Here is yet another non-finance Book which I finished recently. This was one I picked up in my local Charity Shop and I originally intended to give it to my Brother because he is a huge Cricket Fan but I then discovered I had already bought him it for Xmas a few years ago !!
So I got stuck with the Book and decided that the best thing was perhaps to start reading it - because worse case I could just put it down and say “hmmmm, that’s way too Crickety for me…” - but the big surprise I found was that although it is obviously full of Cricket stuff, it is not too heavy on it and because I myself was clearly influenced a lot by my older Brother and I watched a lot of Cricket back in the late 1970s and the early 80s which was exactly the period when Ian Botham was first on the scene and then continued probably most of his career (and his notoriety !!).
I am not sure I remember all the Cricket Rules but I guess I know enough to have made this an enjoyable read. The bit that really surprised me was how I know all the names - so England Players like Gower, Gatting, Gooch, Boycott, Randall, Brearley, Dilly, Willis etc. etc. are well known to me and I can also recall the West Indies sides like Marshall, Richards, Lloyd, Garner, Holding, Roberts etc. but also a few of the Australian players like Lilley, Marsh and Border but I don’t remember those as well. I have no doubt that knowing many of these characters from the time greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the Book but if you are less up to speed on the Players of this time and the politics around the game then maybe this Book won’t be so good for you.
While I am on that subject a theme that runs through the Book is how Botham constantly was upsetting the MCC at Lords or whoever it was who ran the Sport and he often seemed to struggle with the England Selectors who were very elitist and if a Player said anything to question their often bizarre decisions then that Player would get fined or worst still, dropped from the England Team. Botham is clearly a bit of a ‘character’ and it was inevitable that he would often fall foul of the Cricket Establishment of the time and it’s clear that several of the Selectors held quite a grudge against him.
I remember Botham very well as a kid because he was exciting as a Player and although I hadn’t really appreciated this at the time, he was a Working Class Hero along the lines of James Hunt (who was actually quite posh I understand), Barry Sheene, George Best etc. It is pretty likely that a lot of Botham’s troubles with the Cricket Authorities were partly down to him coming from the wrong class but he was also a very difficult chap to handle no doubt. There is a telling bit in the Book about how he went about his game - his view was very much that his role was “entertainment” - it was not enough to just go out and play Cricket - he had to entertain the Crowd because that was what brought in Spectators and that’s what paid his wages. That is something else that comes over - I was shocked how little he was paid in the early days - especially playing County Cricket with Somerset he was always broke and had to do jobs like Building work to earn enough income.
Another thing I had not realised was that before Botham and Joel Garner and Viv Richards had come to play for Somerset, the County had never won anything in something like more than 100 years. This was turned around under the influence of such great Players and Somerset won a lot of Championships etc. until a new Board got all racist and kicked out Richards and Garner and Botham left along with them (he was and still is best mates with Viv Richards). This racism thing is a common theme which I suppose is how the 70s was really - things like the ‘Rebel’ Cricket Tours in South Africa which was frozen out of Global Cricket due to Sanctions against Apartheid and all sorts of problems when England toured the West Indies with certain Islands causing a fuss about particular England Players who had been to South Africa and stuff like that. Whatever you say about Botham he is no racist and he got particularly upset when a Newspaper or something accused him of being of that persuasion.
That’s another thing that comes over strongly. Of course back then the Tabloid Newspapers like The Sun and The Mirror had immense Readerships and they did the usual thing of building someone up and then destroying them after they had achieved some fame. Botham was very much in this mould and he was adored and cherished on the way up but at some point they turned against him and he was hounded relentlessly and this caused huge problems for his family. I remember a lot of this happening with Botham being accused of Bar brawls, Drugs, Hookers, Girlfriends, etc. etc. but Botham’s side of it is that it was mostly fiction although the Police did genuinely find a bit of Cannabis in his house which he says was handed to him by a Fan but he never smoked it. He also was accused of lots of affairs which needless to say upset his Wife, Kathy, but these were nonsense although more recently he did go off with another woman and that was nearly divorce time.
I had forgotten about all the Charity stuff he did with his John O’Groats to Lands End walk back in about 1985 and then a few years later he did something in the Alps with Elephants to re-enact the route Hannibal took - however, he was accused of treating the Elephants badly which again looks like it was nonsense but on that huge undertaking it was not very successful and not much if any money was raised. However, he has clearly done a lot of work for Cancer stuff, particularly for kids, and good on him for doing that.
I do feel for his wife though - he sounds like a very headstrong guy and a bit of a Bull in a China Shop (‘Beefy’ was his nickname after all) and she had to put up with so much unreasonable behaviour but she stuck with him from a very young age (I think they decided to marry after just 3 months of knowing one another) and clearly played a crucial part in his success. He was very much ‘one of the lads’ and had a huge appetite for Booze and partying and it is remarkable how he managed to take Wickets and score Runs on some of the Tours where they had been plastered the night before.
Some of the anecdotes about the game back in the 70s are well funny - one that sticks in my mind is how Botham used to hate playing at the Bath Cricket Ground because it had a tiny changing room which was more like a shed with a terrible splintered floor and worse still the locals in Bath used to walk their Dogs on the pitch so whenever Cricket was played there the Players would get their Cricket Whites covered in Dog Poo !!!
I really enjoyed this Book and I am sure any fan of Cricket will get a lot out of it - oh, I must just tell you this bit. By the end of his career, Botham had a lot of back trouble and his speed at bowling had dropped but he was still taking Wickets and hitting Runs with the Bat in County Cricket but he was no longer in favour with the England Selectors. On his last ever appearance in a County match, on his last ever Bowl to an Australian Batsman (David Boon) I think, as he came in to Bowl, he unzipped his flies and hung his todger out and ran in to pitch to ‘Boonie’ - apparently he nearly bowled him out because the Batsman was laughing so much and luckily it was not a televised game !!
Yeah, so it is a really good read if you are of a certain age and you remember Ian Botham and his amazing performances where he would often turn around both England and his County’s games and if you are a Cricket Fan this is a ‘must read’.
If you fancy a copy then nip over to the ‘Non-Finance Books’ page and you should find it there. The Paperback version isn’t a bad price but note the Kindle Version is super cheap at the time of publishing this Blog.
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