Help a clueless American understand what's so fascinating about cricket
June 17, 2009 10:40 PM   Subscribe

Help me find good cricket literature for a total cricket neophyte.

Upon returning from a business trip to India, my father expressed a desire to learn more about cricket: the sport, not the insect. Being a dutiful daughter as well as a crappy gift-chooser, I quickly realized that this might provide an answer to the perennial question of what to get as a Father's Day present for a guy who is, I swear, the hardest person to shop for in the world. I'm utterly clueless when it comes to cricket-related literature, so I'm throwing myself on the mercy of the global AskMe community.

Sports-type books about cricket would be awesome, but so would books that discuss the social, cultural, political or economic aspects of the sport. Academic books would be ok, as long as they aren't too jargony. The one thing, though, is that books have to be suitable for someone who doesn't know anything about cricket. If you need to know what a googly and a sticky wicket are to enjoy the book, then my dad is not going to enjoy the book.

Thanks in advance, MeFites!
posted by craichead to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is a good introduction to the game, before moving on to heavier fare
posted by sk381 at 10:59 PM on June 17, 2009

I enjoyed Anyone but England by Mike Marqueee - more of the historico-cultural elements and fine for someone with no bckground (which describes me)
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:09 PM on June 17, 2009

You should definitely get your dad a copy of 'Penguins Stopped Play' by Harry Thompson. Brilliantly written book. Review here.
posted by murtagh at 11:50 PM on June 17, 2009

I can highly recommend anything by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Henry Blofeld or Brian Johnston. All excellent commentators on the game, the players, the characters, the viewers/listeners, the history and the politics.

All wonderfully written and quintessentially english in nature.
posted by mooders at 12:13 AM on June 18, 2009

I would recommend Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. It's a novel about a Dutchman who comes to NY and falls in with a crowd of mostly West Indian and Asian cricketers who keep the game and culture alive in the US. It's also quite a meditation on post-9/11 New York. You definitely don't need to know the game.
posted by sagwalla at 12:26 AM on June 18, 2009

Seconding Netherland. It's quite an astonishing novel. It's written by somebody who deeply loves and understands the sport, and because the novel's events take place almost wholly in New York, it also consciously reflects on cricket's apparent obscurity to 'outsiders' who have not grown up with it in their culture. It is, therefore, an acute reflection on exactly the kinds of things you're looking for, the social, cultural, political and economic aspects of the sport, as well as being a rattling good thriller-type read and a somewhat melancholic consideration of aspects of masculinity and loss.
posted by hydatius at 12:37 AM on June 18, 2009

I enjoyed reading Cricket, Lovely Cricket?. It's written by the author of The Spin, a popular and very witty weekly cricket email newsletter, and would make a good non-technical introduction to the culture of the game.

Beyond a Boundary by C.L.R. James is often described as 'the greatest book about cricket ever written'. It would make a great follow-up present.
posted by mattn at 12:57 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Further to my previous comment: Joseph O'Neill writes about Beyond a Boundary
posted by mattn at 1:04 AM on June 18, 2009

Yeah, I liked (self-link) Penguins Stopped Play, although some of the cricket terminology proper may not be totally accessible. I also really enjoyed Ranji: The Strange Genius of Ranjitsingji, which has the bonus of exploring aspects of the English/Indian relationship.
posted by rodgerd at 1:31 AM on June 18, 2009

Lawrence Booth's other book, Arm-Ball to Zooter, is a light-hearted glossary of cricket terms such as "googly" and "silly mid-on".

I also recommend Bodyline Autopsy to see exactly how England's 1932/3 tour of Australia became so controversial.
posted by Electric Dragon at 1:40 AM on June 18, 2009

"Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man" by Siegfried Sassoon.

The title is misleading, as the book is mainly concerned with a series of landmark events in the author's youth including a cricket match. A major incident in the narrative is "The Flower Show Match", which has sometimes been published separately as a short story. It is humorously written and very "English". It's a classic.
posted by lungtaworld at 3:21 AM on June 18, 2009

For accurate historical data, a plethora of lingo lessons and blow-by-blow inside commentary on Australian cricket [heh] commentary, you can't dismiss the Twelfth Man.
posted by Kerasia at 3:40 AM on June 18, 2009

Rain Men by Marcus Berkmann is an entertaining read.

I would heartily second Netherland, Anyone but England and Booth's Cricket, Lovely Cricket (or his earlier, Is it cowardly to pray for rain?).
posted by unsliced at 4:31 AM on June 18, 2009

Wow. You guys are seriously amazing. I didn't expect so many recommendations!

I'm going to stew on this a bit more before I mark best answers. Thanks so much for giving me such great choices!
posted by craichead at 9:48 PM on June 18, 2009

Being a huge Indian cricket fan , I would recommend two books: One Day Wonders by Sunil Gavaskar. The book describes an Indian tour of Australia but I think it would be enjoyable even for someone who does not know much about cricket. The other book is Pundits from Pakistan by Rahul Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya is a cricket journalist who follows the Indian cricket team to Pakistan in 2004. This was after the two countries came very close to war. I would describe the book as a travelogue with cricket as a backdrop.

Lastly, this is not a book (or, alas, about Indian cricket) but if you can get a hold of DVDs for a TV series called Bodyline in the US, it would be a great gift for someone who would enjoy watching an excellent cricket-themed TV show. The show recounts the notorious events of the 1932-33 England-Australia series.
posted by aflatoon at 9:48 PM on June 19, 2009

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