Friday, February 23, 2018

Book review: Rain Stops Play by Brian Johnston

I was introduced to this book many, many years ago by my English teacher in Sainik School, Mr Prem C Nair, who himself was a cricketer. He taught us not only prepositions and compound sentences, but he also spoke a lot of interesting anecdotes about the game, and the rich association between cricket and English language. That's how I got to know about authors like Neville Cardus, E W Swanton and John Arlott.

He also introduced us to the great Test Match Special programme on BBC. During my school days, I used to regularly listen to the TMS commentary; and gradually got hooked to the colourful, engaging and often hilarious descriptions about the match and the game in general, by commentators like Brian Johnston, Henry Blofeld, Don Mosey, and Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

Usually, when a match is interrupted by rain, commentators return listeners to the studio, where they play some music till the match resumes. But in the case of TMS, they never went back to the studio; instead they engaged in banter among themselves, and in conversations with listeners who called in.

This book is all about what used to happen in the BBC commentator's box with rain stopped play.

I read this book first in early 1980s, borrowing it from the British Library, Thiruvananthapuram. Recently, a conversation with a friend about TMS, rekindled in me a desire to re-read the book, and I ordered it on Amazon. It was a used book, but in very good condition.

It's an easy read book of 83 pages, full of anecdotes, categorized under various sections like In the Box, Jokes in the Rain, Batting, Bowling, Fielding, Umpires etc.

There are plenty of jokes that the commentators played on each other. Then there are those gaffes on air. One of them: "Rex (Alston) is reputed to have said: Over now to Old John Arlott at Trafford." And when there is one when an aghast listener called in on hearing that the batsman had been dropped when he was two. The commentators also tricked their colleagues into getting onto air, while the latter was least prepared to get on air; and all others having a good laugh.

It's worth a read, if you are interested in cricket and you can appreciate typical British humour.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


  1. Interesting book. I will look for this one. Recently, I read a kind of similar book on baseball.

    The Storytellers: From Mel Allen to Bob Costas : Sixty Years of Baseball Tales from the Broadcast Booth, written by Curt Smith.

    1. It's an old book, published in 1979. And I could find only used copies on Amazon. You must read it.