I always liked Robin Jackman as a cricketer. Perhaps short of the very top rank of players, he made up a fair part of the gap with a whole-hearted approach that saw him run in at the end of a day with the same effort that we had seen in his early morning new ball stint. He was also a useful batsman, perhaps short of genuine all-rounder status but a very good man to have in your side.
Any player who is good enough to take 1800 first-class wickets has to be reckoned with, but Jackman has gone on to an enduring and excellent second career as a commentator, where he is both entertaining and worth listening to for his cricket knowledge.
This autobiography does a good job at getting behind the public image and reveals a devout family man who was close to his parents and grateful for the efforts they made to ensure that he played cricket and they were there to see him as much as possible. He also acknowledges the support of his South African wife Vonnie, who ensured their two daughters had a stable home life while Robin's cricket commitments took him away from home on a regular basis.
From an English cricket fan's perspective the book has perhaps less county cricket stories than might have been expected. Jackman is so well known and respected for his career in South Africa that considerable chunks cover his time playing for Western Province and Rhodesia. For someone who has long been interested in the golden period of that country's cricket history, stories of playing with and against the likes of Barlow, Pollock, Procter and many more are fascinating, many of them laugh out loud funny.
His England career was belated and caused an international incident when he was banned from entering Guyana because of his links with South Africa. He let no one down and must have been a captain's dream, capable of bowling long spells with no dropping in intensity or accuracy.
Tales of playing alongside and facing the biggest names in the game abound, as well as meeting celebrities around the world. I can't remember Linda Lovelace cropping up in a cricket book before and the authors have done a remarkably good job, every chapter containing stories that will make you laugh out loud. Indeed, his tale of waking up naked in an Indian hotel room with a mirrored ceiling is one of the funniest I have read in any cricket book. So too his telling of the South African plan to dismiss a top Sri Lankan batsman, relaid from captain at slip to the bowler, Brett Schulz, in Afrikaans. The plan, to bowl full on leg stump to a batsman who moved across his stumps, was cunningly done until the bowler somewhat ruined it by shouting back "In that case, can I have fine leg a bit finer...?" In English...
Robin Jackman the commentator comes across as a likeable man who is very good at his job. Exactly the same, in fact, as this book shows him to be. On the day that I finished it, news broke that he was battling cancer and, like all cricket fans around the world, I wish him the very best in his ongoing treatment. I hope we have many more years of enjoyment of his broadcasting career.