This was meant to be an easy read, but turned into something bigger (and more annoying).
See, I’m a cricket fan. “Fan” seems such a lame word when it comes to cricket, which I found turns people into full-blown obsessives. When you’ve glimpsed enough of the logic behind it – and it’s the most logical game, despite what 80% of the world’s population might think – everything becomes important. You gladly stay up all night looking at an automatically updating scoreboard (like this) WITHOUT ANY PICTURES. You preach to the uninitiated. Your heart performs a little dance when you spot people dressed in white standing around in a field, even if they’re just pharmacists on a field trip. You live cricket. And I should know. I own a 490-page anthology of cricket verse.
So anything from Bumble Lloyd should be great fun. For me, having been of the initiated for only 8 years now, he’s this guy off the telly, commentating for Sky Sports. He was a player and (England) coach before that, but as I said, that was before my time, and I have a lot of catching up to do in that respect. As a commentator, he’s the one for the jokes and innuendo, not always to my taste, but he’s definitely the voice of cricket for many (you wouldn’t think cricket could be funny, eh? Well, it can be.)
Now, one thing I can say about this book is that there is no need for it. Bumble might be great as a commentator; as a writer, not so much. There’s a proper writer “helping”, of course, but the important bits are Lloyd’s, and that’s where the problems start. Turns out Bumble is that bloke off the telly, and no more. He makes no secret of the fact that there isn’t a deeper, more meaningful side to him than the jokes and the enthusiasm, which would be fine if that was your cup of tea, but it’s not mine. He undoubtedly knows a lot about cricket, and he loves it in the same obsessive way as all the cricket nerds I’ve met over the years. But the whole book just reinforces the unfortunate aspects of the cricket scene. It’s a laddish thing. Forget about the gentleman’s game – where Bumble is concerned, it’s a jolly good time with the boys, and what would that be without the thinly veiled misogyny and borderline racism… I’m sure Lloyd is a great guy, and the great lengths he goes to in order to show how much he appreciates pretty much every player he’s ever met is almost annoying. He’s being very, very careful not to discriminate against anyone, but as soon as he starts talking about his mates down the pub or team outings, there WILL be a casual remark about how his Chinese language skills don’t go beyond saying “Herro, isn’t this rubbery” or how his missus keeps him on a short leash (har har). I’m not even ashamed of being so nit-picky about it. It bloody annoys me. It shows the celebrated cricket guy as exactly what he is: a late-middle-aged bloke who’s proud to have never grown out of surroundings where jokes like the above are the only jokes anybody ever makes, and innuendo is the purest form of wit.
Towards the middle of the book, he makes some good points about the future of cricket and the importance of turning the English players into high-profile athletes with a rigorous fitness programme. He knows his stuff, and when it comes to cricket, his approach seems even visionary. Shame about the character.
I guess I’m not the target audience when it comes to this book, not being a typical Bumble follower (maybe because I’m foreign and female? Just a wild guess…). I was looking forward to the cricket talk, but most of the book is Bumble talk, and that might not be for everyone.