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Field Notes

Botham's life—in his own words

Field Notes
Botham.My Autobiography.Don't Tell Kath
Collins Willow Rs:160;Pages:512
NOT since the era of W.G. Grace in the 19th century has a sportsman held an entire nation in his thrall in the man-ner of Ian Terrence Botham. Larger than life. The best description, perhaps, for this champion all-rounder.

Now while cricket-bios are a dime-a-dozen and usually as exciting as a Trevor Bailey innings, this one stands out for its candidness. Sure, it has its fair bit of cricket in it. But what has taken the book atop the bestseller list (and this, two years after the great man said farewell to the game) are the revealing insights into Botham's life off the field.

If ever an autobiography reflects the subject, this is it. Blunt, honest, no-holds-barred. And the credit for this should go to Botham's 'ghost', Peter Hayter.

The release of the paperback edition has made the book accessible to Indian cricket lovers, even if the photographs have subsequently been reduced to 'stamp-size'. What's more, it has an additional chapter in which Botham makes a rather shameless plug for Ray Illingworth's job as English cricket's supremo.

In between descriptions of his various cricketing feats readers will lap up juicy details of Botham's drug bust in 1986 and the subsequent ban on him, the strains on his marriage (wife Kathy comes out as a remarkably strong person and the real hero of the whole story), and his confrontations and punch-ups over the years. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell is the most illustrious 'victim' of the notorious Botham temper, being on the receiving end of his fists in a Melbourne bar. This even before Botham had made his Test debut. Neither Pakistani nor Australian cricketers come out of this narrative smelling particularly sweet.

Botham's warmer side is revealed in his various walks for charity, the money funding leukaemia research. Ultimately, after renditions of The Miracle of 1981 and other amazing exploits, this is what he will be best remembered for. Who could ask for more?

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