick’s publishers had got their trousers on.
Later I wrote a number of articles for The Journal of the Cricket Society, the editor of which, Clive Porter, with his urbane punctiliousness and enviable handwriting, was the model of measured encouragement. Then, in the nineties, Richard Hill’s late, lamented Cricket Lore appeared on the scene and I became one of its regular contributors. It was always a pleasure, and I’m proud of my association with Cricket Lore, which, in the days before the Web and the blogosphere democratized writing about cricket, served a valuable purpose in allowing a certain type of article – not quite suitable for either the newspapers or the established magazines – to see the light of day.
Since 2006 I’ve been writing the blog Different Shades of Green. As I say in the introduction to the selection of posts which appears elsewhere on this site, it has given me a more versatile outlet for my musings, some of which I think have turned out okay, reflecting as they do the world of cricket as it was at the precise time they were written, rather than through the rose-tinted perspective of 20:20 (or even Twenty20) hindsight.
In November 2012 I submitted a piece of writing, South African Time, to the inaugural Wisden cricket-writing competition. I was fortunate enough to be adjudged the winner, and, while there was some kudos (and an invitation to the Wisden dinner) attached, the best aspect of it was that it brought me into contact with Lawrence Booth, who’s the most sincere and considerate editor I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Wisden is in good hands.
The writings reproduced here are a personal selection from my last twenty or so years of writing about the game.