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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 January 2006
I've been working backwards, reading all of the former England captains' biographies back-to-back, starting with Nasser Hussain and ending with Goochie. All of the captains' personalities and consequently their captaincies are different in approach - as are the styles of their biographies.
Nasser was irascible, aggressive and ruthless. Stewart was one-dimensional - he never really craved or coveted the captain's mantle because he believed the job was really beyond his limitations, he was as unashamedly conformist as he was patriotic and so was benign in the eyes of the media. Conversely Atherton was more languid and detached as a captain, more thoughtful and intellectually inquisitive about the challenge and the science of captaincy, and unwilling to play the media game of hackneyed soundbite.
Gooch was somewhere in between: he introduced a harder, more professional edge to the England team with a focus on physical fitness. If Stewie was the faithful batman and Atherton the aloof officer, Gooch, as his splendid moustache hinted, was definitely the regimental sergeant major. But he also acknowledges that he delivered prosaic media interviews - saying the right platitudes - and had his own unashamedly patriotic and Boys Own attitude at times.
One common theme in all of these books was the ineptitude, bungling and crass double standards of England's organisation over the last 20 years. Their petty agendas and flim-flamming over issues such as South Africa and Zimbabwe does them absolutely no credit and for Gooch, like the captains who followed him, it was the England hierarchy - even more than the British media or the rampant Ozzies - who sapped the enthusiasm for the job.
Gooch's book gives a far more soothing flavour of his childhood and his roots than do the others'. Nasser was driven by an utterly domineering and cricket-obsessed father, Stewie's relationship with his father was much more detached and had to be seen to be so given that his father was involved with Surrey and England selection. Atherton's dad played for Man Utd and Gooch's for a local club cricket team and both were their sons' biggest fans, but in a hands-off way. But Gooch's coverage of his childhood is the far more endearing one - he grew up an intensely shy lad, thriving on his mum's spam and chips, growing up playing schools cricket, trying to pass himself off as a cool Mod at dance halls whilst being utterly nervous of girls. Gooch goes into far more intimate depth about his early years, taking you into his confidence and laughing at himself. You feel you know him far more personally by the end of the book than you do the others.
The style of the book is a little odd but kind of works. Stewie's and Nasser's biographies were ghost written - something which is a personal bugbear for me. Atherton's is self penned, and his writing style is intelligent, wry and enjoyable. Gooch's book is sort of half and half: each chapter begins with a kind of overview of the period and a flagging up of the major themes by Frank Keating. Then he hands over to Gooch to write his own version of events. Keating's input was fine and I suppose did its job in putting the subsequent stuff in context, but I'm not sure it was necessary since Gooch's writing was perfectly accessible and entertaining. It could probably have done without this dual authorship, but it doesn't get in the way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2009
Graham Gooch holds the record for most runs made for England at Test level. He is also the highest run scorer ever in cricket in first class and one day games combined. This book is a fascinating read as to how he achieved these extraordinary feats.
Highlights of his amazing story include: Being the top scorer in Sydney as England completed a 5-1 Ashes massacre in the Australians backyard in 1979; A flawless batting display as England won their first ever test match in Sri Lanka in 1982; and a 196 at The Oval in 1985 as England grabbed the Ashes back.
However, his exploits at Lords against the Indians in 1990 can only be described as the stuff of legend. By now captain of the national side Goochie scored 333 (another record) & 123 in the same match in an exceptional victory.
There is also controversy as Graham talks about his time leading a rebel tour to South Africa. But this is a tale well told by Goochie and his co-writer Frank Keating.
A remarkable book from a genuine English hero.
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