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Spirit of Cricket

Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year Awards, 2021

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781472133984

Price: £20

ON SALE: 27th August 2020

Genre: Lifestyle, Sport & Leisure

If someone were to say ‘it’s not tennis’, or ‘not football’ of shabby behaviour in any walk of life, he or she would not be understood. If they said ‘it’s not cricket’, they probably would be (though less reliably than a century ago). Is there some special spirit of cricket?

The laws of cricket, like the laws of the land, aim at a sort of justice or balancing between different factions. The purpose behind cricket’s laws, and behind changes in them, is often to calibrate the balance in the game between batsmen and bowlers, between attack and defence, between safety and risk. Cricketing lawmakers are interested in the overall appeal of the game to players and spectators alike.

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. Brearley examines the issue of how far what purports to be justice (in law or in spirit) may or may not be the expression of the powerful within the activity or within society. 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.

Intelligent and insightful, Spirit of Cricket points to qualities in cricket that enhance our development as people – including a sense of fair play, the embracing of striving both for our team and for ourselves and the important values of playfulness in life and professional sport.


[Brearley is] a thoughtful, engaging and eclectic thinker . . . There is something intrinsically fair-minded about Mike Brearley, open to exploring ideas wherever they come from, seeking out common ground, but at the same time anxious to avoid giving offence by reaching too-easy conclusions. That is the process that is at play in the pages of Spirit of Cricket. This is no ordinary sporting hero's memoir, though it does include plenty of stories from his glory days
Peter Stanford, The Tablet
Mike Brearley is a thoughtful and meticulous author. He regularly displayed similar traits when captaining England (he did so on 31 occasions, losing only four Tests) and he applies them again in Spirit of Cricket, a book he was born to write. Brearley is an intelligent guide, well-qualified to lead readers through cricket's occasionally byzantine moral maze
Birmingham Post
One of my favourites of 2020 . . . a generous book
Jon Hotten, Wisden Cricket Monthly
Time after time, Brearley takes familiar cricketing dilemmas - balltampering, Mankading, sledging, etc. - and with elegant prose and courteous intelligence sheds fresh light on them, including areas on which he has changed his mind over time. This delightful book would make a great gift for any cricket-lover who also has a brain, or even a soul.
Church Times