1 July 2007

A Lot Of Hard Touring...

The majority of the Cricket Burble blogging team are about to embark upon their annual club cricket tour to the South Oxfordshire countryside shortly today, so all may be about to become a touch quiet on the burbling front for the next week. In an effort to further postpone the already overdue packing, there's just time for me to make my debut on these pages.

I've just finished reading 'A Lot Of Hard Yakka' - Simon Hughes' highly praised account of life on the county cricket circuit. Admittedly I'm about ten years late with respect to its publication, but I only recently had it recommended (and lent) by a friend who shared my initial skepticism of Hughes' efforts in the early days as Channel 4's cricket analyst.

Hughes writes candidly and amusingly about the day-to-day toil of the life of a county cricketer. The book follows his career season by season, from his debut for Middlesex in 1980 to his transfer to Durham in the twilight of his career in 1991 and his retirement shortly afterwards. Anecdotal in style, colourful portraits of some of the major names of the era are built up, from the cerebral Brearley to the down-to-earth, food-loving Gatting, the libidinous Daniel and the larger-than-life Botham.

The more serious message behind the book, however, is the frustrating lack of professionalism within the county circuit - a trend that has hopefully largely been reversed in more recent times. Fast bowlers gorge themselves upon four-course lunches in between lengthy spells, distractions (from business interests to hangovers) prevail and teammates' successes are begrudged by selection rivals. These successes and failures are mirrored by Hughes' own career; a fast bowler capable of match-winning spells, he was frequently plagued by a no-ball tendency, loss of control and youthful lack of application.

In an era when the bulk of sports books are insipid, ghost-written affairs, this frank insight into the life of a professional cricketer is well worth a read. Anyway, enough of that - time to go and find some clean whites...

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