Fletcher’s book not yet in the top 10

On the eve of its publication and in spite of a week’s worth of superb publicity, Duncan Fletcher’s autobiography, Behind the Shades, is languishing at a distinctly Zimbabwean 79th place on Amazon’s bestseller list. The people of Britain clearly rate Karl Pilkington, the gormless radio character infantilised and made famous by Ricky Gervais, more than a former England cricket coach.

Even The Official Highway Code ranks higher, not to mention The Beano Annual 2008. So come on, get ordering – it’s going to be a great read.

Duncan’s book

So then. No going quietly into the shadows for Duncan Fletcher, whose autobiography is exposing Andrew Flintoff’s drink problems (among other things). But where do the public stand on the whole issue? I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Fletcher says he’s been let down by Flintoff, that Fred was too wrecked to even throw a ball (let alone catch it). This is woeful behaviour for a sportsman, especially one described by Brett Lee as a supreme athelete. But why didn’t Fletcher – the most powerful man in English cricket – nip it in the bud at the first offence?

And why was Flintoff given the captaincy ahead of Andrew Strauss? At the time, we all bought into the fanciful notion that Flintoff alone could help us retain the Ashes; a leader of men rather than a tactician. He’ll drag the players with him through sheer brute force, we thought. So, it seems, did Duncan. Or was Fletcher so concerned with Flintoff’s levels of drinking that he thought the captaincy might rein him in? Either way, he – and David Graveney – must be accountable. It was a gross error and has cost England, Flintoff (and Strauss, let’s be honest) severely.

Who was he out drinking with? Yep, Ian Botham (who naturally doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with sinking 12 bottles of Chardonnay. In an evening). Me and my miniature mate Dan from the magazine were discussing this today, and he reminded me of a piece Simon Hughes wrote in relation to Flintoff’s World Cup boozing:

Before the last day of an England Test in 2004, I was on the pitch chatting with Andrew Flintoff when Ian Botham strode over. “There he is, the world expert on batting,” Botham chortled, referring to me, “the bloke who used to fall asleep fielding at long leg. True, you know! [Unfortunately it is]. Now then Freddie, you and Harmy are coming out with me tomorrow night!’ Flintoff nodded in approval.

When the two had gone their respective ways, Michael Vaughan wandered over. I congratulated him on his second century of the match. “Thanks,” he said. “Nice track, innit. What was Botham saying?”

“Oh, he was promising Harmy and Freddie he’d take them out tomorrow night,” I replied.

“Oh no he’s not,” Vaughan said. “They’re not going out with Beefy! There’s another Test match in three days’ time.”

Vaughan’s authority is his greatest asset. What will Duncan’s book bring tomorrow?

Fletcher and his poker face

I just stumbled across a book with a very similar title to Duncan Fletcher’s forthcoming autobiography, Behind the Shades. It’s called The Man Behind the Shades: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘The Kid’ Ungar, Poker’s Greatest Player.

A little irony for you there; Fletcher has the best poker face since Steve Waugh.

Fletcher’s book is out on November 5 and you can pre-order it from Amazon which also gives me a bit of money – a good thing for all concerned, don’t you think?

Duncan Fletcher autobiography: Behind The Shades

Heads up: Fletcher’s autobiography is released on November 5. Digby, the publisher’s PR, might even have some early spare copies for some lucky winners here and at Cricinfo. Otherwise, pre-order at Amazon for an amazing £9.49 (the retail price in Waterstones and co will be £18.99!).

Andrew Strauss’s autobiography: Coming into Play

I’ve just finished reading Andrew Strauss’s book (review is at Cricinfo on Saturday) and it highlighted a worrying trend: the premature autobiography. It’s one which is seemingly unstoppable, too, and not just in sport – although sportsmen offer publishers a tantalising combination of fame and talent which the public will mop up all day long.

It’s just not on, though. The book was fine – it passed a few hours, and I’d have enjoyed it at an airport or on the bus. But I was left with a feeling of “…and?” Of all the recently released autobiographies, at least Strauss’s is nicely written. He received some help from Angus Fraser but, by and large, it is his own work – a tremendous achievement, then. The fact remains that he has only been in the game five minutes. His excitement in arriving in Test cricket is glib, and no different from any other cricketer. Descriptions of the Ashes are neatly written and fondly recalled…but again, it’s nothing we haven’t heard a dozen times before. Worse still, this lets the author down more than us.

I’m sure once he’s finished his career and has progressed into a fulltime journalist, if he chooses, then his final book really will be worth reading. Right now though, it felt unfinished; much like his career, it is only the first chapter.

It’s a shame though. I think I’m right in saying Charlotte Church, who my boss absolutely adores and respects with unrivalled passion, has already published two! She’s about 23 for God’s sake. Yet we can’t blame her or other people for writing them. Books are big money these days. Monty Panesar has accepted a £250,000 deal to write his – he’d be very daft, or perhaps a shrewd businessman, if he turned that down. I guess it’s just a shame for us who have to review them as, essentially, it’s the same old thing over and over again.

Buy now from Amazon.

Andrew Strauss’s autobiography: Coming into Play

I should probably also mention that Andrew Strauss’s autobiography, Coming into Play, is released on the same day as Kevin Pietersen’s. Strauss writes an excellent column for the Daily Telegraph and, while he’ll have used a ghost for much of this book, he is an intelligent, hard-working cricketer and it too should make for interesting reading. Like Pietersen’s, it can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

Andrew Strauss: Coming into Play

Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography: Crossing the Boundary

Ying from Random House emailed to remind me of Kevin Pietersen’s biography, which is due to be published on September 9, 2006. It should be an interesting read – and I’ll have two copies to give away on the blog shortly after publication. In the meantime, pre-order your copy from Amazon.

Kevin Pietersen, Crossing the Boundary

Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography – Crossing the Boundary

Crossing the Boundary: The Early Years in My Cricketing Life

Well I suppose it was inevitable! It’s not out until September 2006 but you can preorder it now. Synopsis reads:

Described by the media as ‘the David Beckham of cricket’ and regularly gracing the tabloids and broadsheets alike with his trademark hairstyle and vibrant personality, Kevin is fast becoming the poster boy for English cricket. But he is also in possession of a prodigious talent – fearless, bold and with unflappable nerves. His unique batting style has produced hundreds of runs and many outstanding innings for his county and country this summer, culminating in his extraordinary triumph at The Ashes. “Crossing the Boundary” will recount Kevin’s remarkable journey so far – from growing up in his native South Africa to the opposition he faced from his national cricket board, from his move to England and his career at Hampshire to winning a place on the England team. It will provide a rare insight into the mind of an international cricketer, on and off the pitch. Reflecting his youthful charisma and his bullish confidence, this will be a sporting memoir like no other. Told with wit, intelligence and attitude, “Crossing the Boundary” will reveal the riveting story of a young, hugely talented star who has helped England to win their 1st Ashes in 18 years.

Steve Waugh Autobiography: Out of My Comfort Zone

Flippin ‘eck, why do we have to wait months and months for Steve Waugh’s autobiography? Not out ’til April 27, 2006! If any nice Aussies (waves to The Ubersporting One!) wants to send me a copy, it’d be much appreciated (will pay, natch).