“Like a cross between Mr Bean and Upper-Class Twit of the Year” was the approach settled on by Alastair Cook’s beery Australian tormentors in the crowd on his first Ashes tour.
“The abuse is crude, rude, relentless and acutely personal,” he writes.
My first thought was that I was going to hate Ashes cricket.
They weren’t entirely inaccurate - Cook was certainly on the posh side as a St Paul’s chorister, although unlike Mike Brearley he didn’t hum a Rachmaninov quartet when batting, preferring a bit of “Razorlight or Queen.”
Finding such solutions to the near-infinite challenges of cricket is the theme of this book, which instead of piling up “Then guess what Swanny said!” anecdotes, concentrates on putting England’s greatest ever batsman in the context of the barely imaginable pressures and demands he faced daily. “The Gimp” - a voice of mocking self-doubt that sits on his shoulder, “never takes a day off.” He watches the sport destroy great talents like Jonathan Trott.
He spends one test interval in the foetal position on the dressing room floor. He shares a planet with Kevin Pietersen. There is some relief - he chats about farming with Sir Ian Botham and knows all the words to The Inbetweeners, but if you can’t understand why England find it so hard to find two decent opening batsmen in a population of 70 million, read this. It’s a bit more complicated than you might have imagined.