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on 30 May 2015
"Graeme Swann is a good lad", is one of the great cliches of recent English cricket. "Swanny" was one of us - a bloke who liked a joke and a few beers but who just happened to bowl a cracking off break. Unfortunately for readers of this book, Swann appears to have bought whole-heartedly into his own myth. That is not to say that Swann is not likeable, or indeed not a "good lad". He is just a little too keen to prove it.

Very much (as is drummed into us from page 1) a book of 2 halves. The first half is entertaining - Swann is a cricket-mad boy with a cricketing father and following in his big brother's footsteps. Despite not coming from a cricketing school, he prospers from a young age and is fast-tracked into the England youth set-up. The point about the school is indicative - Swann opts not to make any serious points about the opportunities potentially denied to young English kids by lack of resource and decimation of school sport, but instead prefers to score cheap laughs about how his ragbag group of heroic urchins would try to stuff the poshos from Oundle.

The young Swann is a prat (and, to be fair, the first to admit it). Arrogant, mouthy and lazy (although I suspect not remotely as bad in reality as he tries to make it appear), he almost blows it, but instead is marooned in county cricket for 7 years between his first England squad call-up and his first cap. This section of the book is quite good, not least because Swann the author is prepared to be honest about himself and others. The coaching style of Kepler Wessels at Northamptonshire is particularly (and justifiably) panned.

Finally, our hero makes it into the England team in 2007. As we know, he was a fixture in the World 20/20 win, the Ashes triumphs of 2009 and 2010/11 and the rise of the Strauss/Flower team to number 1 in the Test rankings. This is where the book careers into the generic dullness of the sports autobiography, and where Swann's self-righteousness begins to grate. Swann here seems torn between asserting his 'bad-boy-done-good' blokey stories about beery nights and 'hilarious' dressing room banter and the justifiable pride that he feels in his, and his team's success. So, why we learn, enigmatically, that 'not everyone in a dressing room will be friends', we learn next to nothing about the personalities involved. Whereas the dressing rooms of Atherton, Hussain, Stewart and Gough and pilloried for their cliques and ego, we now simply hear about what 'great blokes' Jimmy, Broady, Bres and Cooky are (don't you just love those cricketing nicknames?). The most telling points are those not made - there is almost nothing about Pietersen in a social capacity, for example.

Swann is desperate to have his cake and eat it. He revels in telling us how much he hates being ordered to tow the party line, but then does so relentlessly. He repeatedly affirms that he has stayed his own man, but this manifests itself in him occasionally going to sleep in the dressing room. Moments of true insight are concerned with crowbarring his story into the over-arching narrative: "Swann the captain would not have picked Swann the youngster", we are told at one point.

Swann also sees things in black and white, which is strange for such an intelligent man. This manifests itself both in "I bowled well that day" and "I played badly that day" stories, but also in his take on some of the bigger cricket stories of the last decade. Personally, I found his self-righteous judgement of Mohammad Amir particularly simplistic.

Of course, one has to remember that this book was written was Swann was still in the team, and the desire not to offend is understandable. However, reading with the benefit of hindsight, and the knowledge of the selfish retirement in the middle of the middle of a losing Ashes series and the sudden need to cash in on his "personality" by scuttling off to the media simply leaves one with the knowledge that the book would have been hugely improved if he had resisted the urge to tell his story for a couple of years. Instead, the last 200 pages could have been cut and paste from Matt Prior's own (deeply dreary) memoir of the same period.
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on 29 October 2011
As a great cricket fan and admirer of what Swann has brought to the team, I anticipated his autobiography would be good. He's a funny chap (ha ha rather than odd...!) and I expected his book to show this sense of humour. Swann is always a candid and thoughtful interviewee. He doesn't hide behind management rhetoric and as such his comments are usually astute.
It's a witty book, full of Swann's often inappropriately timed jokes. The anecdote about misjudging Rod Marsh and greeting him warmly with the C word is both cringeworthy and very funny.
He details being punched, allegedly without provocation, by Darren Gough whilst urinating, which is amusing and puzzling, as Gough apparently never offered an explanation.
I wanted to know more details about the England lifestyle. He doesn't always elaborate on points made, and takes great pains to tell the reader that the current England squad are all great mates etc but the less casual reader will want more in depth analysis.
For the cricket lover there is a lot of detail about matches, most notably the Ashes win in Australia.
It also provides a good insight into Swann's character, which seems somewhat Marmite-esque. You either love him or....you know the rest. Perhaps when he finally retires from cricket (hopefully not for some time) he will revise this book and include a little more in the juicy detail department.
Overall an entertaining read for cricket fans.
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on 25 November 2011
This was one of the most refreshing sports books I've ever read. Graeme Swann is a sportsman who refuses to take himself too seriously (you only need watch his Ashes video diaries or read him on Twitter to get that much) but shows over 400 pages here that he does have a serious side.

Yes, it is chock-full of the crude one-liners he has made his calling card in cricket, and he chuckles his way through various escapades throughout his career.

But he also provides some scathing opinions. Almost exclusively about himself. In fact, the book can almost be split into two halves. The first a chain of regret at his behaviour, as he toiled for international recognition, and the second a chronicle of his pride in representing England and proving successful.

You can picture him cringing as he reflects on the misspent first few years - the England Under-19 World Cup-winning team enacting an old school pile-on on Allan Border being a perfect example. Contrast that to the anecdote about deciding to give his son the middle name Sydney as he sat on the SCG outfield, beer in hand, after the completion of the 3-1 Ashes win down under.

Although Swann jnr has enough initials to be a future England Test captain, his dad's appeal is that he has clawed his way up from Sponne Coprehensive, where his team-mates used to take their school ties off and all assemble for a chat at mid-on, to the top of world cricket. He's just like the blokes most of us play club cricket with at the weekend. And that's why he, and this book, are so appealing.
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on 7 November 2011
It's easy to see why Graeme Swann is so well thought of. He is one of that rare breed of English cricketer, a successful player with a fierce determination to win and yet also a great sense of fun. For these reason's his story is one that many people will be interested in and this captivating autobiography does not disappoint! Well written, good-humored and endearing I found this insight into the life of one of our top sportsmen very enjoyable.
Due to the personality of the man this is a cricket book that transcends it's genre and has value to the general reader
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on 3 February 2013
I enjoyed Graeme Swann's book about his life and cricket so far. I wonder if writing an autobiography about his life at the age of 32 means he intends to make no further contribution, or is he like the cricket authorities which he is keen to blame just in it for the money!!
I did enjoy the book though. I thought it was an honest opinion on his take on cricket. He was honest about his performances,and the luck that exists in all sports. He was also not disparaging about people he came across in his cricket career,except the match fixing trio of Pakistani cricketers. Swann's analysis of the upsurge in England's cricket fortunes is creditable,and does show the very positive influence that I believe Andy Flower has had on the further development of English cricket. This is quite a long book, but the detail he goes into is interesting and worthwhile,and certainly adds to the book, not distracts. Overall a good read,especially if you are interested in the development and introduction to cricket matches of spin bowling.
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on 24 May 2013
I have known Graeme Swann personally since he was sixteen and at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. I am, therefore, rather biased!

I found his book both informative, interesting and humorous. It's typically 'Swanny' as he really is as a person. The photograph that I took in 1999 of Graeme & his brother Alec during the Northants v Essex game is included in this book.

Graeme has since autographed the book for me & written a lovely dedication on the front page.
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on 5 August 2014
A phenomenal story with just enough humor to keep even me interested.
this book showed me to be more laid back about cricket, and although you must focus while the game is being played there is no need to get too worked up post-match.
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on 9 December 2012
I found this a tedious read. Not particularly informative and predictably laddish. Why can't sportsmen treat their readers seriously and tell us something about their craft and how it developed, rather than silly asides about how they had a few with the lads. Swann is obviously a highly intelligent man and an entertaining character. But this certainly doesn't come across in the book.
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on 20 December 2012
I generally enjoyed this book, my only problem was the dancing around of match statistics here and there (albeit they were necessary as Graeme tried to convey the match in question with enthusiasm). The majority of this book is Graeme's depiction of England's recent glories, highs and also lows, from his perception, and unique sense of humour he depicts a life of a Cricketer who's glass is half full.

A book for anyone interested in Cricket à tout égards.
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on 30 November 2011
This is a pretty decent read, and extremely funny at times; much better than your typical sporting autobiography. It would make an excellent Christmas present for anyone who is a fan of large chinned, magpie supporting, cat rescuers.
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