The Tied Test in 1960 between Australia and West Indies saw volumes of literature on the epic contest but nothing to match the accounts of Jack Fingleton and Richie Benaud. In The Greatest Test Of All , Fingleton lives every exciting moment with brilliant prose while Benaud revisits the same match in A Tale Of Two Tests , the other being the Manchester thriller of 1961. The edge of the seat narrative leaves the reader in a trance.
In modern day cricket, England’s World Cup triumph of 2019 is a tribute to the team’s amazing resilience and self-belief. To have snatched the title from under the nose of a tremendous New Zealand unit was in itself amazing stuff and it is presented in a thrilling form by seasoned cricket writers Nick Hoult and Steve James. England’s performance merited a book and the two have done justice in this riveting book.
Morgan’s Men : The inside story of England’s rise from Cricket World Cup disaster to glory , published by Allen & Unwin, is a comprehensive tale of a grand feat, written lucidly by two of cricket’s best authoritative writers. It is a rich anecdotal journey of 16 chapters where the authors trace the team’s rise with brilliant research and details from England’s encounters ending with the breathtaking final at Lord’s.
What prompted the book? Hoult, chief cricket correspondent with The Telegraph , says, “Before the World Cup I wrote a long article for The Telegraph about how England had reinvented their one-day cricket. It was around 7,000 words and did remarkably well.
"It brought in the record number of online subscriptions for a sports article and made me think there could be a book in this if England went on to win the tournament. Steve and I share the same agent, David Luxton, and we both contacted him a few days before the final with an idea to write this kind of book.
"So we decided to team up to share the workload. Originally this book was supposed to be published for Christmas 2019 so we only had four weeks to write it with an added complication that it was during the 2019 Ashes when we were at our busiest. Sadly, the original deal fell through due to a problem with image rights for the photographs but we found a new publisher in the new year and now here we are.”
The book takes off with the pulsating final and brings out every aspect of the match with in-depth interviews with the actors of the drama. How was it reaching out to the champion players as part of the narrative? Hould responds, “The book is reportage behind the scenes so a lot was done either during the tournament or before it. Everyone gave their time freely. (Eoin) Morgan was interviewed by both of us. Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace, the coaches, were very helpful too as was Danny Reuben, the England media manager.”
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The authors bring to us some little known facets of the team and Hoult rates this the most important phase for English cricket as World Cup saw a new champion in England, which had finished runner-up in 1979, 1987 and 1992. “I think it was more important for England than the wider game, particularly as hosts. England had such a poor World Cup record for 20 years. This campaign changed everything from attitudes towards white ball specialists, encouraging players to go to the IPL and improve their skills and putting white ball cricket on par with Test cricket. England basically caught up with the rest of the world but still take Test cricket very seriously. Keeping that balance will be the challenge now,” maintains Hoult.
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The World Cup victory, narrated in great details in the book, means a lot to cricket in England. Hoult notes, “Before COVID struck, cricket had experienced record ticket sales for 2020 at both international and domestic level. The Hundred was due to be launched riding on the back of the World Cup success. Ben Stokes was BBC sports personality of the year and finally cricket players were once gain household names.”
The toughest part of the writing, concluded Hoult, was “Trying to fit it all in. We really wanted to leave no stone unturned. To be honest we could have written it twice over in the end.”
He loved the partnership with James. “He came up with the structure and we split the chapters pretty much 50-50. We read each other's chapters, suggested changes and it all went very smoothly. Steve, as a former England player, has an excellent eye for technique and deconstructing batting so his knowledge really lifted the book.”
The book will be available in India in July.
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