Interview with Cricket Author Jonathan Northall

  1. What is your earliest memory of cricket?

My earliest memories of cricket are around the Ashes series of 1981.  I was eight years old and I remember bits of Terry Alderman causing all kinds of trouble for English batsmen.  I have racked my brains to recollect anything from Botham’s exploits, but I fear that they would be false memories.

Book cover of Ruling the World by Jonthan Northall
Ruling the World by Jonathan Northall

Having lived in the UK for most of my life, cricket was experienced through BBC TV coverage and TMS on the radio.  People like Peter West, Brian Johnston, CMJ, Blowers, John Arlott, Tony Lewis, ‘the Alderman’ Don Mosey were the ones who helped me to form my early opinions about cricket.  The TV graphics were primitive compared to modern day, but they enlightened a game that I was learning to love.

  1. Did you ever play the game?

I played socially all through my childhood. I loved to just go out and play all days with friends; pop back home at lunch time for some food then rush back and play for the rest of the day until the light gave way.  Sometimes, we could play past sun down if we could play near a car park and use their lights or car headlights.  They were great days.

I did represent my senior school, but the team was generally awful. One lad had a trial with Worcestershire CCC, but he was not selected.  He bowled far quicker than anyone else did but we were not good enough to hold onto any chances when he induced an edge.  I top scored in one match but the fact that it was just 19 runs indicated how bad we were.  I remember one match where we travelled to Ludlow School to play.  We knew we were in trouble when we noticed that they had cricket nets.  They were also in whites whilst we were in white polo shirts and tracksuit bottoms.  Suffice to say, we were slaughtered.

The following year, we went back to play them.  We were out for revenge and Andy, the person who got the trial, opened the batting with our wicketkeeper, Spencer.  Before going out to bat, Andy turned to Spencer and said, ‘Spenner, leave anything outside off stump. Don’t play at it’.  Andy took strike and managed to get a ball away for a single.  Spencer was now on strike and waited patiently for his first ball.  He duly followed Andy’s instruction and left the ball like a pro.  Unfortunately, he misjudged the line of the ball and the off stump cartwheeled out of the ground as if Allan Donald had bowled it himself. We were in hysterics as Spencer trudged back forlornly for a duck. As I said, we were bad.

  1. Where did the idea to write a book on the 1992 Cricket World Cup come from?

 Since watching the tournament back in 1992, I have loved it. It was so colourful in more than just the clothing.  Sky Sports were covering the tournament in the UK and showed many of the games.  I had just dropped out of university so had plenty of time on my hands. I would get lots of sleep during the day and be ready for the 9pm for coverage to start. It would be later for games in Australia, but I did not care because I was so emotionally invested in the World Cup.

Fast forward to 2015 where I had been in Australia for a few months.  My job was taking me all over Australia and I started to notice that some of the places I went to were venues for the 1992 Cricket World Cup. With plenty of flights to endure and the endless boredom of air travel, my mind turned to writing and ways to utilise this fortunate travel schedule.  The book was easy to plan and I made sure that I used my spare time away from home to do research. I dragged my colleagues to various cricket venues to take photographs. I am not sure they appreciated it but I loved it.

  1. Why do you think this particular World Cup is remembered so fondly and in some cases as the best ever?

 People have many reasons why many, as the ‘best’ Cricket World Cup, consider 1992.  To be fair, the bar is low as some of the Cricket World Cups have been forgettable.  There are many individual moments but 1992 is littered with them.  The kits provide almost enough interest for many. I found them so iconic that I chose them for the cover of the book.  I see many people wearing replica kits at games and bringing them back in 2015 for fans to buy was a smart move.  I wish I had bought one of each!

There are so many legends in 1992 (Imran, Botham, Kapil, Crowe, Wasim, Javed, Boon, Jones, Gooch, Richie Richardson). Both Lara and Tendulkar showed that they were destined for greatness.  The comeback of South Africa is a whole story in itself.  Many of us were seeing players like Jonty Rhodes, Hansie Cronje, Meyrick Pringle for the first time.

  1. If you could choose one story from your book that you enjoyed the most, what would it be?

 There are so many to choose from but the one I would pick is the walkout of Gooch and Botham from the pre-final banquet.  I enjoyed researching this one immensely and to speak to Gerry Connolly about it, who was the ‘protagonist’ in this international incident, was gratifying.  I wanted to tell the story from his angle as well as the more traditional reporting, so that I could present a more objective view.

  1. What is your opinion on The Hundred?

It is ECB messing about with T20 for the sake of marketing and income generation.

Picture of Jonathan Northall
Jonathan Northall, Author
  1. How will the Australian public react in general when Steve Smith and David Warner return to the test squad?

 Relief!  If the Australian batting line-up was working well, it may have been difficult for Warner however; he is a requirement now.  The bigger question is how the players will react to Smith and Warner returning.  Warner’s side of the story is still to come out and I think it is going to re-open wounds when he finally tells.  The possibility of wearing the idolised Baggy Green is the only factor stopping Warner.  If he puts this in a book, I will be one of the first to pre-order a copy, and if he is looking for someone to ghostwrite it…

  8. If you could change one law in cricket, what would it be?

 Law 37 – Obstructing the field.  It was always an innocuous law as far as I was concerned until last year’s BBL.  Alex Ross of Brisbane Heat was given out obstructing the field and I felt that it was a harsh decision.  The law states that if a batsman ‘wilfully attempts to obstruct or distract the fielding side by word or action’ then they will be given out.  Unless the deliberate obstruction is blatant, which these decisions usually are not, then an umpire is making a decision on someone’s actions.  Bowlers can hold their ground and make a batter deviate on their running line whilst a batsman, doing that of their own volition, are exposed to Law 37.  I would like to see a rewrite to adjust the balance. There is an argument to remove the law completely when you consider that there has been just one instance in Test cricket where a batsman was given out for obstructing the field.

 9. Do you think that lack of attendance at Test Cricket is a problem?

I think it is a problem for the new ICC members.  Cash rich Full Members, such as Australia, can take a hit to a certain degree, whilst nations such as Ireland need punters through the door to make Test cricket commercially viable.  One way for these countries would be to get matches against the larger nations.  Perhaps the proliferation of T20 cricket is diluting the fan base. With much cricket available for fans to go to, families need to prioritise based on financial considerations.  The longer form of the game is probably going to suffer in this scenario.

  1. Do you think the Cricket World Cup will ever go back to a 16-team tournament?

I hope so.  Opening up the Cricket World Cup to more nations should be a natural progression.  However, the ICC don not see it that way.  ACB, BCCI and ECB need to do more to make this happen.  ICC are using T20 as the enabler to grow the game.  That is a positive but not having Ireland or Scotland or Nepal, for example, in the tournament is not.  I am not advocating a 32-team competition but there are at least 16 teams that are both worthy and play at a high enough standard to warrant a place.

  1. Is there a new cricket book in the pipeline?

I have about 40,000 words written for an Ashes related book.  Not sure when, or if, that will see the light of day.  I have another project on which I have started to do some preliminary research.  I have not spoken to my publisher about this project.

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