England's Ashes triumph as seen by cricket's finest writer
Newspaper writers are an underrated breed. Where the polished prose of a literary novelist might correctly be applauded, chances are it has been rewritten, rewritten and rewritten again before it was allowed anywhere near a publisher, whose editors will then have subjected it to their own revisions.
By contrast, the newspaper journalist generally files his (or her) first draft, which may have been tinkered with a little if there was time but essentially is the product of unprocessed thoughts, transferred from mind to screen in the time it takes to hit the relevant keys.
It should be seen as remarkable, then, that the serious newspapers -- and some deemed as less so -- offer much writing of extraordinary quality. The sports pages, moreover, should not be regarded as an exception. James Lawton, Hugh McIlvanney, Simon Barnes, Martin Samuel, Paul Hayward, Richard Williams…these names make an incomplete list.
It excludes, for example, Gideon Haigh, the Australian journalist who is widely regarded as just about the finest newspaper writer on cricket in the world. Haigh, born in London but raised in Victoria, is the author of some 28 books, many of which doubtless had the benefit of considered reassessment before they appeared in print. Yet if the writing is better than is contained in the raw copy he delivers under deadline pressure then the differences are minimal.
It is this talent for submitting flowing, rhythmical, perceptive analysis without the need for reappraisal that has newspapers in England and Australia bartering for his services each Ashes series. In the past, The Guardian has enjoyed the privilege of publishing his analyses. In the series just concluded, the lucky readers have been those who take The Times.
Haigh’s newspaper work on the Ashes has for the last four series provided the material, with no more than minimal amendment, for Aurum Press to be first to the shelves with a book of the series. For obvious reasons -- in England, at any rate -- his account of the 2005 series attracted good sales figures, suggesting the idea might have legs and his instant record of the 2010-11 England victory, to be published next month, is likely to be similarly well received.
Ashes 2010-11: England's Record-Breaking Series Victory (Aurum Press) will be available from February 25. Click on the link to pre-order.
Gideon Haigh is also the author, among other titles, of:
Ashes 2005: The Full Story of the Test Series
Downed Under: The Ashes in Australia 2006-2007
The Ultimate Test: The Story of the 2009 Ashes Series
Many a Slip: A Diary of a Club Cricket Season
Mystery Spinner: The Story of Jack Iverson
The Big Ship: Warwick Armstrong and the Making of Modern Cricket
For more details, and to buy, click on the title.