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WE'RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU, CAPTAIN! - THE ALTERNATIVE STORY OF AN ASHES YEAR BY DAVID HOPPS (ROBSON BOOKS, pounds 17.95)
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The Independent Online
IT IS appropriate, as we enjoy an Ashes winter, to recall an Ashes summer. But to recall it with a difference.

The journalist David Hopps captains Thorner Mexborough CC, a village on the north-east fringes of Leeds. Thorner play in the Wetherby League and in the hilarious We're Right Behind You, Captain the village side's fortunes would appear to matter to Hopps just a smidgeon more than those of England. In a deft piece of writing the author records his troubled year as Thorner captain and sets it against the ups and downs of the England captain, Michael Atherton.

Hopps records moments of pure village slapstick in his typically wry fashion and slyly interfaces it with Atherton's tribulations as he leads the creme de la creme of England's cricketers.

Throughout the book Hopps includes apposite quotes from the press and must have taken great delight when, during the second Cornhill Test at Lord's, Alan Lee of The Times thundered: "England's shame came from a session in the field, on Saturday, that would have embarrassed a village team."

No doubt Thorner, a sensitive crew at the best of times, would have put up a better show, but Hopps has his own problems on the club's tour to Sri Lanka in the February of that year. They lost every match. The captain's comment after the crushing six-wicket defeat by Old Thomians Swimming Club was telling. England had just completed a poor tour of Zimbabwe, losing the one-day series 3-0 and drawing the two Tests. Hopps writes: "England can take heart - another 11 club cricketers now realise the demands of playing overseas. We are so heavily outplayed on a steamily hot day that only some sterling drinking into the early hours secures the promise of a return fixture."

This book is not merely a vehicle to promote Hopps's unquestioned ability as a witty writer and perceptive observer of human behaviour. He has serious points to make and does so with cogent argument.

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