Roger Alton Roger Alton

Spectator Sport: News of the twirled

There are few things in life more pleasing than giving one’s friends a good kicking, but I’m afraid sometimes only an ovation will do.

There are few things in life more pleasing than giving one’s friends a good kicking, but I’m afraid sometimes only an ovation will do.

There are few things in life more pleasing than giving one’s friends a good kicking, but I’m afraid sometimes only an ovation will do. And this is one of them. My old chum and colleague Amol Rajan has just come up with an enchanting new book about spin bowling, Twirlymen (Yellow Jersey), and an absolute snip it is too at fifteen quid.

It was my dad who first introduced me to the joys of spin. He bowled good off-breaks at minor county level for 40-odd years before my mother put her foot down. He learnt to bowl in the 1920s in the garden of my grandparents’ terraced house in Long Eaton. The grass strip measured exactly 22 yards, the length of a cricket pitch, but that was it: no room for a run-up. So dad constructed a bit of space almost side-on to the bowler’s end. That’s how it stayed all his life. If you were facing dad, and a lot of good people did, you didn’t look back at the umpire, you looked towards wide mid-off where a lean bald figure was about to start his diagonal run-up. I once faced an over from Bishan Bedi in the old Test ground in Delhi, and I can honestly say I didn’t have a clue what any ball was going to do.

What breathes through every page of Amol’s wonderful book is his love for the quirky world of the spinner. As he says, the key thing about twirlymen is their stamina, their intelligence and their eccentricity. They can find humour on the edge of a knife and they tend to celebrate the richness of life.

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