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November 2006 Issue
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Caught out: cricket's controversies in new book


Cricket, once widely regarded as a gentleman's sport, has had its share of controversial incidents.

Sledging, chucking, racism, abusive fans, and political intervention have all impacted on the game. Even terrorism has taken its toll on cricket in recent history.

A new book by a University of Adelaide academic takes a detailed look at the wonderful and sometimes not-so-wonderful world of cricket.

The author is Adjunct Associate Professor Michael Roberts from the Discipline of Anthropology. Dr Roberts has a strong interest in the politics and controversies surrounding cricket and has written a number of books on cricket, always with a focus on his native Sri Lanka and on the Australian-Sri Lankan interaction.

His latest book, Essaying Cricket: Sri Lanka And Beyond, is an anthology of cricket articles written predominantly by Dr Roberts. It also reprints many articles written by notable figures in the cricket world, such as former English cricketers and now commentators Peter Roebuck and Mark Nicholas, Indian cricket journalist Harsha Bhogle, Australian cricket writer Mike Coward, West Indian cricket commentator Tony Cozier, and Sambit Bal, editor of the world's most popular cricket website,, which is owned by the cricketers' 'Bible', Wisden.

Issues covered include abuse by players and fans, disputed bowling actions, death threats, bomb blasts, match fixing, the impact of the 2004 tsunami, team selection, and world cricket and its politics.

Spanning 372 pages and including a vast selection of 157 photographs, Essaying Cricket is one of the more serious contributions among the many cricket books being published this summer.

Dr Roberts said he was fortunate to be able to combine his research interests with a love of cricket.

"Some of my past work has focused on the impact of suicide bombers and other terrorism, and how the Tamil Tigers were able to disrupt everyday life in Sri Lanka. Among those acts of terrorism was the Central Bank bombing in Colombo in 1996, which resulted in Australia pulling out of their World Cup match in Sri Lanka," Dr Roberts said.

"Cricket is one of those world sports that naturally lends itself to serious discussion.

"I've written a lot about cricket in the past, but this is my biggest book, with many contributions from very respected writers and commentators, and many photographs that are either very hard to come by now in other sources or never seen before.

"One of my favourites is a photo of Shane Warne giving Arjuna Ranatunga a hug in February 2005. This signified a change in Australian-Sri Lankan cricket relations and was directly brought on by the tragedy of the 2004 tsunami."

Essaying Cricket: Sri Lanka and Beyond is printed by Vijitha Yapa Publications in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and sells for around AUD $65 in hardcover or AUD $45 for softcover, plus postage. To order a copy, visit the publisher's website:

Story by David Ellis

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Adjunct Associate Professor Michael Roberts
Photo by David Ellis

Adjunct Associate Professor Michael Roberts
Photo by David Ellis

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<i>The Bulletin’s</i> coverage of Australia’s decision to pull out of the World Cup match in Sri Lanka in 1996, because of the threat of terrorism

The Bulletin's coverage of Australia's decision to pull out of the World Cup match in Sri Lanka in 1996, because of the threat of terrorism
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