That Will Be England Gone: The Last Summer of Cricket By Michael Henderson

    I was annoyed, at first, by this book, expecting it to be about cricket, given that’s what it claimed, depicts on the cover and says in the blurb. Henderson is also a cricket journalist. Mind you, that didn’t seem to stop a long list of inaccuracies insignificant, perhaps, in themselves but an indication of some hasty writing and sloppy editing. Edward Thomas wasn’t killed on the Somme, but at Arass; Beecham didn’t declare that all Elgar’s music was like St Pancras station, only one of the symphonies; Roald Dahl didn’t recall being beaten, while at Repton , by Geoffrey Fisher but recounts, in “Boy”, how a friend was. And so on and so on. Small errors; sloppy writing. Irritating reading. Perhaps Henderson should’ve stuck to cricket! Michael Henderson A lament for a game diminished by greed and modern life. The marketer's and moguls desire that cricket changes to remain relevant in a world of increasing pace and instant gratification..
    I didn't agree with all aspects or criticisms made by the author but many did chime. I found myself drawn more to the sections around culture than cricket. The writing and memories made me wistful at times. That's often the beauty of reading a personal viewpoint from a knowledgeable and erudite writer. Glad that I read it. Michael Henderson I first attempted to read Michael Henderson’s reminiscences of the 2019 cricket season, and much more besides, in the Covid destroyed summer of 2020, having received the book as a birthday present. I couldn’t get through it. At points I was thinking, “Seriously?”, feeling the book snobbish, self-indulgent and, at its worst moments, problematic.

    Two years later, the book was still sitting by my bed and I decided to give it another go. In some respects, the book is like a soufflé speckled with grit. There are some very well written parts: the chapter on Lord’s, a potential stumbling block if ever there was one, was highly engaging. The prose is often expertly composed and Henderson’s recalls of days long gone occasionally winsome and illuminating.

    Yet he writes from a place of privilege, not acknowledged, and how interesting to come to this book in light of the fallout from the recent reports on Yorkshire cricket club. I wondered if this would still be published without some sharp editing now, a mere couple of years further down the road. Henderson appears to have a tin ear about race, in particular, and a line early on about British youngsters no longer playing cricket, ‘except Asians’, especially grates. In the final chapter, he has a bit of a go at Moeen Ali, whilst in other places, lauds the work of private schools in keeping the game going. One wonders who exactly Henderson wants to play for England, but his views appear to represent those that have come into extensive critique in the wider discourse in cricket in England in recent times.

    It may not help that I’m an Irishman, who has grown up loving the game and supporting England, thanks to the BBC’s ubiquitous coverage of the national team in the 1980s. I’m sensitive to ideas of nationality, who belongs and who is excluded. Henderson genuinely doesn’t seem to get this or thinks that the privileged white male hierarchy has done everything it can and should do to support others’ access to the game, without resorting to horrors like the Hundred. Henderson could do worse than listen to the eloquent female players of the game, whose profile has risen exponentially thanks to this apparent abomination. The game is certainly for those beyond the confines of the public school system, a point well made in Andrew Flintoff’s recent documentary. By contrast to the young men struggling to find their way in that series, Henderson’s life appears to revolve around lazily drifting through multiple English cricketing outposts in the summertime and then supplementing this with extensive European retreats to the rarefied airs of various orchestras during the off season. It feels to me that he isn’t even aware that most people couldn’t live like this even if they wanted to. Which raises the inevitable question. Given that Henderson’s life is full of such pleasures, what exactly is the point of his argument? Michael Henderson Plenty to enjoy here, and agree with, particularly the accounts and descriptions of places, cricket grounds and matches that I too attended in 2019 or long before.

    Did find it a bit over indulgent at tines though- Too much meandering off into historical detail I thought.
    Perhaps the author trying to impress with his knowledge and cleverness too much.

    Michael Henderson An exploration of Englishness by way of cricket, with excursions to Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Ken Dodd, Vienna, Harold Pinter, Powell and Pressburger and others. It’s nostalgic, and I don’t agree with everything, but it’s thought-provoking.

    The book focuses on the 2019 English cricket season, which Henderson saw as the end of an era. If COVID-19 hadn’t changed the plans, 2020 would have seen the start of The Hundred, a new short-form cricket competition designed to appeal to a new audience. It starts in a few days’ time and there will be no long cricket at the height of the school summer holidays. I agree with Henderson that that is sad. Michael Henderson

    That Will Be England Gone is a tour d'horizon of cricket in England from April to September.

    'Philip Larkin's line 'that will be England gone' is the premise of this fascinating book which is about music, literature, poetry and architecture as well as cricket. Henderson is that rare bird, a reporter with a fine grasp of time and place, but also a stylist of enviable quality and perception' Michael Parkinson

    Neville Cardus once said there could be no summer in England without cricket.

    The 2019 season was supposed to be the greatest summer of cricket ever seen in England. There was a World Cup, followed by five Test matches against Australia in the latest engagement of sport's oldest rivalry. It was also the last season of county cricket before the introduction in 2020 of a new tournament, The Hundred, designed to attract an audience of younger people who have no interest in the summer game.

    In That Will Be England Gone, Michael Henderson revisits much-loved places to see how the game he grew up with has changed since the day in 1965 that he saw the great fast bowler Fred Trueman in his pomp. He watches schoolboys at Repton, club cricketers at Ramsbottom, and professionals on the festival grounds of Chesterfield, Cheltenham and Scarborough. The rolling English road takes him to Leicester for T20, to Lord's for the most ceremonial Test match, and to Taunton to watch an old cricketer leave the crease for the last time. He is enchanted at Trent Bridge, surprised at the Oval, and troubled at Old Trafford.

    'Cricket,' Henderson says, 'has always been part of my other life.' There are memories of friendships with Ken Dodd, Harold Pinter and Simon Rattle, and the book is coloured throughout by a love of landscape, poetry, paintings and music. As well as reflections on his childhood hero, Farokh Engineer, and other great players, there are digressions on subjects as various as Lancashire comedians, Viennese melancholy and the films of Michael Powell.

    Lyrical and elegiac, That Will Be England Gone is a deeply personal tribute to cricket, summer and England.

    'Admirers of Neville Cardus and A. E. Housman will warm to Michael Henderson's elegy for an ideal England. A rich roast dinner of cricket, music, topography, nostalgia and anecdote, washed down with prose as smooth and satisfying as a pint of Otter Ale' Sebastian Faulks That Will Be England Gone: The Last Summer of Cricket

    Awful. A non stop flood of the writer’s snobbery and bile against anything faintly modern. Michael Henderson A hateful book. Cricketers aren’t what they used to be, the young are the generation of instant gratification and everything is terrible about any attempt to grow the game’s audience. Hate came from every page and as a twenty eight year old who watches a local team every weekend I felt much of it was towards me and my generation and by the end a similar hate had arose for him. Michael Henderson This book is really a beautifully written exercise in nostalgia. Taking his title from Larkin's poem, Henderson extends the idea where he equates the cricket summer of 2019 with the decline of England itself. Now, I think it is an English trait to idealise the past, probably because we don't have much of a future, and, being of a similar age to the author, I am often seduced by his 'conservative romantic'(the lack of capitals is important) glimpses into the past and I share some of his regrets and memories.

    However, I think Henderson flirts with two dangers. Firstly there is the tendency to see the past 150 years as one entity rather than a time of continuous change. Secondly, nostalgia can make all of us remember a rosy idyllic past that didn't really exist. I agree with him about many of the commercial changes that have ravaged cricket and society in this century but change happens and it currently happens very quickly. But not all change is bad! For those of us who are white, middle-class and male, the past has its attractions buty for black people and other racial groups, women and homosexuals etc change is taking society to a better place and this is being reflected in cricket as well with a concerted drive to make the game more inclusive. Children are much kinder and tolerant now too.

    But the joy of this book is Henderson's ability to conjure up memories of times past. He writes with knowledge and enthusiasm, whether writing about cricket, music, theatre or anything else. He can be very honest too and avoids excessive sentimentality. The decision to take a wider context than simply cricket allows us to share in the author's wide range of interests, experiences and concerns. His nostalgia envelopes one like a warm bath. Eventually though, one always has to get out of a bath and face the real world again! Michael Henderson Man complains the world isn't exactly as he would have it. Dripping with snobbery all the way through. Barely even mentions cricket, which is the whole reason I paid out for the damn thing. Michael Henderson Taking it's title from Philip Larkin's 'Going Gone' poem with this book is a lament for a lost England told through cricket. The fear is that this could be some Farage light lament for a loss of empire, some rose tinted nostalgia about the war and some diatribe about Europe. There are times when you feel Henderson delves too close to this for comfort and yet he pulls it back.

    Henderson is no Farage though, he is instead an erudite lover of Europe, of opera, of poetry, of classical music, of literature and of art. He's going to let you know it as well. He meets with the great and the good of all these fields and shamelessly name drops from Karajan and Pinter to Willis and Dodd. He has what is now considered in too many places to be an old fashioned view of the world, what may be considered to be a high-brow even snobbish view and certainly a small c conservative view, a view that values art and education highly.

    He is no lover of the modern world and the book stems from his opinion that the introduction of The Hundred this year (now next thanks to COVID) meant that last year was the final year of cricket as we know it and with it England would be gone. This makes it the last chance to visit the homes of cricket and the places that have shaped his love of the game whilst musing on it past and future.

    It's a fascinating journey taking in biography, musings on the game and on culture and feels like someone looking back on their life with few regrets bit with little optimism for the future.

    It certainly won't be to everyone's taste and some will see it as reactionary, elitist and snobbish. I have to say I enjoyed it and I'm glad he didn't try and dumb down.

    He's also right about The Hundred

    Michael Henderson


    Summary That Will Be England Gone: The Last Summer of Cricket