on 4 August 2013
This book was written by Roebuck, Botham's team mate since his youth, in 1986 at the height of Botham's fame, shortly before Roebuck led a coup at Somerset that sacked Viv Richards and Joel Garner. This led to a rift between Botham and Roebuck that lasted until Roebuck's recent tragic death. There are clues in the book to Roebuck's inner feelings about Botham, but overall the book is a pretty balanced view of Botham the man, and Botham the cricketer.
By 1986, Botham was at the peak of his fame, and his ego, always healthy, was bloating alarmingly. The book is a treasure trove of examples of Botham's grandiose inanity. At times he is a 10 year old boy ("I am incredibly strong"; "I want to move beyond cricket, I want to fly aeroplanes, make films, reduce my golf handicap, breed horses, run a trout farm"). At others, he is David Brent ("As a cricketer, I'm like a jazz saxophonist, I have a pretty great technique, but I want to go into orbit"; "no bowler hat for me. I'm happy in my jeans and leather jacket"; "I want to expand my range"). This was the period when he fell into the hands of Tim Hudson, a 'manager', whose talents extended little beyond pampering Botham's ego. He was encouraged to bleach his mullet, wear blazers that even Plum Warner would have thought a bit stupid, and to see himself as a rock star, playing with his instrument in front of fans "who can see the Bruce Springsteen in that shot".
He comes across as a loathsome, selfish bully. It's a struggle at times to remember his charity work and the unstoppable genius of his early career, but Roebuck helps us to remember. Geniuses are different, in all sorts of ways.
Roebuck's writing sometimes has a 28 year old's penchant for a flowery phrase, but he faithfully and impartially records all this. A fascinating look at Botham, in his pomp.
on 15 November 2011
Famously in 1986 Peter Roebuck launched a coup against Botham and his influence on Somerset cricket. It was successful. Botham left for Worcestershire: Roebuck became captain.
Less famously, in 1986, Roebuck published a book he had written based on interviews with Botham, a sort of fusion of biography and autobiography where Roebuck gives his assessment of an area of his life (e.g. batting, the media) and then lets Botham tell his own story.
Throughout the interviews and the writing, in retrospect we know that Roebuck must have been considering his coup, all the time believing that Botham was a corrosive influence on the team he'd played for for over a decade.
Yet this does not come through.
Rather, what comes through is a perceptive, well-written, even affectionate portrayal of a cricketing genius.
Roebuck knew Botham very well having played with or against him from the ages of 15 to 30.
At the time, Roebuck's writing ability was mostly unknown: now, it's that for which he's most famous.
I think the reason this book isn't more widely known is that it was launched at exactly the wrong time.
Roebuck and Botham were now published co-authors and yet they within weeks of publication, the row had begun after which they never spoke another word to each other, as Botham never forgave him for what he'd done.
Perhaps Roebuck's sad and premature death will lead a few people back to this early work.
It's mostly for those with an interest with Botham, and includes a fantastic dialogue between Roebuck and Brearley discussing Botham's ability. Yet it also touches on something more general, the way a biography is different from a hagiography, and the way cricketing heroes are flawed but remain heroes all the same.
A good follow-on from Simon Wilde's excellent biography.