Crawley glad to repay England faith with stunning Ashes century

Crawley glad to repay England faith with stunning Ashes century
England's Zak Crawley, right, celebrates with batting partner Joe Root after scoring a century during the second day of the fourth Ashes cricket Test match between England and Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on Thursday. (AP)
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Updated 21 July 2023
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Crawley glad to repay England faith with stunning Ashes century

Crawley glad to repay England faith with stunning Ashes century
  • The opener’s electrifying 189 took England to 384-4 at stumps on Thursday’s second day, 67 runs ahead of Australia’s first innings 317
  • Crawley is just one of three ever-presents in the ‘Bazball’ era alongside the skipper and star batsman Joe Root

MANCHESTER: Zak Crawley admitted he would have been dropped by any other England setup after on Thursday rewarding the backing of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum with a superb hundred in the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

The opener’s electrifying 189 took England to 384-4 at stumps on Thursday’s second day, 67 runs ahead of Australia’s first innings 317, in a match England must win if they are to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes at 2-1 down with two to play.

Crawley’s prolonged run of low scores had led many to question his place in England’s XI ahead of their five-match encounter with Ashes-holders Australia, the reigning world Test champions.

But Stokes and McCullum’s faith in the dashing shotmaker never faltered. Crawley is just one of three ever-presents in the ‘Bazball’ era alongside the skipper and star batsman Joe Root.

Crawley vindicated that support Thursday with a superb maiden Ashes century, scoring at better than a run-a-ball while facing 182 deliveries, including 21 fours and three sixes.

“It’s fair to say that under any other coach or captain I probably wouldn’t be playing this series,” Crawley told reporters after stumps. “So, to be backed by them gives me a lot of confidence.”

The 25-year-old Kent right-hander is now the leading run-scorer, for either team, in this series, with 385 runs at an impressive average of 55.

“They’ve always said not to worry about being consistent, just to go out and try to win games for England. I was just trying to play my natural game,” he said

Crawley, who shared a stand of 206 in just 186 balls with Root (84) had several lucky breaks when playing and missing.

But the fourth century of his 38-Test career was also studded with classic drives.

“I’m a big believer in luck, to be honest,” he said.

“If I get a bit of luck I just go ‘that’s my bit of luck for the day’. I don’t feel like I’ve got away with one.

Crawley did, however, confess to self-doubt after four scores between 33 and 61 in the first three Tests of this series.

“I was thinking too much about the score rather than being immersed in the moment,” he said.

“Baz (McCullum) talks about being present. I was a lot more present here and I think that helped me get a big score rather than worrying about getting a big score before getting there.”

Australia captain Pat Cummins appeared rattled on Thursday, not least during an extraordinary session between lunch and tea where England plundered 178 runs in 25 overs.

The fast bowler went wicketless in an expensive return of 0-93 in 16 overs, while also dropping catches and moving fielders to where the ball had just gone.

A bad day for Australia, bidding for a first Ashes series win in England since 2001, was made worse when fast bowler Mitchell Starc went off late on after landing heavily on his left shoulder while making a diving stop.

He is, however, expected to resume Friday.

Meanwhile, Australia assistant coach Daniel Vettori said of England’s run-spree: “This was that perfect storm of them coming hard at us and us not being able to come back and get some with wicket-taking options.”


Suryakumar takes over as India’s new T20 skipper

Suryakumar takes over as India’s new T20 skipper
Updated 18 July 2024
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Suryakumar takes over as India’s new T20 skipper

Suryakumar takes over as India’s new T20 skipper
  • Decision comes after former skipper Rohit Sharma quit shortest format last month
  • Suryakumar last year led India to a 4-1 series win over Australia, 1-1 draw against South Africa

NEW DELHI: Suryakumar Yadav has been named India’s T20 captain, the country’s cricket board announced Thursday, after Rohit Sharma quit the shortest format following last month’s World Cup triumph.
The 33-year-old Suryakumar will lead a 15-member T20 squad to tour Sri Lanka for three internationals starting on July 27 in Pallekele. 
Shubman Gill recently led a second-string Indian side to a 4-1 T20 series victory in Zimbabwe and has been named vice-captain in T20 and ODI matches.
Rohit will continue to lead the ODI team, which will follow the T20 side by taking on Sri Lanka in three matches on August 2, 4 and 7 at Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium.
Virat Kohli will also return for the 50-over matches, while pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah remains absent from the tour after a grueling season.
Rohit and Kohli had decided to take a break but returned for the ODI matches as India begin preparations for next year’s Champions Trophy to be hosted by Pakistan.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya, who was Rohit’s deputy in the T20 World Cup, had started as a frontrunner for the job but lost out due to his frequent injury breakdowns.
Pandya, 30, suffered an ankle injury during the ODI World Cup at home last year and was out of action until the start of this season’s Indian Premier League where he returned to captain Mumbai Indians.
Pandya remains part of the T20 squad but is out of the ODI series, which will see the return of Shreyas Iyer, who earlier lost out on his contract with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Suryakumar, an attacking middle-order batsman who has been India’s go-to player in the T20 format, remained new coach Gautam Gambhir’s top choice, according to media reports.
Rohit, Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja announced their retirements from the T20 format after India’s thrilling win over South Africa in the final last month in Barbados.
The match was also Rahul Dravid’s last as head coach and Gambhir was handed the job last week to build on the team’s World Cup win.
Suryakumar, who previously captained Mumbai in domestic cricket, last year led India to a 4-1 T20 series win over Australia and followed it up with a 1-1 result in South Africa.
T20I squad: Suryakumar Yadav (capt), Shubman Gill (vice-capt), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rinku Singh, Riyan Parag, Rishabh Pant (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Hardik Pandya, Shivam Dube, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj
ODI squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill (vice-capt), Virat Kohli, KL Rahul (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Arshdeep Singh, Riyan Parag, Axar Patel, Khaleel Ahmed, Harshit Rana


Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum
Updated 18 July 2024
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Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum
  • World Cricket Connects brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game

A focus of this column over the last three years has been the rapidly changing landscape of professional cricket. Some things which may have seemed like straws in the wind in mid-June 2021 are now in full flow, unlikely to be stopped even by hurricane-strength storms.

Cricket’s governing body is the International Cricket Council, tasked with managing the game. In a previous era, this had been the responsibility of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The latter still has influence in the game. Early this year, its current president, Mark Nicholas, an urbane former professional cricketer, initiated the idea of a forum to discuss cricket’s future. This was held on July 5 at Lord’s prior to England’s Test match against the West Indies.

The gathering was called World Cricket Connects. It brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game, including chairs and CEOs from five ICC full members, plus associate nations, Scotland and Oman. Former and current players, both men and women, were present, along with several executives of T20 franchises.

There was one notable omission. Jay Shah, secretary of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, was not there. He had sent his apologies. The need to be pictured with the T20 World Cup Trophy in India prevailed. Why not, especially after an election victory, since his father is Prime Minister Modi’s interior minister. The BCCI’s priorities are clear. They were clear in September 2021 when it pulled its team from a deciding Test match against England, citing mental health issues, only for the players to return immediately to perform in the Indian Premier League.

Without Shah, described by Nicholas as the most powerful person in cricket, the event was an emperor without clothes. Reports of its content took time to emerge. The ICC chair was reported to have said that the ICC is not fit for purpose and that as a “members’ organization,” it falls short of being a global governing body. Whilst not a revelation to many, the fact that it was said in a semi-public forum is a surprise, perhaps reflecting frustration at India’s power. This is not going to decline.

Ravi Shastri, Inda’s representative and a recent former coach, put forward a view that the 12 teams playing Test cricket should have a promotion and relegation system, with two tiers of six, including promotion and relegation. It may well come to that position, hastened by the costs of hosting Test cricket.

In this context, enter the ICC’s long-term ambition for cricket to become the world’s favorite sport. This translates into leading, growing and promoting cricket. The ICC is not really a governing body. It is an organizer and facilitator of global events, a builder of long-term successful commercial partnerships and a catalyst for growth. Almost as an afterthought, it says that “it will continue to make considerable efforts to protect the integrity of the sport.”

On the latter, there remain doubts, Betting is rife in the game. I have been moved by ICC officials from boundary side positions because I may be passing on information obtained from players to gambling companies. This not something that I would do and I am hardly the problem. It is unlikely that betting’s influence on cricket got a mention at Lord’s, which it should have done.

As we all know, T20 is the growth engine of modern-day cricket, like it or not. This fits the ICC’s vision, it is completely in tune with that of the BCCI and it fits with the growth of cricket in countries where growth would not have been possible otherwise. In this context, I was amazed to be appraised of a tournament hosted by Poland, involving teams from Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro. My amazement centered on the Montenegro Bokaneers team.

It had three players with the surname of Plastics, its base registered as Brighton (England) and had one player with whom I have shared a pitch on more than one occasion. T20 cricket has democratized the game, but at what cost? At the World Cricket Connects event it was reported that there was much talk of money, about levering the consumer and responding to commercial forces. Apparently, those forces are killing Test cricket for all but the major countries. It costs upward of £1 million ($1.3 million) for Ireland and Scotland, for example, to host a Test match, without commensurate return from gate receipts, broadcasting rights and sponsorship. In Pakistan, costs of providing security for a Test match series are estimated to be up to $5 million.

Meanwhile, viewership levels for One Day International cricket have fallen by a quarter since 2019. In that context, discussions about reducing the number of “meaningless” matches surfaced, whatever that means. Some people may regard the recent England vs. West Indies Test match at Lord’s, completed in just over two days, as meaningless. Those who played a Test at Lord’s for the first time, one of whom took 12 wickets, are likely to disagree. In Scotland, the men’s team is hosting Oman and Namibia as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two, part of the qualifying process for the 2027 ODI World Cup. In general, Scotland is desperate to play more cricket, especially against top-quality opposition, in matches that would have real meaning, as it seeks to improve its position in world cricket. Even Latvia vs. Montenegro Bokaneers has meaning for those who achieved an ambition of playing in an “international” match.

The sad truth is that professional cricket has been captured by commercial forces and, in particular, by those in India. Those forces are advertisers, producers of goods and services, broadcasters, betting companies and sponsors. Their most comfortable outlet is T20 cricket, given its short format and adaptability to broadcasting schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial financial losses for cricket worldwide that have accelerated the rush to the T20 format, which looks set to dominate the future in its thrall to money. It now seems clear that both Test and ODI cricket will need to shrink to accommodate this new reality of commercialism and measurement of success by income generation.


Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket

Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket
Updated 11 July 2024
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Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket

Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket
  • Two recent biographies, ‘Son of Grace’ by Vaneisa Baksh and ‘Worrell’ by Simon Lister, have sought to establish the essence of the man on and off the cricket field

On July 10, England’s men’s Test team opened play against the West Indies at Lords in the first of a three-match series.

There is a perception that England is the stronger side, largely because so many senior West Indian players are not in the squad. A number have chosen to play lucrative franchise cricket in North America in July and August.

In terms of Test cricket, there is a callowness about the West Indian squad. Only four have played more than 20 Tests, whilst the squad’s aggregate number of Tests is 237, only 60 more than that notched up by England’s James Anderson, for whom the Lords Test is scheduled to be his last.

The aggregate number of Tests played by England’s squad is 606, so it is well ahead on experience. In addition to Anderson, Joe Root has played 140 Tests and Ben Stokes 102, whilst four others exceed 20.

This imbalance is a far cry from the mid to late 1970s to the early 1990s when the West Indies dominated world cricket. The West Indian team won the inaugural ODI World Cup in 1975 and retained the title in 1979, before relinquishing it to India in 1983.

Since then, the West Indies have failed to reach an ODI final. During the 1980s the West Indies were imperious in Test cricket, setting a then record of 11 consecutive victories in 1984 and twice drubbing England 5-0. The success was based on a fearsome four-man fast bowling attack and four of the best batters in the world.

Seeds for this era of dominance had been laid during the 1960s, something that the captain of the 1980s dominant team, Clive Lloyd, has always been quick to point out and acknowledge. Two men, the previous captains, stand out, Sir Garfield (Gary) Sobers and Sir Frank Worrell.

Sobers, for me, is the finest all-round cricketer of all time, certainly the finest I ever had the privilege of watching. Worrell, by all accounts, was a fine player, batting in a languid, yet classical style. However, it was his role in the transformation of West Indian cricket that is his legacy.

In his autobiography, “Cricket Punch,” published in 1959, before he became captain of the West Indies, Worrell revealed little of himself. A biography in 1963 by a Guyanese broadcaster, Ernest Eytle, with commentary by Worrell, was a cricket book.

A slim biography appeared in 1969 by Undine Guiseppe, followed by one by English writer Ivo Tennant in 1987 that revealed much more about Worrell, the person. After a pictorial biography was published in 1992 by Torrey Pilgrim, interest in Worrell seemed to fade.

West Indian cricket also hit difficult times. Although high-class international cricketers emerged to replace those who retired, there was not enough strength in depth nor funding to counter the alternative attractions of basketball, athletics and football for young athletes.

Therefore, it is a surprise — a pleasant one — to discover that two new biographies of Worrell have been published recently. The first of these is “Son of Grace” by Vaneisa Baksh in 2023, a book in preparation for at least a decade.

The second is “Worrell” by Simon Lister, launched on June 6, 2024. Both have sought to establish the essence of the man within and beyond the cricket field. Both had to engage in prolonged research because many of the sources of information about their subject had been destroyed or lost.

Worrell died of leukemia in 1967, aged only 42. His wife, Velda, died in 1991, aged 69, whilst their daughter Lana, died shortly afterwards, aged 42. Two close, key sources of insights were not available.

Fortunately, Everton Weekes, one of the famous three “Ws” — Worrell, Weekes and (Clyde) Walcott — lived until 2020, aged 95, willingly providing insights into Worrell’s life. Other former playing colleagues also did, along with children of those with whom Worrell grew up and played alongside.

Etched in many, if not most of the minds of cricket aficionados of a certain age, is the iconic photograph which captures the moment when the first Test of the 1960-1961 series between Australia and the West Indies ends in a tie off the very last ball of the match.

Worrell, as captain, is credited with keeping his players relaxed but alert by virtue of his serene leadership. In 1963, he led the team to a 3-1 series victory over England, before retiring from cricket.

After that, he became warden of Irvine Hall at the Jamaican campus of the University of the West Indies and was appointed to the Jamaican senate in 1962. This exemplifies his sense of public duty, although he did say that he was not suited to politics.

It should be noted that these positions were in Jamaica, not his native island of Barbados, which he had left in 1947. It seems that he preferred the bigger island, which offered more job opportunities and represented an escape from the cloying color bar in Barbados that, according to the British colonial secretary in 1942, “divides the races more effectively than a mountain chain.”

Worrell was a federalist and nowhere was this more evident than in his captaincy. The West Indies is not one cricketing nation, but a collection of players from 13 independent island countries of different histories, cultures, religions and social mores.

Prior to Worrell becoming captain in 1960, the previous six captains had all been white, their positions reflecting ongoing systemic racial bias. But by 1960, a wind of change was blowing. Worrell’s appointment shut the door forever on the process by which a West Indian captain would be chosen based on race and color.

Worrell showed that it was possible to be black and successful. He knew that his players were all individually good and sought, successfully, to weld them into a cohesive force, with clarity of purpose. No longer were they to be treated as subordinates.

His passion for social equality extended beyond cricket. We will never know what he may have achieved in broader society had he lived longer. What is apparent is that the dominating Test teams for which he sowed the seeds no longer exist.

In their place are T20 players who have earned riches far beyond those which Worrell could ever have envisaged when advocating for social justice.


James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies

James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies
Updated 10 July 2024
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James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies

James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies
  • He is due to bowl the first over at the Pavilion End under what looked like being gray skies and a slight breeze at the home of cricket
  • England gave test debuts to pacer Gus Atkinson and wicketkeeper Jamie Smith

LONDON: James Anderson will get to bowl on the first day of his 188th and final test after England won the toss and chose to field first against the West Indies in the series opener at Lord’s on Wednesday.
Anderson, the most prolific fast bowler in test history with 700 wickets, was due to bowl the first over at the Pavilion End under what looked like being a morning of gray skies and a slight breeze at the home of cricket.
Both teams were announced ahead of the match.
England gave test debuts to pacer Gus Atkinson and wicketkeeper Jamie Smith.
For the West Indies, allrounder and former captain Jason Holder was recalled along with fellow fast bowler Jayden Seales. Opening batter Mikyle Louis will become the first man from St. Kitts and Nevis to play a test.
There will be plenty of focus on another fast bowler in Shamar Joseph, who starred against Australia in his first ever test series earlier this year.
___
Lineups:
England: ⁠Zak Crawley,⁠ ⁠Ben Duckett, ⁠Ollie Pope, ⁠Joe Root, ⁠Harry Brook,⁠ ⁠Ben Stokes (captain), ⁠Jamie Smith, ⁠Chris Woakes, ⁠Gus Atkinson, ⁠Shoaib Bashir, ⁠James Anderson.
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Mikyle Louis, Kirk McKenzie, Alick Athanaze, Kavem Hodge, Jason Holder, Joshua da Silva, Gudakesh Motie, Alzarri Joseph, Shamar Joseph, Jayden Seales.


Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage

Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage
Updated 04 July 2024
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Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage

Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage
  • The Italian team are rising up the rankings, with players drawn from several leading cricket-playing nations

“They play cricket there, really?” This is a common refrain when certain countries are mentioned in the same breath as cricket.

Actually, the list of such countries is long. The International Cricket Council has 12 full members who qualify to play official Test matches, whereas there are 96 associate members.

This is roughly half the number of countries which are members of the UN and leaves plenty of scope for the quizzical response: “They play cricket there, do they?” Saudi Arabia is one such country, Thailand is another, along with Greece.

In the last week, I have been met with incredulity when I have dropped into conversations that Italy’s men’s cricket team have been doing well recently. This at a time when its football team was knocked out of Euro 2024 at an early stage.

Between June 9 and 16, the Italian men’s cricket team participated in the 2026 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Sub Regional Europe Group A Qualifier tournament, involving 10 teams. They were undefeated and handsomely beat Romania by 160 runs in the final. The team will progress to the final stage of European qualification to be held in 2025. Currently, they are ranked 29th in the ICC T20I rankings. Saudi Arabia is 32nd.

Italian cricket looks to be ascendant. It has not always been that way. This has been chronicled in two books authored by Simone Gambino, a past chairman of the Italian Cricket Federation and now its honorary president. He has penned a fascinating story which he has graciously summarized for me in English, and that has informed much of this article.

It is thought that British merchants and sailors introduced cricket to Italian ports in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There is even mention of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson organizing a match in Naples in 1793.

Cricket became popular amongst the elite in Italy and flourished throughout the 19th century. In September 1893 the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club was formed by a group of British emigrants, football being a secondary concern.

In 1899, another group of emigrants led by Herbert Kilpin of Nottingham founded the Milan Foot-ball and Cricket Club, AC Milan, to remind them of home.

This apparent focus on cricket was soon eclipsed by the rise of football, and later by the rise of fascism. Its refusal of all that was English, excluding football, meant that cricket disappeared, not to be reborn until after 1945.

This was driven by cricket-loving staff of embassies and international organizations. When these suffered staff cutbacks in the late 1970s, Gambino became involved in running Italian cricket, having developed a passion for the game through his London-based American grandfather.

On Nov. 26, 1980, he founded the Associazione Italiana Cricket. In 1984 the ICC created the affiliate status, Italy becoming the first beneficiary. Between then and 1987 four summer tours to London were undertaken by the Italian national team, mostly composing indigenous players like Gambino. Three more summer tours took place between 1990 and 1992 featuring an all-indigenous Italian youth team.

A tour of Italy in 1993 by the Marylebone Cricket Club enhanced the profile of Italian cricket. This was followed by an application for Italy to be elevated to ICC associate membership, achieved in July 1995. According to Gambino, “it was the beginning of the end of clandestinity.” He uses this designation because cricket had not been officially recognized.

The Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano had ignored the AIC since 1980 but was preparing a bid for the Olympics to be held in Rome in 2004. Since ICC associate status brings financial support, suddenly the value of officially recognizing cricket to gain English-speaking votes at the International Olympic Committee conference became apparent.

Gambino was summoned by CONI and official recognition ensued on Feb. 28, 1997. The AIC was transformed into the current Federazione Cricket Italiana.

Accession to associate status unlocked requests by Italian citizens living abroad, mainly from Australia and South Africa, wishing to represent Italy at cricket. Under ICC rules of the time, they were not eligible. Only birth in the country and residency counted, not citizenship.

Tension grew between the FCI and the ICC on the issue, culminating in the 2001 ICC qualifying event for the 2003 Cricket World Cup. The ICC ruled that four Italian citizens were ineligible due to their non-residency in Italy.

Gambino withdrew the team from the tournament, officially readdressing the matter to an independent sports tribunal in Lausanne. Initially, the ICC accepted but then tried to divert the arbitration to London. Gambino refused to accept.

He was aware that the ICC had a much bigger problem. It wanted to join the Olympic committee. This would require adaptation of its eligibility rules to include citizenship. A compromise prevailed by which Italy was allowed to withdraw without sanction and the ICC undertook to fully revise its eligibility rules, which it did.

Having been the catalyst for change, Italy needed to take advantage. At that time, children of parents from the Indian subcontinent who had emigrated to Italy were barred from playing cricket for the country because they did not possess citizenship.

On Dec. 7, 2002, the FCI passed a rule that all minors who wished to play cricket should be recognized as if they were Italian citizens. CONI originally opposed the decision but withdrew after Gambino pointed out that playing cricket “is a civil liberty just as going to the theater and, furthermore, the parents of these youths are all taxpayers.” It has proved to be a controversial topic.  

In the last 20 years, Italy’s men’s and women’s teams have climbed the ICC rankings and the game has spread all over the country, exposing a lack of proper playing facilities. Its current men’s national team is a mix of those with subcontinental backgrounds and those with citizenship acquired by descent.

The addition of several high-quality players in the second category has transformed results. This includes Wayne Madsen, born in South Africa, who has played almost 15 years in the English county championship, scoring over 15,000 runs. And Joe Burns who has played 23 times for Australia and is an opening batsman.

There is a fierce battle between ICC associate members to qualify for world cups. Italy is making a bold statement with its current strategy. Whether it can join the ranks of countries known for their cricketing prowess remains to be seen.

What it does possess is a rich, largely unknown and fascinating history on which to draw.