by David Tossell

Published by
Pitch Publishing
A2 Yeoman Gate, Yeoman Way
Durrington BN1 3QZ


Pages: 256

RRP: £18.99p

David Tossell’s previous cricket book on Tony Greig and the 1976 West Indian summer, Grovel!, predominantly featured the 1970s. His latest book, Sex & Drugs & Rebel Tours, moves into the 1980s and is, as usual, not only highly illuminating but written in his usual refreshing style on the highs and lows of England’s international cricket.

Having grown up in the 1970s from when my interest in cricket arrived, I am an unashamed fan of cricket in this decade and also of David Tossell’s writing and subjects. Once again, this book has been very well researched and written in an easy and, on many occasions, humorous style. Many of the decade’s top and better known names have given their views on the 1980s and, while doubtless still reasonably fresh in many people’s minds, it serves as a timely reminder on how the structure of English cricket has changed. Many cricketers called up from counties to represent their country only lasted a couple of Tests before giving way to someone else in reasonable county form and captains were far from exempt also. Four represented England during the summer of 1988 alone. In the days before central contracts, pressure to perform was hardly helped by seeing how many players were discarded so soon after being selected. I see that, during the decade, eighty-two cricketers represented England and twenty had no more than two Tests apiece ( although some did subsequently play in the 1990s).

The 1980s was also the period when relations between the players and media took a turn for the worse and this subject is mentioned extensively. David Gower, condemned for walking out of one press conference to attend the theatre, says with justification that he attempted to make his appearances in front of the media more open and describes some of today’s conferences as anodyne. Who, these days, benefits?

English cricket in the 1980s had a bit of everything. Resounding overseas wins in Australia and India, the spellbinding 1981 series, the fracas in Pakistan 1987 and the various allegations on the New Zealand in 1983-84. By the end of the decade, twenty-nine players represented England during the home series against Australia which ended the decade on a depressing note. It was the decade when Ian Botham cemented his legendary status as one of the top world all-rounders – there were others too in Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee – and David Gower charmed spectators with batting of languid majesty. Mike Brearley returned to secure almost mystical status as a captain with victory in the Ashes series of 1981. It was also the decade when touring sides with South African connections faced many obstacles and, as the title suggests, the rebel tours to South Africa by English sides. The West Indies inflicted defeat after defeat both in England and back home. All these subjects are covered.

There are, at times, humorous mentions about how newly-selected players heard of their elevation to the Test team. Some heard on the grapevine, some by the news. Derek Pringle had cause to doubt his telephone call and, if you wish to read his somewhat alarming response, page 96 gives his unusual reply. Humour too comes across in the reminiscences about some of the more eccentric players. Who remembers slow bowler Phil Edmonds’s two successive bouncers at Richard Hadlee? Many remember Chris Tavare’s batting style and it seems that the author is equally enthralled about the runs scored against time taken. That was his job and the bowlers appreciated the recuperation time.

With a resume of scores and the results, the book ends fittingly. It may not look an altogether successful decade but this book is terrific for a reminder of the not-so-distant past and David Tossell is to be congratulated on another excellent book.