Saturday 24 August 2019

Guest Review: Cricket Rebel By John Snow

This is an autobiography of cricketer John Snow. 

Review: This is the autobiography of John Snow, a fast bowler who played cricket for Sussex and England. Between 1965 and 1976 he played 49 Test Matches for England, taking a total of 202 wickets. Probably his finest hour came during the 1970-1971 tour of Australia, during which he took 31 wickets, helping England to become the first touring side to regain The Ashes in Australia since the "Bodyline" tour of 1932-1933.

His career was not without controversy. There were a number of confrontations with the cricket authorities due his readiness to speak his mind, no matter the consequences. During the 1960s and 1970s, this was not considered acceptable behaviour by professional cricketers, who were expected to accept authority without question. One controversial incident occurred in the above-mentioned Ashes tour when, during the final Test Match at Sydney, an Australian batsman ducked into one of his short-pitched deliveries and was struck on the head. John received a warning from the umpire for the persistent bowling of short-pitched deliveries. When John returned to his fielding position on the boundary at the end of the over, bottles and cans were thrown on to the field and one spectator grabbed his shirt. The captain of the side, Ray Illingworth, took the England team off the field until order was restored. Another incident occurred during a match with India, when John collided with and barged over the Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar when the latter was going for a quick single and John was attempting to gather the ball to effect a run out. For this incident, he was dropped for one Test Match for disciplinary reasons.

This autobiography was published in 1976, before the author's playing career had ended. It makes interesting reading the second time around, since many of the improvements called for in the book, such as improved pay for cricketers, four day matches in the County Championship and neutral umpires in Test Matches, have all come to pass since the book was written. A major factor in the improvement in cricketers' pay was the setting up, by the Australian businessman Kerry Packer, of the rival World Series Cricket in response to being denied the television rights to Test Matches in Australia. Many international players signed up to this and it will come as no surprise that John Snow, disillusioned with the cricket authorities in England and coming to the end of his career, also signed up in 1977. Eventually, the Australian Cricket Board agreed terms with Kerry Packer for the television rights and normality was restored, but the increased money that he was offering the players led to increases in the players' fees.

One aspect of John Snow that may not be expected of a hostile fast bowler with a reputation for bloody-mindedness is that he has published two volumes of poetry. These are reprinted in full at the end of the book, and show the author's thoughtfulness and ability as a wordsmith, qualities that are apparent throughout the book.

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