Apart from the occasional school English assignment into which cricket found its way, and a piece about 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, the journal of the Association of Cricket Statisticians, 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 (no emails in those days) to 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 and then, in the nineties, Richard Hill’s 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. The main motivation for starting it was to give myself a more immediate and personal outlet for my writing than I’d had before. The title came to me in a rare moment of creative inspiration which stemmed from reading the collected works (Green Fading Into Blue, André Deutsch, 1999) of my favourite English cricket writer of the old school, Alan Ross. My writing there reflects the world of cricket as it was at the precise time the posts were written, rather than through the rose-tinted perspective of 20:20 (or even Twenty20) hindsight.
In 2013 I won the inaugural Wisden cricket-writing competition. This led to Lawrence Booth inviting me to write the annual review of blogs for the Almanack, something which I’ve been doing since 2015.