Saturday, 4 July 2015

Book Review - Cricket as I see it by Allan Border

Cricket as I see it by Allan Border

Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2014                                        ISBN 9781760111809

For those of us that love cricket, AB needs no introduction. Holder of many records in his time, including that of the highest number of runs scored in test cricket, most test matches played, longest run of consecutive tests, most tests as captain, he was the man that steered Australian cricket through the minefield of the post WSC days, through the doldrums of the 1980s, and set up the dominance that we enjoyed through the 90s and beyond. He is the player that linked the likes of Bob Simpson, the Chappells, Lillee, Marsh and company through to McGrath, Warne, Hayden, Langer and Ponting, whilst on the way playing through the careers of Jones, Hughes, Boon and other legends of the game.

Cricket as I see it is not an autobiography - although Border does write of events throughout his career as a player, administrator and coach of the game - but more a collection of thoughts on the current state of cricket in Australia and around the World. It has the feel of a wide-ranging chat in a bar somewhere after a game (in fact it may well have started as just that, as in the Acknowledgements AB thanks the journalist Martin Blake "for putting all my thoughts down in some readable form").

There are no real bombshells in the book - it is very AB in that it is a fairly conventional take on the game, no nonsense, not too much theory, with a bemusement at the politics and darker arts that permeate the sport from time-to-time: his experience on the Board during the "Monkeygate" crisis turned him off being involved in administration, although he could see why the saga progressed as it did from the Board's perspective.

Border was always a player's man, and that brought him into conflict with the powers that be, both as a player and selector. Sometimes he was right and sometimes wrong. As a player he was ropeable when his vice-captain Geoff Marsh was dropped for Wayne Phillips, who ended up playing only one test for the country. Border asks in the book what was the point of doing that, and the reader is inclined to agree with him. When he agreed to Ian Healy having a farewell test in Brisbane however (to be over-ruled by Chairman of Selectors Trevor Hohns), he wasn't really thinking of the future of the team, which then lay with getting Adam Gilchrist in the side at the start of a series.

His description of his own development as a batsman is interesting; his discussion of trigger movements had me re-living in my mind his little shuffle and bob of the head, and his many great innings for Australia. According to this book, he had no thought of playing for Australia, until his team-mate Andrew Hilditch got a call-up for the state (NSW) squad, and Border thought "if he can do it, maybe I can do it too." Indeed, and a lot better.

He does spend some time re-living old times, and lists three teams of people he's played tests with - a best Australian XI, a best of the rest XI, and a fun XI, with little pen portraits of each player he considered, which is amusing reading. David Boon was selected in the fun XI, and Border seems to put to rest in a definitive way an important detail on one of the records Boon can lay claim to - I quote: "Before we made it to England for the 1989 Ashes tour...there was a bit of drama over David Boon, who was reputed to have consumed 52 cans of beer on the journey from Sydney to London, beating the previous record by an Australian cricketer, held by Rod Marsh. Boon has always denied the 52-can figure, although official record-keepers have it at that. I do know that I presented him with a gold-plated ring-pull, engraved with '52', at the end of the tour!"

There is an interesting epilogue from AB's eldest son, Dene, that describes what it's like to have a former Captain of Australia as a father, which he sums up as "No complaints. More pros than cons."

And that's how I feel about this book. It's not ground-breaking, but it's worth the time invested. Something to dip into during the breaks in play during this winter's Ashes series.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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