Sample: ''Cricketing agnostics habitually accuse us of
using the game to blot out the more painful and difficult
aspects of life. But what can be more painful and difficult
than a cricket season? The knuckle on my left hand has never
been the same since that dropped catch last August. It's not
that cricket is a substitute for real life. It is real life.
It's realer than real life. Psychosis, Tim's wife calls it.''
The setting: The pitches and pubs of English village
The protagonists: The willing men (Berkmann is one) of
the Captain Scott Invitation XI, a ragtag local cricket team.
Why it is brilliant: Berkmann is a lovely writer, so
that helps. The book is full of funny, interesting and
recognisable characters. That helps, too. And there's just a
wonderful streak of sheer romanticism that underlies the
whole story. Hopeless cricketers? Most of us can identify far
more readily with them than we can with the Sachin Tendulkars
and Brendon McCullums of this world. Berkmann and his cronies
are brilliant - in their own way.
Don't just take my word for it: ''A very funny book
about some very sad men.'' - Ian Hislop.
The aftermath: The success of Rain Men landed Berkmann
a gig writing a column in Wisden Cricket Monthly. He also
wrote Brain Men - subject: the pub quiz - before returning to
cricket with Zimmer Men, detailing his quest to stay involved
in the game into middle age.