Dennis Lillee

Published: 2016
Pages: 286
Author: Lillee, Dennis
Publisher: Affirm Publishing
Rating: 4 stars


Trying to explain to anyone, who didn’t have the privilege, what it was like to watch Dennis Lillee bowl can be a hard sell. It is easy to describe his action as the beau ideal for a fast bowler, but trying to convey the immense presence Lillee had or how he almost emanated his will to win to the viewer can be intangible.

Well the problem of explaining those intangibles to people can now be easily achieved by handing them Dennis Lillee, The Complete Illustrated Autobiography. The book not only has some great pictures, all from Lillee’s private collection, it also contains reminiscences from many of Lillee’s contemporaries.

These memories from legends such as Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh, Adam Gilchrist, and too many more to list really paint the picture of Lillee and the intangible qualities that made him a legend. An example of this was how close Lillee was, due to illness, to not bowling when he produced his famous 8-29 against a World XI, which included Garry Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar, Zaheer Abbas and Clive Lloyd. A man with a lesser will to win would not have left the pavilion.

The book, as illustrated biographies tend to do, moves rapidly through the life of Lillee. We learn that his English grandad and father support England during the Ashes battles and that his brother, an opening batsman, probably had more natural talent than Dennis.

What no one had, and all who knew him marvelled at, was Lillee’s commitment to the art of fast bowling and gut retching training. While others were at the bar after nets, Lillee was running laps of the oval. Those interviewed from Lillee’s pre Test days agree that he was fast, but unrefined and there were better prospects. They also agree he trained harder than anyone else and was keen to learn. This commitment saw him reach the pinnacle of his art and to also return after a back injury that should have finished his career when still in its infancy.

The book is written by Lillee, no ghost, and he does a fine job, being able to self reflect which is never easy in an autobiography. Lillee explains where his nickname FOT derived, and how he came to grow his iconic moustache. He also takes us through his well publicised controversies. The Javed Miandad kick; the aluminium bat; World Series Cricket and the infamous bet on England at 500-1 during the 1981 Ashes series.

Probably the only subject that Lillee does not cover is the conflict between himself and Kim Hughes. Perhaps he decided to let sleeping dogs lie, or that the subject has been so well covered over the years he has nothing more to say.

There is also the story of Lillee swapping his baggy green for a bobby helmet with a policeman. Lillee makes the point that ‘bobby’, especially given the prices baggy green caps fetch these days, did the best out of that swap.

The book’s subtitle proclaims Lillee as “Australia’s Greatest Ever Fast Bowler”. A big claim but if you read this book you too will be a believer. Highly recommended, don’t miss this one.

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