The pleasures and indignations of forthright Frith

David Frith has probably put too many backs up and exposed too many raw truths to be held in quite the same affection among cricket writers as, say, Neville Cardus, or John Arlott.  His love for the game runs no less deep; indeed, his life has been one of slavish devotion to the game. Yet there has rarely been a mist of sentimentality obscuring his view.

As he explains in his preface to this collection of his writings, Frith’s ambition was “to share the pleasure and excitement as well as the recurring indignation at the bruises inflicted on cricket by the greedy and uncaring”.

The pieces in Frith on Cricket, chosen by the author, include some extracts from 30 or more books but draw heavily from his magazine and newspaper writing, much of which will have been long forgotten.

The advantage this provides lies not only in offering Frith’s admirers access to work with which they may not be familiar but also in the unpolished honesty of the work, written under the pressure of deadlines and before hindsight can come into play.

It is not that he has not written well in admiration when he has felt it justified -- his eulogy on Ray Lindwall and Neil Harvey, for example, is beautifully crafted -- but it is his forthright, damning pieces that resonate the loudest.

His opposition to the boycotting of South Africa, which he felt exposed hypocrisies in virtually all corners of the game, was consistently well argued, as is his support for technological aids for umpires.

And he never lets convention blunt his criticism, even when the targets are his journalistic colleagues, whom he rounded on almost as a collective over the “dirt in pocket” affair in which the England captain, Michael Atherton, was effectively accused of ball-tampering in 1994.

Frith wrote in Wisden Cricket Monthly that “the avidity with which the majority of English cricket writers fell upon the England captain made one’s stomach turn.”  He said that they demanded Atherton’s resignation “without a shred of unquestionable evidence of misdemeanour” and went on to suggest some of his fellow writers would “be bent on savaging their prey further” after Atherton, hitting back, made reference to ‘the gutter press’.

Spanning more than half a century, beginning with the high school essay in which he set out his intention to become a journalist, Frith on Cricket leads the reader through a history of the game during that period from a viewpoint that seldom fails to stimulate.

Frith on Cricket is published by Great Northern Books, whose other cricket titles include Sweet Summers: The Classic Cricket Writing of JM Kilburn and Play Cricket The Right Way, the new issue of Geoff Boycott’s classic coaching book.

First published in 1976, Boycott’s instructional manual, in which the acknowledged master of technique covers all the game’s disciplines, has been updated for 2010 with new illustrations and sections on new skills, such as the spin bowler’s ‘doosra’ delivery and the batsman’s ‘switch hit'.

Frith on Cricket

Geoff Boycott: Play Cricket the Right Way

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