TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IN this age of instant everything, when news is old as soon as it breaks and opinions are aired only if they are expressed in 140 characters, do people still read cricket books? Ali Bacher and David Williams think so. In fact, they know so.
“Our last book, two years ago, sold about 6500 copies,” Bacher, a former SA captain and leading administrator, said at the Cape Town launch of the pair’s latest collaboration, “SA’s Greatest Batsmen: Past and Present”, which follows their work on allrounders.
“Penguin SA said that’s excellent. When I published my biography with Rodney Hartman in 2004 I was told that if you sell 5 000 copies in SA that’s good and 10 000 is outstanding. I think we sold 50 000.”
For Williams, a seasoned business and sport journalist, the unrelenting immediacy of the electronic era, in which numbers nerds feed themselves into a frenzy on a constant stream of stats, could actually be good for books.
“The more we have this incessant information on the internet – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, all that stuff – the more people need someone to, every now and then, gather everything together,” Williams said.
“Weekly newspapers are going to survive better than daily newspapers for that reason. So, there still is a place (for books). But maybe the overall market will shrink because kids don’t buy books.”
Those who have marvelled at the exploits of the players who grace the pages of the book as impressively as they did and, in the cases of Kevin Pietersen, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, still do the pitch are unlikely to delve too deeply into all that.
For the cricket aficionado who measures memory in more than mere megabytes, a book remains the best way to cherish moments and affirm dearly held opinions. This volume, which starts with Herby Taylor and ends with De Villiers, pausing in the middle for noted cricket historian Krish Reddy’s assessment of Ahmed Deedat and Frank Roro, does that.
Williams was hopeful it would do more: “I don’t think we appreciate how good our team has been, particularly between 2008 and 2012-13 when they won away series in England and Australia twice.
“We had three of the top five rated batsmen in the world – Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers – at the same time. We had Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander in the bowling top five at the same time.
“AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla are the only batsmen who have an average of over 50 in tests and one-day internationals in the world and in history. South Africans don’t appreciate these guys.”
They probably don’t. Some of them won’t appreciate the fact that Gary Kirsten has cracked the covers of this book but not Peter, or that KP is there but not Allan Lamb. If Deedat and Roro are good enough, why not Saait Magiet?
Which is as it should be, because cricket tragics value a good book as much as they do the chance to turn a comparison into a debate. Especially in the age of instant everything.