England October 19, 2011

Sordid details only

Cricketers' autobiographies that provide more scores than scandals should be chucked into flaming piles of dung

Sunday, 16th October Andy Flower is wrong. He thinks autobiographies from current players are a bad idea because they might reveal dressing-room secrets. Au contraire, Mr F, that is precisely why they are a good idea. The only autobiographies worth reading are the ones that are packed with gossip, and gossip, like fertiliser, should be spread while it’s still fresh. Nobody wants the inside scoop on the 1978 series between New Zealand and Pakistan, we want to know what is going on behind closed doors right now.

No, the real problem with these books is not an excess but a lack of muck-raking. I can understand why a player wouldn’t want to offend his comrades, ex-comrades and soon to be ex-comrades, but without the gossip what are you left with? A loose collection of reheated golf stories, nickname anecdotes and a lot of whingeing about hotels. This is why most autobiographies are duller than a Wednesday afternoon session of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Paper Clip Standardisation.

Steve Harmison once claimed not to have read his book about the 2006 Ashes. I don’t blame you Steve, I didn’t read it either. Indeed these books are not designed to be read, only to be bought. They are part of the cricketer’s brand, a commercial PR exercise, like being seen in public supping from cans of barely digestible caffeine-themed liquid or tweeting about how this new washing powder you’ve tried really does get your cricket whites whiter than white at a price that won’t hurt your wallet.

And, by the way, if a journalist listens to you talking about your life, then goes away and writes it all down, that’s not an autobiography, it’s an interview.

Monday, 17th October England’s last two visits to India produced an average of 0.5 wins per series but they are doing their best to limbo underneath this eye-wateringly low standard and have already acquired a couple of big fat losses. Can they keep it up? Almost certainly. We don’t play this kind of cricket domestically and we haven’t been any good at it since 1992; a time when men were still men, upper lips were still hairy and no one worried about the state of their abs.

Unfortunately not only are they failing to win at the moment, they are also struggling somewhat in the losing-with-dignity department. You might think the whining and general acting out in Delhi looked like the kind of tantrums you’d expect to see after a particularly controversial pass-the-parcel ruling at a 10-year-old’s birthday party. But you’d be wrong. According to Team England, Trott et al were just “being aggressive in their body language” and “not taking a backward step”.

And they haven’t ruled out taking their aggressive body language to the next level when they find themselves losing on Thursday, with a range of options available to the England captain including mass pouting, synchronised foot-stamping and, should defeat be particularly imminent, taking their bats home with them.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England