Updated: Feb 19
The former Prime Ministers love for the game is widely known, but John Majors fascination with cricket goes far beyond that of a casual or even obsessed fan. Major is a scholar of cricket and in particular its history, and in 'More Than a Game, The Story of Cricket's Early Years' he takes you on a detailed exploration of how the game was founded and how it flourished.
Now, this isn't an easy read, but that's not a criticism. This is a book packed full of names, dates, scores, places and events, and although I finished the book only 12 hours ago, I've already forgotten a lot of the detail. However, it's in the detail where this book finds a home, and if you love cricket, it's impossible to read this book and not romanticise about this era. Despite it being based in an era where players were paid poorly, the divide between the players and gentlemen was vast, and several players would take their own lives after falling into destitution once their careers were over.
For many cricket fans, you'd think the game started with the great W.G Grace, but that's almost where this book ends. Major looks as back to the first records of history with a love and clarity that is absorbing to the reader. He looks at cricket bother in relation to the game itself, but also within the context of the time, the social atmosphere that was prevalent at the time and how that impacted the decisions and growth of the game.
This book at its core is a historical analysis of the game, but it would be unfair to paint it as a research paper. Within the 400 pages you come across some giants of the game, some you know, some you don't. You get a fascinating portrait of players like Alfred Mynn, W.G Grace and the men responsible for the MCC, Lords and Trent Bridge. You discover fascinating snippets that you likely weren't aware of, like Arthur Conan Doyle's only first-class wicket is that of the great Grace himself. Or that England teams were once selected by the county whos ground the game was to be played on.
You may not have liked John Major the Prime Minister, however, his love for the game seeps out of every pour and is translated on every single page. If you want a comprehensively researched book on the early years of cricket, look no further, it's right here.