BOOK REVIEW - THE MEANING OF CRICKET : JON HOTTEN

Hotten loves cricket as I do. He was a very promising schoolboy player. His book is beautifully written and there are some jewels in its pages. The author regales us with facts about how much willow is used to make a bat, the type of willow, the legal width of a bat, the composition of the ball, the true length of a pitch when facing deliveries at over ninety miles an hour. He relates how the game is an obsession in India while in Ausralia it is embeded in the national psyche.

Hotten explains how cricket is an inscrutable game. It has very odd rules and conventions. It is a game that is seriously affected by the weather which is why it should never have been played here. In brief, as the author says, it is, like many of its adherents, eccentric. It is a game you love or hate, find mesmerizing or boring.

Hotten's book is also about the Gover Cricket School in Wandsworth, the various psychological aspects of the game, the numbers of people who watch the game and the cruelties of cricket. Regarding the latter, one error and you are out, one error and a batsman is not out. Apparently, suicide is not uncommon. It is 2.07% amongst Test players compared to an average of 1.07 in the general public.

Read about the fascinating experiment to demonstrate how a batsman needs to read visual clues from the bowler in order to hit a ball travelling at over 80 mph. Relish the statistics that reveal Brian Lara's genius, and learn how today's cricketers look different and train differently.

The author says he became hooked on the game after reading Peter Roebuck's diary of his 1983 season with Somerset. Roebuck committed suicide in South Africa in 2011.

Cricket lovers will find much to enjoy in this delightful account.