Probably the most prestigious literary awards for sports non-fiction is the William Hill Sportsbook of the Year award. One cricket book, "Bodyline Autopsy" by David Frith, appears among the six shortlisted for the 2003 Prize, with the winner to be announced on November 24.
Frith's book is up against no less than four books about soccer ("Broken Dreams" by Tom Bower, "Ajax: The Dutch, The War" by Simon Kuper, "Foul Play" by David Thomas, and "Bob Wilson: My Autobiography"), and one about golf ("In Search of Tiger" by Tom Callahan).
In the fourteen years since the award's inception in 1989, just two cricket books have picked up the top prize - "A Lot of Hard Yakka" by Simon Hughes in 1997, and Derek Birley's masterful "A Social History of English Cricket" in 1999.
Last year's winner was Donald McRae's book on Jesse Owens and Joe Louis, "In Black & White", while 2001's winner was Laura Hillebrand's "Seabiscuit", which has recently been made into a film. The 1992 award winner, "Fever Pitch" by Nick Hornby, was also made into a film dramatisation in 1997.
Books eligible for the 2003 William Hill award must have been published in the UK between 23 October 2002 and 22 October 2003. The winner will receive £12500 pounds sterling, plus a free £1500 bet from the sponsors. (And, no, William Hill are not taking bets on the winner, at least not on their website when I looked.)
Cricket books previously appearing on the shortlist:
1990: "Basingstoke Boy" by John Arlott and "Ranji - A Genius Rich and Strange" by Simon Wilde;
1991: "Spring, Summer, Autumn - Three Cricketers One Season" by Rob Steen;
1994: "Sporting Colours: Sport and Politics in South Africa" by Mihir Bose, "Anyone but England: Cricket and the National Malaise" by Mike Marqusee, and "Letting Rip: The Fast Bowling Threat from Lillee to Waqar" by Simon Wilde;
1996: "Wally Hammond: The Reasons Why" by David Foot and "Bradman: An Australian Hero" by Charles Williams;
1997: "W.G.: A Life of W.G.Grace" by Robert Low;
1998: "We're Right Behind You, Captain!" by David Hopps;
2000: "Mystery Spinner" by Gideon Haigh;
2002: "Opening Up" by Mike Atherton.
(Postscript: The 2003 award was won by "Broken Dreams", a book about financial mismanagement and corruption in British soccer. The one remotely cricket-related connection to the selection panel was the presence of Frances Edmonds, wife of Phil and noted author in her own right.)