Sports book review: Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets
By Tim Quelch
Sportsbookofthemonth.com price: £10.87 saving £ 6.12 on rrp
The parameters within which British social history was once bound were determined mostly by Acts of Parliament designed to counter matters such as industrial strife, or an unacceptable level of housing or education provision.
Sport only muscled in on the scene during the Victorian era, particularly after the codification of games such as cricket and football. However, it could be argued that sport’s role as an integral part of our social history has gradually increased as more people play, watch, read and write about it. Recall how sport briefly unified the nation during the summer’s Olympics and it’s easy to appreciate how powerful a force it can be.
In the days before football’s dominance became absolute, cricket vied for public attention on an equal footing. Mindful of this, Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets offers a fascinating mix of prescient comment and contemporary observations from English cricket’s ‘Golden Age’ in the 1950s when, for a while, England were considered the world’s best team.
The story has been told before from a pure cricketing perspective, but Quelch’s unique format, drawing upon the written memoirs and eye witness accounts of players such as Sir Len Hutton, Brian Statham and Sir Everton Weekes, make Bent Arms read like an alternative social history of mid-fifties Britain. It is, writes Quelch, “a story of English cricket’s rise and fall set against a backdrop of imperial decline”, so extending the social history parameters to great and enjoyable effect.
Our story begins with Britain’s economy ravaged not by the combined incompetence of bankers and the profligacy of domestic politicians past, but by the debilitating affects of war. Quelch sets an atmospheric scene, adding a sprinkling of evocative snippets regarding the shortage of coal or the freezing winter of 1947 to provide a context into which “the country returned to its sporting life”.
Post-war Britain was in the throes of enormous social change, not all for the better. Quelch recalls how Len Hutton, a working class Yorkshireman, became England captain, illustrating the awkwardness he encountered with some members of the MCC. He also prepares readers for England’s West Indian tour not by reminding us of injuries or absentees, but by highlighting the diminishing impact of Empire to Britain’s economy.
This is a unique sports book in many respects and mention should also be made of the author’s motive for writing it: to raise funds for Parkinson’s UK. That commitment makes it doubly worthy.
We’ve teamed up with Sports Book of the Month & have a copy of Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets to give away.
To win this week’s sports book, go to their website (www.sportsbookofthemonth.com) and answer the following question:
Which British Prime Minister said, in 1957, “most of our people have never had it so good”?