Another collection of cricket related articles by Gideon Haigh? There's a part of me that wishes he would get on with a full length biography now and again, given the quality of Mystery Spinner (about Jack Iverson) and The Big Ship (Warwick Armstrong). There's a rather larger part of me that is secretly hoping for a sequel to his account of life in a small Melbourne cricket club, Many a Slip. Does the world really need another collection of reprints from him instead?
Maybe not, but I'd rather read Haigh's incisive comments on the game than any of the ghost-written columns, ghost-written biographies or other nonsense that passes for the majority of cricket writing. Haigh can write, does admirable amounts of research, and isn't above intelligent criticism when the issue requires it. He even seems to have overcome his normal tendency to throw in the most difficult word he can think of every couple of pages, which can only be good.
There is, as the title suggests, a distinctly Australian focus here. There are a few articles on cricket in general, but for the most part we find things on such burning topics as the Simon Katich vs Phil Jaques debate, Adam Gilchrist's role in the team's most potent incarnation, and Belinda Clark's batting perfection in the woman's game. That's hardly surprising, given that Haigh lives and works in the country, but possibly an entire section of the book devoted to Shane Warne articles is pushing things a little.
There is also a slight question mark with anything like this over how quickly the articles age. Shane Warne still has enough presence in the game for tracing the progression of his career to be intelligible, but digging out articles that talk of Shaun Pollock and Jaques Kallis in terms of their all rounder potential is pushing things. Pollock has retired with his place as the best bowling allrounder in the world secure (assuming no one has talked him into yet another last round of twenty20), while Kallis is very much the elder statesman of the South African team. Perhaps it was just to put in something that wasn't focussed so much on the Australians, or perhaps it was just a thought that it might produce a nice reminder of how recently it was that they were thought of in those terms.
Either way, this is a good collection, but possibly not an essential one. Still, it will do until Haigh thinks of enough long words for his next full length offering.