What’s the book about?
Cricket has always attracted celebrity fans and indeed participants. Thirty years ago, as the producer of the BBC’s radio cricket commentaries, ‘Test Match Special’, I started a lunch interval feature to plunder this treasure trove, by finding interesting celebrities to talk to about their love of the game – and other things. This book is a mixed collection of some of the best of those.
What’s the most interesting interview?
Well, I’m going to cheat by claiming two.
In cricketing terms, I think the playwright, Ben Travers, was fascinating. He was well into his nineties when he came to us in 1980 and remembered with great clarity seeing W.G. Grace play.
From a human interest point of view the story of Ian Richter takes some beating. He was incarcerated by Saddam Hussain in Iraq just before the first Gulf War started, sustaining himself in the total isolation of a dark cell with making up fantasy cricket teams.
What’s the most special thing about cricket?
Its ability to exercise and entertain the mind of someone like Ian Richter would have to be an element. It is a game which highlights character and several different skills. Its aesthetic qualities have inspired possibly more art and literature than any other game and I cannot think of another which can rival it for the drawn out drama of a Test Match.
Will the game ever catch on in North America?
The first international cricket match in history was between America and Canada, but I agree it is not huge in the States. If it does take off it will probably be inspired by the ex-pat Indian community, which has already sparked a vigorous club cricket league in Southern California. If anything is to inspire its popularity, it will probably be Twenty/20 cricket, because I fear Americans may not have the patience for a five day Test Match that might end in a draw. It’s their loss.
What’s next for you?
I spent over a quarter of a century touring the cricketing world for the BBC, including, for instance, eight tours of India. I always kept a diary on those tours and so I’ve started to compile the many traveller’s tales and the sometimes desperate measures to get ‘Test Match Special’ on the air in adversity.