Sports Book of the Week: Cardus: Celebrant of Beauty, By Robin Daniels

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The Independent Culture

"Sir Neville created modern cricket writing," said John Arlott, not a bad judge, and Cardus was just as renowned in his long career, principally at the 'Manchester Guardian', as a music critic.

No mean feat for a man conceived illegitimately by a 17-year-old prostitute and forced by poverty to leave school and go out to work at 13. Since his death in 1975 at 87, his writing has been more admired than read.

An affectionate and comprehensive (452-page) memoir, written by a close friend and fellow Lancastrian, this is a welcome reminder of his genius. Part biography, part critical appraisal, it is studded with examples of Cardus's unique talent, such as his description of the Australian wicketkeeper Bert Oldfield, who holds the record for most Test stumpings (52): "He stumped batsmen quietly and gracefully, the ball in one hand, a gesture of apology from the other." He felt the best advice he received was to stop poring over statistics and "watch the players and write about their individual personalities" – which some of today's cricket-writers might care to ponder.

Published in hardback by Palatine, £25.

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