I’ve got a whole host of cricket books in my library and I’d like to use this article to tell you about some of my favourites.
15 Best Cricket Books in 2022
1. Beyond a Boundary by CLR James
First published in 1963, Beyond a Boundary is a fascinating look at West Indian cricket through the eyes of the author. CLR James himself stated that the book wasn’t intended to be an autobiography or a look at some cricketing reminiscences so where is it placed?
In many ways it’s a social commentary of the time and that’s why the book has a much wider appeal. However, for cricket enthusiasts, particularly those with an interest in West Indian cricket, it’s a must read.
With that social element, it’s also of its time and Beyond a Boundary will also resonate with those who remember or have a deep affection for the 1960s.
2. Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket by Christian Ryans
It’s said that Kim Hughes wasn’t a popular choice of captain from within his own team. Certain senior members of the side felt that Rodney Marsh should have taken over from Ian Chappell and they gave Hughes a hard time as a result.
The other issue for Hughes was the fact that Australia had a weaker team at that point. The golden era of the mid-1970s was passing and the post-Packer days were having a detrimental effect on the squad. Golden Boy underlines all the struggles that Kim Hughes had to endure, all the way through to his tearful, resignation press conference.
He was a better player than many give him credit for and that’s largely due to the problems that captaincy brought him.
3. The Art of Captaincy by Mike Brearley
Mike Brearley may not have been England’s best cricketer but many firmly believe that he was his country’s greatest captain. The highlight of his career came in 1981 when he was recalled to lead the side in the wake of Ian Botham’s resignation.
While the outgoing skipper still had a huge part to play in ‘Botham’s Ashes’ it was Brearley’s shrewd captaincy that masterminded an incredible comeback win.
In The Art of Captaincy, Brearley, outlines all the techniques that he used to get the best out of his team unit. Maybe Australia’s Kim Hughes could have taken on some of the advice but, even if you are leading your side at village or club level, I would say that this book is indispensable.
4. A Social History of English Cricket by Derek Birley
This is another book where the sport of cricket meets the wider subject of history. Whereas Beyond a Boundary focused on the West Indies, this is the book you need to read if you want a microcosm of the English landscape.
A Social History of English Cricket was published in 1999 and it covers the sport from its very early years, all the way up to the dawn of a new millennium.
What’s particularly fascinating about this book is that it punctures one or two myths. Cricket is often seen as the gentleman’s game, particularly in the Victorian era, but that wasn’t always the case. I won’t give too much away but I suggest you give it a read to find out as I feel that the book conveys the most accurate picture of cricket through the centuries.
5. Coming Back To Me by Marcus Trescothick
Marcus Trescothick’s battles with mental health saw him withdraw from international cricket when he had so much more to give. It was a sad loss for the England side but the player had to take time out and deal with issues which were far more important.
There are plenty of cricket autobiographies out there – virtually everyone who has played internationally has written one – but I think this is the most open and honest book that I have ever read. Others who have reviewed it mention the sheer despair that Trescothick feels as he aims to battle his demons.
It’s also an interesting document of some of cricket’s greatest contests but it’s mainly about Marcus and his road back to health. Even if you’re not a cricket fan, I would say that Coming Back to me is worth a look for those who are suffering similar issues.
6. The Unquiet Ones by Osman Samiuddin
This is a history of cricket in Pakistan and many feel it’s the most comprehensive book on the subject. It starts at the very beginning with the birth of the country in 1947 and goes on to chart an incredible 70 years of play.
All of the best players and greatest moments from those years are underlined in this book. Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are, perhaps, the best known but there are many more to discover as you read through the pages.
The highs, such as the 1992 World Cup win, are covered, and there are some low points too. Above all, Pakistan cricket refuses to ever give up and that’s why the title – The Unquiet Ones, is so perfect.
7. Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Controversy by Peter Oborne
The Basil D’Oliveira affair was a controversial one and it came at a time when Apartheid was about to make South Africa pariahs on the international sporting stage. Born in Cape Town, D’Oliveira later qualified for England and made his test debut against the West Indies in 1966.
Classed by the South Africans as Cape Coloured, he didn’t fit into the horrendous ethos of Apartheid and, it was made clear that D’Oliveira’s selection for England’s tour of South Africa would be unacceptable to the host nation.
Following an injury to Tom Cartwright, Basil D’Oliveira made the cut and the tour was cancelled. South Africa would subsequently be banned from international sport for 22 long years. It’s a dreadful tale and one that this book outlines in much greater detail. Cricket and Controversy also outlines the overall career of a very fine player.
8. Days in the Sun by Neville Cardus
A comprehensive collection of writing about our favourite game, Days in the Sun scours previous publications to document cricket’s literary mentions. The most famous of these occurs in Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens when a classic battle is played out at Dingley Dell.
Many other fictional accounts are covered here and there’s another story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – a man more famous for his Sherlock Holmes series. Non fiction works are also showcased including Beyond a Boundary by CLR James.
9. Harold Larwood – Duncan Hamilton
One of the fastest bowlers to have ever played the game, Harold Larwood was crucial to England’s success on the controversial Ashes tour of 1932/33. In this biography by Duncan Hamilton, we learn all about the role that Larwood played on that tour and the fact that he was made to be something of a scapegoat in the wake of the Bodyline controversy.
This book is very much written in the defence of the bowler. Rather than be consigned to the fringes of English cricket from 1933 onwards, Harold Larwood should very much be seen as a hero.
His statistics tend to back up that theory: 78 wickets in 21 tests suggest there should have been much more to come from a man who was said to be capable of bowling speeds of around 96 miles per hour.
10. No Spin by Shane Warne
Interest in Shane Warne will undoubtedly grow following his untimely passing in March 2022. No Spin is the autobiography of his career and no other book will take you closer to the tale of one of the greatest cricketers who ever lived.
From his debut in 1992 against India, all the way through to his emotional retirement in the victorious Ashes series of 2006/07, this is the definitive guide to Shane Warne. In later years, he became a respected commentator and his great insight into the sport is evident in this brilliant book.
11. A Corner of a Foreign Field by Ramachandra Guha
The history of cricket in specific countries has been a theme throughout this list of the best cricket books. In this title – A Corner of a Foreign Field – we’re heading to India as the author, Ramachandra Guha, takes us on a comprehensive journey.
All of the expected heroes are here in this book and Sachin Tendulkar naturally gets a lot of coverage. However, the book goes much deeper and, like some other great titles on this list, it is very much a look at social history as much as anything else.
The fall of Empire kicks things off with India starting to develop as a sporting nation. The country excels at cricket but the players are learning their craft in those early years. In time, some brilliant players start to emerge such as Palwankar Baloo who is generally regarded as the first of India’s great slow bowlers.
It’s a mighty piece of work and you won’t find a better study of this great cricketing nation.
12. Rain Men – Marcus Berkmann
As a club and village cricketer for many years, I can really identify with this book by Marcus Berkmann. Cricket isn’t all about the professional game and this is a hilarious look at us amateurs who turn out every week for the pure pursuit of fun.
All of the hilarity is there in a beautifully observed book and many of us will identify with the characters in Rain Men. We’ll start to really identify with the players of the Captain Scott XI in one of the few genuinely funny cricket books around.
It’s also a tale that will resonate with anyone who started out with dreams of playing professional cricket when they were younger.
13. A Century Is Not Enough – Sourav Ganguly
Sourav Ganguly was a very single minded cricketer who wasn’t always popular with his teammates and that single mindedness is reflected in the title of this book. A Century isn’t enough for the players at the very top of their game who want to keep batting and batting for as long as possible.
Ganguly made a highest score of 239 in test cricket and he also hit 183 at the 1999 World Cup so he’s well placed to back up his viewpoint. This book also documents the player’s brilliant career but it mainly focuses on the mindset that got him there. If you want to know just what it takes to succeed at the highest level in any walk of life, this could be the book for you.
14. Australia 55 by Alan Ross
There have been many books written about cricket tours but many suggest that Australia 55 is the best of them. As the name suggests, it focuses on England and Australia as they look to battle for the Ashes, in the 1954/55 series.
Tours were very different in those days and Alan Ross, who was sent to report on the action, covers this series with wit and knowledge. It’s a fascinating look at the travels of cricketers in a bygone age and it was an exceptionally hard fought Ashes battle too, with England eventually triumphing by three tests to one.
15. Penguins Stopped Play – Harry Thompson
Harry Thompson was a former teammate of Marcus Berkmann and is featured in the initial Rain Men book. At some stage, the two had something of a falling out and Penguins Stopped Play documents what happened when Thompson went his own way.
The rather curious title relates to that great occasion for the club player – the cricket tour. In this case, Thompson and his team are taking the concept to new heights as they aim to play on all seven continents of the globe. Like the Rain Men book, Penguins Stopped Play is written with some traditional British humour and the attempts to complete this challenge are met with hilarious results.