Statistician of the Year 2023 – Stephen Musk

Announcing the winner of the Statistician of the Year Award at the ACS AGM in March 2024, Ric Finlay gave the following citation:

‘It gives me great pleasure to announce that Stephen Musk has been awarded the Brooke-Lambert Trophy.

Stephen was born in Norfolk in 1961 and educated locally in Norwich and later at Cambridge University, where in 1987 he obtained his PhD in cell biology. Working briefly in London, he then moved back to Norwich, but was forced to retire in 1996 when persistent mental health issues interrupted his professional life. 

‘Shortly after, he joined the ACS and, prompted by a Douglas Miller article on Tony Webb’s Minor Counties project, volunteered himself as the Norfolk statistician. His entry into this space has precipitated a wealth of research leading to publications around his native county, commencing with the ACS publication on the life of Michael Falcon in 2010.

‘Deliberately confining himself at first to studies of Norfolk-based cricket, owing to what he describes as “imposter syndrome”, he eventually plucked up the courage to look further afield for subjects of his scrutiny, commencing with his 2022 book on Francis Terry, a Somerset and Canadian cricketer of the late 19th-century. This was shortly followed by what is arguably to date his finest triumph, his study (alongside Roger Mann) of Bart King, the American bowler.

Outside the Tent: Free Enterprise in Australian Cricket, 1912-1987, by Stephen Musk. Photos show (top, left-to-right) Robert B Benjamin, Edgar Mayne, (bottom, left-to-right) Arthur Mailey, Bruce Francis

‘Last year it was my privilege to work with him on his latest ACS offering, Outside the Tent, a fascinating appraisal of “free enterprise in Australian cricket”. In a most entertaining fashion, he details the struggle for economic independence between Australian cricketers and the overarching administration of cricket in my country, which sought to tightly control the lives of the players.

At last count, he has 18 titles to his name (some shared), though I am open to correction on this – he is such a prolific writer now (with nine of these books published in the last 18 months) that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find he’s added another two or three in the last week or so! 

‘In my editorial role with Outside the Tent, I had many opportunities for contact with Stephen, even though we are half a world away from each other, and I found him totally professional, very scholarly, and pleasantly open to new ideas and contrary views. His writing style almost belies his scholarship, being highly entertaining (read, for example, his withering denigration of Australia’s Cricket Board of Control in Outside the Tent), but never allowing his assessments to contradict the undeniable facts.

‘Stephen is also a resounding success story for the triumph of the human mind over the vicissitudes of mental illness. He is quite honest in his assessment that writing has kept him sane these past few years. If there is ever an upside to poor mental health, then Stephen’s output over the last 13 years provides it, and we in the ACS are truly thankful that he has settled upon us to live out his extended convalescence. I congratulate Stephen and commend him to you all as a highly-deserving recipient of this award.’

Stephen was unable to be present but sent a few words of thanks which the Secretary read out on his behalf:

‘I feel chuffed to bits (and somewhat surprised) to be awarded the Robert Brooke/Dennis Lambert Award. I was lucky enough to meet both Robert and Dennis. Their visionary role in the creation of the ACS and the depth and thoroughness of their research in olden days always leave me both astonished and inspired. We are indeed all standing on the shoulders of giants.

‘There are so many people to thank, starting with Douglas Miller for pointing me in the right direction in the first place. Tony Webb, Julian Lawton Smith, Colin Munford, and Peter Griffiths all made working on the ACS Minor Counties Project a pleasure rather than a chore.

‘Thanks also to the late Mike Davage for his tremendous work in researching the two volumes of “Who’s Who” of Norfolk cricket, as well as all those who have cast a critical but gentle eye over my manuscripts. Particularly David Jeater, who edited my first book – a biography of Michael Falcon – Ric Finlay, and Willie Sugg, who is now my main ‘go to’ editor.

Bart King of Philadelphia: The Father of Modern Swing Bowling by Stephen Musk & Roger Mann

‘Above all, many thanks are due to Martin Tebay and the late Roger Mann. Martin is currently involved in publishing my tenth book with Red Rose Books. His willingness to publish my manuscripts means that he has played more of a role in maintaining my mental good health over a significant period of time than any psychiatrist has ever achieved. Roger did not just provide the photographs for our biography of Bart King; he was every bit an equal co-author. I feel certain that our book will remain my best and Roger played an absolutely vital role in its creation.

‘Finally, thanks to all who have dug deep in their pockets and invested in my works on cricket in Norfolk – an arcane subject if ever there was one.’

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