RAJESH KUMAR - Cricket Statisticians
Spirit of Cricket by Mike Brearley
Spirit of Cricket
by Mike Brearley
Reflections on Play and Life

Published in Great Britain in 2020 by
Constable- an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group
London - An Hachette UK Company


ISBN 978 1 47213 398 4

Pages 246

Price Sterling Pounds 20

Former England Captain Mike Brearley is a thoughtful and meticulous author. He reflects on the importance of the rules and the spirit of 'justice' in the game of cricket in his latest release Spirit of Cricket - a book he was born to write.

In Spirit of Cricket, Mike Brearley alternates between issues and examples within the game - from 'Mankading' and the 'Sandpaper' affair to sledging, mental disintegration and racism - as well as broader issues such as the spirit and letter of the law. He also contrasts cheating and corruption, and reflects on the nature of penalties in regard to each. He discusses the significance of the notion of the spirit of the game for umpires, groundsmen, administrators, media and spectators - and of course, for players.

Brearley's previous publications have earned high praise from the prestigious publications. 'Brearley has a knack for paying respect to the past without denigrating the present and for calmly considering the future', remarked Mail on Sunday.

'Brearley is at his best in these quirky, delightful essays when he is exploring the human qualities of humbler players... (His) admiration for his friends' decency, craftsmanship and modesty seems to recall a golden age of county cricket', comented The Times.

Having written the book, Spirit of Cricket, Mike Brearley acknowledges the importance of many of cricket's traditions and values. "Along with inevitable prejudices and snobberies, they have played their part in encouraging people from many backgrounds to expect and internalise fair play without loss of wholeheartedness and passion. Phrases such as 'it's not cricket' common parlance to describe dishonourable behaviour in all walks of life, do often have a solid basis in the game itself. The spirit of cricket can be harnessed to worthy ends rather than to jingoism or superiority."

Brearley believes that fitness has become a key feature in the game, especially in limited-overs cricket, the inches gained by quick running, or lost to quick fielding, are often crucial.

CEO James Sutherland's announcement of the punishments handed down to Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft spoke of their 'acts against the spirit of the game, unbecoming of its representatives, harming its interests and bringing it into disrepute'; all true, but perhaps it would have helped to spell out more of the detail, according to Brearley. Smith and Warner were banned from all cricket for a year and Bancroft for nine months.

Ranjitsinhji, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli also figure in the book. Brearley says Kohli is keen, lean, dynamic and totally involved. "As a leader Kohli is aggressive, sometimes brash. Tactically, he's shrewd and inventive, always looking for opportunities to attack. He lives by, and expects from his team, a strong work ethic. He also demands attention to detail. As a batsman, he regularly turns singles into twos, especially when chasing a target. Less athletic partners may be run off their feet. I suspect he has little patience with laziness. He has stamina, drive and persistence. Taking account of all three formats, he's clearly the most versatile batsman in the world, averaging over 50 in each."

In a chapter From Beyond the boundary, so many people, who have either played or professionally covered the game, have given their views on what the future of the spirit of cricket might hold.

According to Isabelle Duncan, perhaps the biggest threat of all to the integrity of the game is match-fixing. It is a thorn in the side of world cricket as criminal gangs make millions out of bribing and coercing players to guarantee certain outcomes. Here, the 'Spirit of Cricket' must stand tall and play a very public and active role in fighting this evil. If the ICC are serious about anti-corruption, there is an opportunity for those advocating the spirit of cricket to work in partnership with them and make its presence felt.