Friday, August 3, 2018

Botham - My Autobiograpy - I.T. Botham

Botham's autobiography, gifted to me by Abhinay, starts off on a note that threw me off what I was expecting. Most autobiographies I feel somehow shatter the illusion we have of the person by revealing parts of them that we do not know. My impression of Botham was that nothing would affect him and he would just go out and have fun and live life up. But Botham starts with how he felt upset over his sacking from the English team, how pathetic the selectors were and how bad he felt. As a reader we all want the heroes to accept their injustices gracefully and get on - the world is imperfect but you are not. But then he quickly moves on to his life and things become normal again. As a kid he was mischievous and as a school kid, he loved playing soccer and cricket, especially when it came to making money that was put out as a challenge. as he grew older he played well enough to get a job as a ground staff at Lord's, the mischief of young lads who are broke and live in tough conditions - it's all pure fun. Growing up, Botham loves his life, his drink, and his practical jokes. Always on the edge. And they called him Beefy.

When he starts playing cricket in second division he falls in love with his wife Kath when they were nineteen (Kath) and eighteen (Botham). Botham's career skyrockets (something to do with his marriage) when he enters the Test arena scoring runs and taking wickets and winning matches. Astounding stats - hundreds and five-wicket and ten-wickets hauls. Botham takes the world by storm and the worst hit are the Aussies against whom he seems to reserve the best he has.

As a person, he is quick to use his fists, loves his drink, loves practical jokes, loves trying new things and pushing life to the limit. His stint with Somerset, his friendship with Viv Richards, his dabbling with drugs, sex and rock n roll (Mick Jagger, Elton John, Eric Clapton are all his personal friends), his many run-ins with the administration all show Botham as he was. Then the burden of captaincy, a dip in form and fortunes, sacked from captaincy and a miraculous return to form all make the fairy tale.

But things are changing and the administration wants more hard work and not just results. Gower and Botham are the casualties and soon the fairy tale comes to an end. Botham's famous 900 mile walks to raise money for leukaemia are well described as his dabbling with Hollywood, stage, flying, racing, soccer, adventure sports etc are. He dabbles with the rebel tours in South Africa. Somehow his marriage survives it all - and he confesses several times that it is no credit to him and all because of Kath who puts up with a lot. A love-hate relationship with tabloids keeps his life spiced up.

Botham's cricket is interesting. He does not believe in nets. Only believes in having a good time which is a drink with the boys - and he could drink a lot. He is hopeless at man management as he himself accepts and says that the players need to be suitably motivated when they are playing for England. Another aspect he mentions is that he had a knack of picking up wickets with deliveries that normally would have got hit for four - a happy knack some have - I believe it's their attitude that does it. Wonderful to have such guys in your team. Botham also said that he always believed that anything could be done - sometimes to the point of being bull-headed about it. But it served him well as his career stats show - 102 Tests, 14 centuries at 33.54, 383 wickets at 28.40, ten 5 wicket hauls and four 10 wicket hauls.

Some of his best pals were the Aussies - Border, Lillee, Greg Ritchie. Viv Richards of the West Indies. Bob Willis and David Gower in England. Geoff Boycott is not a favorite with him though he admires his batting immensely. Gavaskar finds a place in Botham's all-time World XI.

He sued Imran Khan when the latter speaks about ball tampering, agreeing that he has done it, but in the same breath says it was not tampering as far as he is concerned. Botham is not too pleased at the insinuation that he may be among the many players who may have tampered the ball and sends Imran a legal notice. Botham is convinced that what Imran confessed to was tampering. He is equally clear that he has never resorted to tampering. He is also very clear on the subject of racism and detests those who differentiate based on color. Botham quit Somerset when they sack Viv Richards and Joel Garner on flimsy reasons. Modeled after Brian Close the gutsy Somerset captain, Botham breaks bones, suffers injuries and lives through it all to tell his tale.

It's an interesting and unapologetic version of his life. For me, lasting impressions are of his taking 13 wickets and scoring a hundred in the Jubilee Test when Vishwanath recalled Bob Taylor and that signaled doom for us. Botham has favorable memories of India though. Nice read. Thanks Abhinay.

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