Thursday, 22 October 2015

Book Review : Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket by Chris Adams

Forget Kevin Pietersen, this was the book that I had eagerly awaited since hearing of its forthcoming publication, some time back. Chris Adams is, after all, a Derbyshire legend, the Whitwell lad who should have been the cornerstone of our batting for years.

Yet it all went sour for him at Derbyshire, as it did for so many others at that time, of course. For supporters of the county, the first part of the book will be the most interesting and is something I will return to, but this book is excellent value throughout and doesn't disappoint in any way.

Bruce Talbot has done a fine job in the ghost writing and the book moves along at great pace, like the best of action thrillers. It pulls no punches, just like Adams at the crease. It is patently clear why he was such a good captain, leading his Sussex side from the front and into the most successful county side of the 2000s with aggressive batting, innovative captaincy and the not inconsiderable weapon of Mushtaq Ahmed as the spearhead of a potent attack.

His international career never took off and he was guilty of squandering a few starts, albeit against a strong South African attack. Luck plays a part in careers and a debut against a lesser side may have seen him flourish, yet England's loss was Sussex's gain and Adams led them to a period of unprecedented success.

His move to coaching was predictable and his early success at Surrey came as no surprise. Yet in the space of twelve months the club was in turmoil, suffering the death of Tom Maynard and the consequential and inevitable disarray as players and management struggled to cope with the loss of such a precocious talent. Ultimately Adams lost his job, but remains a coach with unfinished business at a shrewd county prepared to give him the opportunity.

That could have been at Derbyshire, as he explains being in the frame for the current role held by Graeme Welch. It is not hard to see his return to the county game at some point in the future, when his experiences, good and bad, will doubtless have steeled him and prepared him for a fresh challenge.

So what are his thoughts on those years at Derbyshire? He had 'difficult times' with Kim Barnett, who he describes as a man of few words but as a fantastic batsman. It was a troubled dressing room with strong characters, one in which Barnett and John Morris had a 'strained' relationship and in which the 'outspoken' views of Dominic Cork failed to help.

He admired Mohammad Azharuddin, struggled with Daryl Cullinan, who took his cricket very seriously and suffered from an especially juvenile prank, but really hit it off with Dean Jones and Les Stillman. The latter is credited with transforming his batting, but the abrasive style of Jones saw him at odds with most of the dressing room. While they almost delivered a second county championship to Derbyshire in 1996, the 'brutal honesty' of Jones did not sit well with other team members and Adams felt increasingly marginalised.

There's also a vivid account of the 1993 Benson and Hedges Cup Final and the lunchtime row with Wasim Akram over the latter's earlier beamer. The lead up to this is well explained, the bowler's later assertion that Adams threatened him with 'a butter knife' being denied and coming across as ever so slightly laughable. Yet it galvanised Derbyshire and Kim Barnett's assertion that they should 'leave Mike Atherton out there to chew up a lot of balls' later turned the game.

All of which makes for a quite terrific read. The only minus mark I could put against it is a sloppy mis-spelling of Guy 'Willett' (sic), the then Derbyshire chairman and former club captain. It doesn't detract from a book that should be high on the Christmas list of any Derbyshire, Sussex or Surrey fan, however.

Or indeed for any cricket enthusiast, tired of anodyne autobiographies that add little to what is already known about the subject from assorted media. Full marks to Pitch Publishing for another excellent read and for a book in which the typeface is excellent and the overall production of a very high standard.

Get it in your Christmas stocking.

You won't be disappointed.

Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket is written by Chris Adams with Bruce Talbot and published by Pitch Publishing, It is available from all good book shops and is currently available in hard back from Amazon, priced £15.90

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