Keith Fletcher peers out from the cover with a world-weary look of concern as Mike Atherton, behelmeted, looks equally non-plussed. This was the England of Fletcher's management in the 1990s. The words "insecurity", "disappointment" and "sacked" appear in the first page and a half of the introduction. It is hard to believe that this man captained an Essex side renowned for their humour and jolly japery.
The timing is odd. Although Fletcher is still involved with Essex he is hardly at the heart of the modern game. The book's USP appears to be that he is the first man to have captained and coached England. Given that only five people have coached/managed England (and one of those was Ray Illingworth who also captained them) that doesn't seem to be saying a great deal.
It turns out that Fletcher was not that enamoured of international cricket either as player or coach. He says he "never relaxed when playing Test cricket" and raises a now common complaint about the insecurity and disharmony of England dressing rooms in the professional era. He didn't even enjoy the victorious tour of Australia in 1970-71. "We were just a bunch of individuals coming together under the banner of MCC, some of whom looked after themselves and did not bother to assist newcomers." Sound familiar?
The last words of the book are "international cricket will continue to muddle along" which just about sums up its melancholic tone.
Two and half stars -
John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer