RAJESH KUMAR - Cricket Statisticians
The Cebturions
The Centurions - from Grace to Ramprakash - Patrick Murphy

Published by: Fairfield Books
17, George's Road, Fairfield Park
Bath, BA1 6EY, U.K.
Tel : 01225 335813
Web : www.fairfieldbooks.org.uk
Email: Stephen Chalke, Publisher schalke@fairfieldpark.freeserve.co.uk

: 320

Price: Sterling Pounds Eighteen only

The updated edition of The Centurions - from Grace to Ramprakash - is an outstanding publication. Peter Murphy deserve our heartiest congratulations for bringing out this splendid book.

Peter Murphy is a writer with his subject close to his heart who has personally seen much fo the cricket which he describes so feelingly.

When this book last appeared in print in 1986, there were just twenty one cricketers having their profiles. Now the latest edition has 25, with Patrick Murphy addiing compelling studies of Vivian Richards, Graham Gooch, Graeme Hick nd Mark Ramprakash.

As John Arlott wrote of the original edition, Patrick Murphy 'has gone as near as possible to source, and to first-hand evidence, for his material. The result is a series of essays which blend history, tehnical analysis, character study and anecdote in a satisfying and pleasingly readable fashion."

Twenty five profiles actually cover the game's history, beginning with Dr.W.G. Grace, the Great Victorian, who invented cricket as we know it, and bringing us bang up to date with Ramprakash, who remains active in his 41st year.

According to Murphy, W.G.Grace was surely the greatest player the game has ever known, or ever will know. The reason is simple - he created modern cricket by his own example and force of personality. For almost forty years he played first-class cricket and he was the dominant force in thirty of them. Ten batsmen have surpassed his total of 126 first-class centuries, but none of them - not Hobbs, nor Hammond, nor Bradman, nor Richards - has been so pre-eminent in his time as Doctor William Gilbert Grace.

"He was more than a great cricketer, he was an innovator, the righ man in the right place at the right time. From his example other basmen learned how to play fast bowling, how to play forward correctly. Because he revolutionalised the art of batting, he automatically did the same for bowling: to attempt to curb his mastery, bowlers had to devise new methods of attack, to vary flight and speed, and captains had to conceive new fielding positions."

Jack Hobbs, the leading centurion (197) in the history of first-class, has been paid a rich tribute by Murphy: "Jack Hobbs brought batting to a level of perfection that has never been matched. Grace was a more creative batsman in that he moulded batting technique to the emerging game of first-class cricket, but it was Hobbs who refined the art. He was as sound as Hutton, as daring as Bradman and his temperament was the equal of Sutcliffe"

Murphy believes no batsman has hit the ball harder or further for a longer period of time than Frank Woolley. In the opinion of many good judges, he was the greatest left-hander the game has ever seen, even if Philip Mead was statistically more impressive, Maurice Leyland had a better Test record and Garry Sobers proved his greatness in a later period. Woolley batted with a grace, power and individuality that charmed the critics and brought grudging admiration from his opponents.

Herbert Sutcliffe's career is a marvellous testimony to the eminence, according to Murphy, that can be achieved by intelligence, application, soundness and, above all, a good temperament.

Peter Murphy considers Walter Hammond a rare first edition in the library of cricketers. The genuine article. His deeds illuminate many pages in Wisden, yet Hammond could not be appreciated from the scorebook alone. In the opinion of his contemporaries, he was on a different plane - majestic, assured, poised, a devastating amalgam of the physical and mental attributes that make up a great batsman.

The last batsman to register one hundred first-class centuries is Mark Ramprakash, aggregating 34,839 at an average of 54.60, including 113 centuries, in 442 matches. His career average, according to the writer, has only been topped by three of the 25 batsmen who have scored a hundred centuries - Don Bradman, Len Hutton and Wally Hammond. Of that select band, Ramprakash can be considered one of the supreme stylists, alongside Jack Hobbs, Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney, Andy Sandham and Len Hutton, batsmen who were unruffled, poised and rarely appeared out of position. And none of those ever won a national dancing competition, in front of millions of television viewers."

This is a book for those who have a passion for the game. The book is thoughtful, well organised and presented with all the professional attention to the fascinating minutiae that we have come to expect from Peter Murphy.

The Centurions - from Grace to Ramprakash is thoughtful, balanced and informative. The cricket writing of Peter Murphy is renowned for its accuracy, awareness and detail. All these attributes are much in evidence while reading the book.