BAZBALL by Lawrence Booth and Nick Hoult  

by Lawrence Booth and Nick Hoult

Published by:
50 Bedford Square,
London WC1B 3DP


Pages: 341

MRP: £22

As I write this, the word Bazball has been added to the Collins dictionary. It now seems to be an official word. The moniker, a word disliked by the man who has been credited with the concept's invention, is about the innovative way in which England tackles Test cricket and it is therefore good to have a book on the subject.

Bazball is a fascinating read by two distinguished and respected journalists, Lawrence Booth (of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Wisden editor) and Nick Hoult (Chief Cricket Correspondent of The Telegraph). They have the insight and have, through interviewing many of the players who have played through this creative era, made everything understandable on how the process works. The players too seem to have opened up and spoken freely about their experiences of playing under the Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes regime. There are always plenty of player interviews/quotes etc during matches but the ones in this book feel enjoyable and forthcoming.

The authors have made the Bazball process comprehensible. It seems actually quite a simplistic process and has rejuvenated the longest format of the English game. I have to admit - curmudgeonly, I suppose - that when I first witnessed it, I saw it not quite as mindless slogging but it did raise my eyebrows. As one lucky to be able to attend all days of every Lord's Test, I accept that I - wrongly - felt that I would feel aggrieved if I only saw, say, three of five possible days. I remember watching Stokes with incredulity in one of the earliest matches swiping ungainly and being caught at mid-on/off to leave England 55 for six. I have, though, tried to embrace this innovative way of playing, and have although I accept that I am a traditionalist. Bazball, the book, has opened my eyes and makes for fascinating reading. I had assumed that, with Test cricket not flourishing in many countries (although it is still thankfully healthy in England), Bazball was a new form of entertainment in the longest format and something to combat the plethora of T20 matches.

As I have mentioned, the player interviews in Lawrence's and Nick's book are greatly illuminating. Sometimes, I suppose, many of us are guilty of overcomplicating matters and Bazball does come over as a more simple way of playing the game. Times change and it is hard to see it having happened in years gone by but things are now possible as times, and the game, evolves. It still requires courage, though, but who better than coach McCullum and captain Stokes, two larger-than-life characters in any era, to bring it to fruition? Their attributes as man-managers seem highly commendable and are enlightening.

Bazball does read energetically and enthusiastically yet it does not forget those who might have played differently and to whom the concept was more difficult than to others. Neither does the book shy away from awkward questions, some of which the reader may wonder about. Ben Foakes, for example, is one player whose natural game was possibly less suited to this attacking culture: the fragility of being a wicket-keeper, albeit a very fine one, in this era of debates concerning who, and what sort of player, should don the gloves may not have been easy. The player interviews tell much about the players involved.

Set against the backdrop of this year's Ashes, the book covers the essential ingredients of Bazball whilst recounting the events on the field for the series which will likely be remembered in the same way as 1981 and 2005. Having the two authors, via their professional capacity, describe the subject and series has made this an even more illuminating book.

I should also like to add that the statistics are expertly intertwined within the text. They are not figures for the sake of figures but add to the points made with even greater clarity.

In conclusion, I should like to congratulate Lawrence Booth, Nick Hoult and Bloomsbury on this fascinating book which has opened my eyes - and, yes, changed my perception - to the way in which Test cricket is played in England. I found this an excellent book and would highly recommend it.

I still see, though, that when I write the word Bazball, my computer underlines it in red suggesting an error or spelling mistake. Maybe, though, like England's Test cricket, the word is here to stay and the wavy red line will shortly disappear.