This fine collection of photographs caters to very different tastes in what is sometimes called ‘greater cricket’. For those who see the good in what the Victorians left behind there are some iconic views of domestic grounds: Canterbury, Cheltenham, the cathedral view from New Road. Old world charm exported also photographs well at the City Oval, Pietermaritzburg, SA, a ground modelled on Queens Park, Chesterfield complete with the oak tree from the 1880s on its playing area.
The MCG has a cricket history that goes back to the mid-19c and is one of the world’s great sporting venues, but as a modern stadia, capacity 100,000, for spectators the action looks a bit distant, implied as often as it is seen maybe. Other angles might present it in a more sympathetic light, but seen through English eyes one up for the different scale of TMGs in England.
The redeveloped Old Trafford with its futuristic design gets a six-page spread as does Lord’s, and The Oval. All three have been substantially rebuilt in recent decades and the two in London have largely retained their ambience in grounds that have been enhanced. As for the controversial Point facility at OT, Winston Churchill once used the word remarkable when being diplomatic about his portrait by Graham Sutherland, which he disliked ( ‘a remarkable example of modern art’). Some might think The Point a remarkable corporate facility with Churchillian sentiment, but whether to taste or not it is prominent, if not dominant; more so maybe than when the media centre at Lord’s was new and controversial.
The influence of common standards for spectator ‘matchday experiences’ is striking in the images of the modern stadia in Dubai, Durban, the Gabba. The Ageas Bowl fits into this category in its own way, but the pavilion with its tented roof is to be sure easy on the eye. Will it, aesthetically speaking, go the distance, a structure for the 21st century? By comparison with, say, the justifiably still much appreciated Edwardian pavilion at Bourneville? Maybe it will.
Remarkable playing conditions, those way off the norm, appear with organised beach cricket in Fife, cricket-on-ice at St Mortitz and on a one -in-seven slope, Bilsdale Yorkshire. Atmospherically, Maifield, Berlin, adjacent to the 1936 Olympic Stadium, seems an empty if not eerie place for a game of cricket but there also some wonderful images set against mountains and other imposing natural backdrops.
78 grounds are included, a number to defy classification and social media timelines from Facebook groups and similar cover much the same terrain. It’s a coffee-table book, but a reminder to appreciate just how much the game’s settings vary, a good reminder to have in covid times.