England, Australia, South Africa, India and the rest of the Test playing nations – maybe even Scotland, Ireland and The Netherlands – these are the countries that most of us have grown up watching, and through which we learnt about the great game of cricket. How many of us, though, would have the Czech Republic or Portugal on our cricketing radar?
After reading Tim Brooks’ latest book, Cricket on the Continent, I can tell you that those teams as well as Corfu, Malta and many others are now definitely on mine.
In this superb book Brooks takes us on a Europe-wide tour of every cricket playing nation across the continent, looking at the history and origins of the game in the lesser known cricketing nations, the role the ICC and other organisations have in developing cricket in these countries and the competitions in which they play.
Brooks uses his knowledge of cricket in these countries, and across the world, to make sensible and realistic suggestions on how cricket can be enhanced across the continent.
One suggestion is for cricket to become an Olympic sport. Brooks says: “Cricket must become an Olympic sport, and any further delay risks unravelling all of the progress made since the development programme was launched.”
I’m with Brooks on this; who wouldn’t love to see cricket in some form played every four years under the Olympic flag and on a world stage?
As ever with cricket, at its core is people and their exploits. Brooks gives us an insight into some of the most famous people to have played cricket for the countries across continental Europe and, being from Derbyshire, the section on Ole Mortensen was a delight to read.
Giving a brief glimpse into Mortensen’s career, which happened by chance after pausing to watch a game on his way home from football training, Derbyshire fans will be glad he did – he had a 12 year career at their county, during which he took 434 First Class Wickets at an average under 24, sadly though at the detriment of his international career.
Brooks beautifully looks at the role the growing number of expats play in cricket across the continent, and the role that cricket plays in helping said expats integrate into society in their new countries. He also looks at the delicate balance that organisers have to strike, between using these expat players and home grown talent, as they look to grow cricket in their countries.
Each page of this book is full of detail, stories and above all the passion of the author. It is a pleasure to read a book written by someone who clearly cares deeply about the game of cricket as a whole, as well as the game across Europe and in its developing, affiliate and associate nations.
If you would like to enhance your cricketing knowledge, to have a light shone into the corners of the continent where cricket is played and onto the people who are playing it, then this is the book for you.
I will give you a health warning though, if you are like me and set yourself cricketing resolutions, then it may get you to change yours. I have always had two in my life, to watch cricket at every county ground in England and Wales and to watch Test Cricket in every test match playing country.
Thanks to this book and Tim Brooks I now have three – the new one is to watch cricket in as many of the countries in “Cricket on the Continent”. For this, and for opening my eyes to the amount of cricket played across Europe, I thank Tim Brooks. I sincerely hope that one day soon I will meet him watching cricket in a some far flung corner of Europe.