Formulated in the early 17th century and spread across the world through colonisation, cricket is a sport embodying more than just its rulebook. Steeped in cultural and historic importance, the (traditional) 5-day game is a capsule encompassing life and its many waves. Hence, it does not come as a surprise that cricket literature runs deep ranging from journalistic writings capturing the essence of domestic and international matches to great cricketers quoting their experiences of playing the game.
Here are Top 5 biographical books every cricket follower must read.
#5 - A Century Is Not Enough – Sourav Ganguly
One of India’s most successful captain, Sourav Ganguly, reiterates his experiences of the modern cricketing era, his role in shaping a team symbolic of new India - capable of challenging its opposition at home and away, and the pressures which come with leading the largest followed team in the world.
The autobiography, co-authored along with senior sports writer Gautam Bhattacharya is written in a conversational tone, narrating and offering a personal perspective on the significant events during Ganguly’s cricketing journey. It speaks in detail about the infamous Greg Chappell episode, IPL in its early days, the rise of the phenomenon of ‘Dada’ and the self-belief and ‘never-say-die spirit’ that helped him reach the pinnacles of success.
The tome also treats its readers with nuggets about camaraderie in the Indian dressing room, Ganguly’s friendship with Sachin Tendulkar, India’s 2001 Test series win against Australia and also the bare-chested, twirling of the team jersey after India won the Natwest Trophy at Lord’s in 2002, providing a peak into India and India’s cricketing culture of that time.
#4 - Underneath The Southern Cross - Michael Hussey
The end of career biography of the late blooming left-hander Michael Hussey is written as an honest and modest account following his life as a cricketer, his attitude on the field and his perception of peers and Australia’s cricketing culture. He speaks about his struggles to find a place in the Australian setup and also shares his insecurities during his time playing the game.
Hussey, who was part of the golden era of Australian cricket, talks about some of the highs including the 2006-07 Ashes series and speaks candidly about the decline of the team post it and the reasons why it happened.
“Underneath the southern cross”, inspired by the team’s victory song, is a fitting title for a player who achieved the pinnacles of success, both as a cricketer and a person. Loved by all, the story of Michael Hussey is one of perseverance and humility through the lens of cricket.
#3 - No Holding Back: The Autobiography - Michael Holding
One of the greatest fast bowlers to play the game, Michael Holding, also known as 'Whispering Death', recounts his experiences making profound observations during his time as a player and a seamless transition to become a commentator and a widely acknowledged pundit of the game.
He describes his playing days with vivid imageries and vibrancy, sharing his story through numerous anecdotes and keen observations. In his book rightly titled, ‘No Holding Back’, Michael speaks in a measured yet critical manner of the mistakes made during his time while also voicing out present day issues regarding politics within the International Cricket Council (ICC), the threat of T20 cricket to the longer format of the game and the unfortunate fall of West Indian cricket.
#2 - Penguins Stopped Play – Harry Thompson
This one is a hilarious semi-autobiographical novel written by English writer and producer Harry Thompson. The story revolves around the empathetic theme of being consumed by the game of cricket despite not being very good at it.
The narrator sets out to make his own invitational XI with a mission to play cricket on every continent in the world. As the story develops the “Captain Scott XI” faces various challenges including, but not limited to finding 11 players to be on the team, logistics and travel, budgeting and finding opponents in each state.
Part-travelogue and part-commentary, the book holds like a collection of match reports and anecdotes encased with humour and sporting incompetence, a rewarding read for anyone who decides to embark upon the journey of (mis)adventures along with the author.
#1 – The Art of Captaincy - Mike Brearley
The book originally written in 1985 by former England Captain Mike Brealey remains to date one of the most comprehensive writings on captaincy, its importance and impact on the field and beyond. It’s the first book of its kind which links success in sport with and other areas of work and personal life.
Mike, widely regarded as “a man with a degree in people” and one of England’s finest captains, speaks about the nuances of the game in great depth, drawing from a deep pool of experience and examples from his days captaining Middlesex and later leading England to the famous Ashes victory in 1981.
The "treatise on captaincy" talks about how the game is shaped by the motivations, strengths and weaknesses of players and how deploying the right skills at your disposal without fear of failure helps to get the best out of people individually and as a team.