Cricketing Caesar by Mark Peel

Cricketing Caesar
by Mark Peel

Published by Pitch Publishing
A2 Yeoman Gate, Yeoman Way
Worthing, Sussex BN13 3QZ


Pages: 320

MRP: £19.99

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Maybe it's the strange times we are currently living in, maybe it's simply old age creeping upon me but after thoroughly enjoying Mark Peel's book on Mike Brearley, Cricketing Caesar, I keep thinking that, like The Hollow Crown, there must be many other books out there about captains and captaincy, and Mike Brearley. There aren't. There are many books by captains, and there are many books written by Mike Brearley so, once again, I am wrong and very grateful to Mark for writing a biography about the highly respected England captain of the 1970s and 1980s.

Much has been mentioned about Mike Brearley. He was, according to tearaway fast bowler, Rodney Hogg, the man who had a degree in people. He was considered the guru of captaincy despite a modest Test batting record. He was the man brought back to replace Ian Botham as captain (with the latter's support) in the remarkable 1981 series - I did chuckle at reading that long before this most famous of Test series, Brearley had been quoted within the book as describing Botham as playing like a "cheerful, wild hitter from club cricket " and assume that their relationship was a little different at that stage - and immediately events were turned round, with Botham being in the thick of it on the field.

There was an aura about Brearley. I remember him talking at our school around 1980 and being almost paralysed with fear as my turn came for an autograph. Rather than placing my book in front of him and staring at the floor as others before me had done, I said a few words and felt his eyes almost boring into me, albeit pleasantly. It was a wonderful yet nervy experience. Somehow, though, I had expected it to be as such.

Mark Peel has once again admirably portrayed his subject. Charting Brearley's cricketing path through his father who was good enough to represent Yorkshire, it shows that Mike was a prolific batsman in his early years as well as keeping wicket. Although he was essentially lost to cricket for six years, he made a return and forged a new-look Middlesex side after which he made his England debut at the slightly advanced age of 34. He had much earlier toured South Africa but did not play in a Test.

The Brearley captaincy era was very much not just about the famous 1981 series. Twice previously he was a victorious Ashes captain (in both England and Australia) and his fine record pays testament to his outstanding leadership. During the same period, Middlesex were a formidable force also.

Drawing upon reminiscences of former cricketers, Cricketing Caesar is the definitive account of one of cricket's most fascinating people, both before and after his playing days. It is, I am sure, to the benefit of the game that Mike Brearley, after a lengthy period as a psychoanalyst, returned to the game.

The latter part of Cricketing Caesar describes Mike Brearley's life after cricket: his work as a psychoanalyst and what is involved, and the sportsmen he has helped, and his work as a journalist. Well done once again to Mark Peel for another insightful and impressive book.