The Best Loved Game

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The Best Loved Game is a book written by Geoffrey Moorhouse. It was written during the summer of 1978 (and it was first published the following year). This book describes the English cricket season of that year. It is worth mentioning that 1978 was an extraordinary time for the cricket world. The arrival of Kerry Packer about a year ago had threatened to change the whole nature of the game. Lured by the money and the media-coverage guaranteed by the media-mogul, some of the top players of world cricket had signed contracts with Packer, thus making themselves unavailable from official international cricket. With the problems being unprecedented, the cricketing world was completely unprepared for this. There were all kinds of confusions and even the high court got involved in the dispute. For a brief period, the future of the royal game looked very uncertain. At that time, Moorhouse, a very distinguished writer, who loved the game immensely, decided to chronicle the cricketing events of the summer. He, like many others at the time, thought that the game would soon change forever. "It seemed important to record an English season while the matter was still in balance, lest the shape and nature of our cricket should presently be spoiled.” [1]

Theme[edit]

The book contains description of 14 fixtures of various kinds. Obviously, the writer starts the book at Lord's, the Mecca of cricket, with the traditional three-day fixture between the MCC and the County champions of previous season (in this case, Middlesex). He visits the Mecca three more times, during the course of the season, (in June for the test match against Pakistan, in July, for the Oldest Fixture, between Eton and Harrow School, and finally in early September for the Gillette Cup final). But he does not confine himself to big grounds and big matches only. He goes to Oxfordshire to cover a village championship game, he goes to Lichfield for a minor county game. In short, he wants to cover cricket, as a part of English summer, and in this, he succeeds greatly.

Style[edit]

For more than half a century Sir Neville Cardus was the undisputed king of cricket writing. His style influenced more than one generation of cricket writers. Moorhouse was no exception. Of course, he had a few things in common with the great Cardus: they both came from North-West England, Cardus from Manchester, Moorhouse from Bolton, both spent a considerable amount of their professional career at the Manchester Guardian, and most importantly, both greatly loved the game of cricket. The greatest thing about this book is that Moorhouse covers the matches as a cricket writer, not as a cricket reporter, and the difference can be enormous. Following the style of the great man, Moorhouse cares less about the statistics (although the scorecards are provided in details at the end of every match report). Instead, in the spirit of Cardus, he gives characters to the players, describes the scenario, talks about the past heroes of cricket, and even talks about his own emotions. He starts “The Roses Match” recollecting his family connection with the Red Roses. Wherever he goes, he tries to fathom the spirit of the particular match. Thus, this book describes the spirit of the game more than anything else.

An important point to make here is that while the Packer affair had a lot to do with the writing of the book, the writer isn’t interested about the merits or demerits of Packer’s intentions. While he starts the introduction of the book with “This book owes something to Mr. Kerry Packer, without whom it might not have been written”,[1] he also mentions in the same page “I do not wish to argue here the rights and wrongs of the Packer affair, much less to recount its already wearisome history.”[1]

So, while the name Packer appears many times in the book, the only serious comment that the writer makes about the whole affair (and he is right in his comment) is ”In one respect, and in only one I think, he (Packer) has done a service to the game by forcing us all to face the fact cricketers have been abysmally ill-paid.”[1] So, as a whole “The Best Loved Game” is not about any controversial issue, it is simply about cricket being part of the English summer.

Interestingly, all the buzz about the Packer affair, which looked such a menace in 78, died down within a year or so, as the richest man in Australia and the ICC managed to reach an agreement. Yet, the changes introduced by Packer have not only lasted for a considerable time, in fact, these have continued to produce more changes to the game. Cricket is now fully internationalized, and at the same time fully commercialized. International stars are now richly paid (and so are the commentators), thanks mainly to the backings and blessings of satellite TV channels. In a sense, Packer was a bit too ahead of his time.

The 'Love’ affair[edit]

In 1977, test cricket celebrated its 100th anniversary. While test cricket still remains the most prestigious cricketing event, the general public nowadays are more interested in the shorter versions of the game, One Day Internationals and (in more recent times), the 20-20s. Instead of white shirts, the cricketers now wear multicolored dresses. Day night cricket, introduced by Packer in Australia, is now common everywhere. Yet despite all these changes, there is no doubt that the great game of cricket has its origin in the villages of England. For all the new introductions to the game (like 3rd umpire, TV replay, powerplay etc.) cricket still remains a very simple game. There are many who love the game simply because of its simplicity. For such people, ‘The Best Loved Game” can be a wonderful reading.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d The Best Loved Game by Geoffrey Moorhouse (Hodder and Stoughton, 1979)