Field of Shadows


Field of Shadows Dan Waddell

An itch of curiosity into German cricket turned into an irresistible scratch for Dan Waddell, leading him to tell a story of how cricket was a ray of light while a nation fell to a brutal fascism regime and Berlin was destroyed. As well of a tale of an English touring party playing unofficial tests initiated by cricket loving Germans before the second world was declared, the lovely nuggets of information dropped in the book, from a random encounter with a buggy-pushing Mike Atherton to how the long room at Lords was used to check for STDs during WWII, make Field of Shadows a valuable read for cricket lovers and historians.

By means of Google, interviews, old football magazines, rare editions of cricket guides and most notably by painstakingly looking through letters and scrapbooks kept by collectors who cherished memories and documented life (and who would today often be dismissed as hoarders), Dan uncovers enough detail to piece together a little known trip, that in itself was seen as an act of rebellion to a cricket despising Fuhrer.

The book goes further back than that though, to before the First World War, when English cricket was just an amateur game, as opposed to a professional game run amateurishly. Past meeting minutes show even after the war, in 1919, authorities were discussing gimmicks to maintain interest in the game, from introducing shorter boundaries to penalizing batting sides for maidens. They were perhaps only one brainstorm away from marketing The Eton Rifles v The Harrow Hoorays in coloured clothing over 40 overs and with annoying jingles played over the PA between overs.

This history adds context to the story and it is an easy read, unsurprisingly from an author who early on cites Frank Keating as an influence. The introduction notes Dan is a Yorkshireman, so the reader knows not to read it in the unmistakable voice of Dan’s father Sid, as we once read Jossy’s Giants. But it is just as amicable. And with the short chapters, it could just as easily be an engaging story being told by a fellow cricket fan hiding from the blazing sun at the back of the stand over a beer, with occasional anecdotes and asides thrown in, which often appear as footnotes on the pages.

The grim detail of regime which persecuted people, including on grounds of ethnicity and sexuality as the book reminds us, while a city and its people were eventually savaged, aren’t ignored. It also points out that Hitler whitewashed the walls before the 1936 Olympics while detailing some of the entertainments laid on for a mixed-bag of amateur tourists, highlighting the strategic propaganda of the time while serving a timely reminder that Sport has always been used as a political football for those with corrupt intentions.  But ultimately Field of Shadows is a story of how sport inspires and, as Dam writes, of civility over barbarity.

MG

Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley which recounts the beauty of travelling to follow sport. It is available to preview for free and download in full from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

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