And God Created Cricket by Simon Hughes: Review

Any book that is published to provide a definition and analysis in the historical context about a sport tends to be heavy with statistics, narrative and could be used as a weapon due to its size.

Simon Hughes, the former Middlesex bowler and now cricket analyst provides a witty and factual case for the ‘greatest game on earth.’

Hughes gives a breezy whirlwind tour of  400 years of cricket with profiles on players past as present, rescuing from the shadows  neglected English heroes such as Wilfred Rhodes, the slow left-armer who took  4,204 first-class wickets who managed a 1,000 runs and 100
wickets in a season 16 times.

Hughes highlights that throughout history commentators and newspaper hacks would comment on the decline of cricket when there was a new innovation and a player who was performing in a unique way. In the 1930’s the legendary Australian Donald Bradman was seen as a symptom of how cricket had declined into a single-minded, too purposeful and selfish, (as a modern-day Andy Murray), but seventy years on he is described as the greatest.

Hughes shows how cricket through changes to the game and  the characters who played the sport has ultimately provided survival to a game which is up there as sport of great influence. He shows how reactionary forces in cricket have always been there to suppress change and thus, ensuring change occurs slightly later than expected, whether through the introduction of professionalism, reform of the county cricket scene, introduction of overseas players, one-day cricket and T20.

Unashamed, Hughes believes change in cricket only comes about when the batsman will benefit over the expense of the bowler. He shows how cricket has always provided prosperity to the batsman who were always defined as the the original gentlemen, who would defend against the hoardes of bowlers representing the working man.

Hughes provides a glittering analysis of players throughout the game, from the likes of WG Grace, Hobbs, Hammond, Boycott, Botham and modern-day heroes like Warne, Flintoft, Tendulkar and Murali. Wally Hammond was called the David Beckham of his day, while  Bradman the Pete Sampras.

Hughes uses his own experience of playing the sport to give his own perspective of the game since the late seventies when Geoff Boycott would stay at the crease to the recent triumphs of England in the Ashes. He is also hilarious at times, such as when Phil Tufnell,   whom he recalls one day coming into the Middlesex dressing room and  announcing that his wife had popped out for a pint of milk three weeks   before and not returned. “Christ, are you managing OK?” he was asked.   ‘‘Yeah, I’m using the powdered version for the moment.”

Hughes is an innovator of the sport and his book shows he is greeted by the same old  rhetoric: the game isn’t what it used to be, the fact is it isn’t, but cricket at the pace of the New Zealand test batting line-up moves at a slow pace with the times.

It isn’t just Cricket

During a random tea break at work I got talking to the  catering staff who I have built up a good friendships with. Most of the workers  come from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal and it clarifies the viewpoint that one needs to know Urdu or Hindi to survive in Qatar.

Many of the workers I have made friendship are convinced I am Indian born and bred, only to be shocked to realise that I am British as can be. The fact I converse with them in Hindi and Urdu, they automatically assume I am from India. When asked why I can speak these languages, I respond by saying its all down to Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar.

However, today my Englishness was put to the test. As England are playing India in the
first test match at Lord’s, the Tebbit test was extended incDoha.

I was asked by a group of them which country did I support, the country of  my heritage or the country I call home?

Now this pertinent question could be pretty easy to answer,  but for me this was the most difficult answer ever presented to me, not because  of divided loyalties or the fact that I feel my attachment to Sachin Tendulkar outweighs Graeme Swann. The question was
difficult because it was asked by someone who wasn’t white, middle-class and  Tory with a right-wing agenda.

The concept of the “Tebbit test” for people who reside in those parts of the world can be diluted as they may find it difficult to understand why a third generation British Muslim/Indian/Pakistani can easily grasp by pinning their loyalties over their land over the motherland. In the UK we often are under pressure to choose one over the other based on loyalty.

Why I found it difficult to state I support England over India purely on sporting terms is because it could have been perceived as disloyalty in a completely different context based on disassociating one’s heritage and failing to appreciate, love or even show any attachment to the land of my forefathers. The overall assumptions created were that the concept of ‘loyalty’ and supporting whatever country has more than just political boundaries of integration and ethnicity. When in England the ‘Tebbit test’ was conducted it was to show an attachment to the country one was leaving in, but to be asked by people from India the concept was completely different, mainly based on  heritage rather than loyalty.

This incident was an experience to understand that wherever you maybe the “Tebbit test” is one test which can be interpreted in anyway.