Alec Stewart is undoubtedly one of the finest cricketers to have played for England in recent years. His superb record as a batsman and wicketkeeper are testimony to a professional approach to the game that allowed him to continue playing at the highest level beyond his 40th birthday. I loved watching Stewart bat, and the English team was always stronger for his inclusion. However, his superb career record, professional approach and impressive longevity do not equal a great autobiography. I was really looking forward to reading 'Playing for Keeps' but ended up rather disappointed. It's easy to read, gives an insight into Stewart's approach to the game and his values in life, but isn't particularly stimulating. Stewart deserves huge respect for conducting himself in such a professional manner throughout his career, but it hardly makes for riveting reading. I kept hoping for more - a greater insight into the dynamics of the dressing room, more anecdotes of the characters he played alongside and against, and perhaps some stronger reactions to the more controversial events in world cricket in recent years. Instead, the reader is presented with a somewhat predictable account of Stewart's preparation, his concerns about form, and the great pride and honour he felt in representing his country. A fine cricketer, an upstanding individual, and an ideal role-model for the young cricketer, but not a great book, unfortunately.
On the back foot for most of this work. What makes this book interesting is Alec's paranoia and sensitivity over critical voices in the media and elsewhere. Don't matter what walk of life we are in you'll always have critics especially when you play for and captain an England side that regularly collasped and disappointed throughout the 1990's and into the new millenium. Of course Alec was a very good all round cricketer and you can't really escape that fact here. Playing For Keeps does provide insight into the man by virtue of the defensive nature of his tone. Interesting opinions on how he rated the other England players in the 90's and his colleagues at Surrey. He considered himself quite the wisecracker which surprised me also. Didn't get any insight to the Indian Bookie malarky other than the bookie made the story up for no reason and the Zimbabwe world cup drama hardly warranted a mention certainly not a chapter given that Hussain was the captain. Conclusion. If you are a Sport Biography anorak then you will probably enjoy this however, I put it down not liking him very much and I'll bet he is quite a nice bloke. Shame really