With rain threatening to be the highest scorer at the ICC men’s Cricket World Cup 20 being played in England and Wales, how many re-runs can you watch while live action is suspended yet again? Turn, instead, to the back story – specifically, the autobiographies of participating cricketers. Here is a quick list of four such books by players whom, if it stops raining, you might also see on the field.
Moeen, Moeen Ali
Longlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards, 2018, English international cricketer Moeen Ali’s 2018 autobiography Moeen is a vivid description of his adventurous life, right from the moment when his mother gave him birth in a trolley while being wheeled into the hospital to his relatively late international debut at 27, an age at which many cricketers might think they have missed the bus.
Ali began his career by playing for Warwickshire at the age of 15, and made his way up to England’s international squad when he was called to be a part of the team for the 2014 ICC World T20 in Bangladesh.
Talking about cricket being his destiny, Moeen writes that his father rubbed a “little kid’s bat on his forehead” the day he was born, just like he did with his elder brother Kadeer Ali and younger brother Omar Ali, because he wanted them to be batsmen. The idea was inspired by his uncle Shabir Ali who had rubbed a cricket ball on his sons’ foreheads so as to write their “takkdirs” (fate) as bowlers. Moeen’s brothers and cousins have all been cricketers.
A Clear Blue Sky, Jonny Bairstow
English cricketer Jonathan Marc “Jonny” Bairstow’s autobiography A Clear Blue Sky takes readers through his journey of learning to live without his father after he committed suicide in 1998 and left behind his wife, who had cancer, and two children, eight-year-old Jonny and seven-year-old Becky. In the prologue to his book, Bairstow reminisces how his father taught him to hold a cricket bat. “‘Pick it up like an axe’, he’d say, ‘grip it as though you’re about to chop wood’,” he writes. Bairstow’s father David Bairstow was also a cricketer for Yorkshire and England.
He made it to the England squad in 2011 when he was selected as part of the team against Ireland, but his first opportunity to play an international match came only against India in the same year.
Six Machine, Chris Gayle
West Indies batsman Chris Gayle is known for hitting the ball hard. Very hard. Aptly, his autobiography, published in 2017, is titled Six Machine: I Don’t Like Cricket, I Love It. “I hate to run and I love to bat,” Gayle writes in the first chapter of his book, which may explain why he holds the record for hitting the most number of sixes in T20 international cricket.
Gayle presents himself as a series of contradictions in his book, writing, “People get the wrong concept of you, until they get close...Everything I have came through the fight. Coming up hard, coming up hungry. From a young age I’m one of the hardest workers in the game of cricket, something amazing that you wouldn’t believe. Most people don’t even know me like that.”
Gayle also gives Lucas Cricket Club in Jamaica’s Kingston the credit for his cricketing career. “Lucas, the reason I made it in cricket…” he writes fondly about the club where his career began.
The Journey, Steve Smith
Former Australia captain Steve Smith’s autobiography, The Journey: My story, from backyard cricket to Australian Captain begins with an anecdote on how a tennis match taught him that life “is all about thinking on your feet, and seeing challenges as opportunities rather than roadblocks”. The book also features a chapter by the cricketer’s father Peter Smith, talking about how Smith’s parents discovered his cricketing potential.
The book features a chapter dedicated to the late Australian cricketer and his friend Phillip Hughes, who died in 2014 after he was struck on the head with a bouncer during a cricket match in Sydney.
Smith’s autobiography came out before a ball-tampering scandal in 2018 resulted in a year-long ban for him and fellow cricketer David Warner.