Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket

Published: 2015
Pages: 288
Author: Adams, Chris
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Rating: 4.5 stars

There is always going to be the exception that proves the rule, but time and again I find that cricketing autobiographies of the recently retired are much more interesting if they concern the careers of those who don’t quite reach the top, rather than those who have had years of international cricket. Chris ‘Grizzly’ Adams is a perfect example and this book, written with the assistance of Bruce Talbot, is a fine read.

I have often wondered why books like this tend to be so much better, and have come up with a few ideas over the years. One is that I suspect the big star, with greater demands on his time, simply has fewer hours to spend with his ‘ghost’, the result being a less than rounded account. The novelty of the stories the author has to tell are a factor as well. A major star will have played in many well known Tests, so it may well be that little of the cricketing content is actually new. Adams only played in five Tests, so his international career is not the most substantial part of the book. That is in stark contrast with his county career. There were no central contracts when Adams started, but the influence of the leading players in the County Championship was already on the wane, so there are very many stories in this book that are decidedly unfamiliar.

How good a batsman was Chris Adams? Better than his haul of five Test caps suggests has always been my view. Had Adams been born a Londoner, or perhaps a Yorkshireman, and played for a ‘fashionable’ county then there can be little doubt there would have been more caps. He admits there was the occasional error of judgment in things he said or did along the way, but it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that never having played for the right county was as big a factor as any in that truncated career.

It can’t have helped that those five Tests were particularly tough ones. All were in South Africa, and England were 2-4 in the third over when Adams faced his first delivery in Test cricket. As his opening chapter explains he hung around for an hour, but too often in the series Adams made a start without going on, and his Test career ended when he was dismissed for just a single in the now discredited run chase at Centurion in the final match of the series.

The story of Adams’ rise and fall at his first county, Derbyshire, is illuminating. That of his move to Sussex and his captaining the Martlets to their first Championships is exhilarating. The frankness of the account is particularly striking. The good feelings when he did well, the frustrations when things didn’t go so well, and where, when things went wrong, he believes he made his mistakes.

It probably helps that, despite his having a fine record against Lancashire, I have always liked Chris Adams. But I certainly felt by the time I had finished his book that he had had a raw deal from the England hierarchy, and was treated rather shabbily by Derbyshire and Surrey, the county who he coached after his playing career ended following the conclusion of the 2008 summer. Adams is honest about his feelings, and always willing to express regret where he feels, on reflection he made mistakes. In addition Adams doesn’t shy away from the tragic events of the death of his young Sussex teammate Umer Rashid, and that of his enormously talented and popular young charge at Surrey, Tom Maynard.

Although Chris Adams gets a good deal of sympathy from me I do bear in mind, as does he, that there were many positives. Whatever might have gone wrong in his life, and as noted there were some genuine tragedies, he did still spend two decades playing cricket for a living and did so successfully and without having to spend much time on the treatment table. So in truth Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket is a celebration of a live well lived, and is a story that is remarkably well written. It is highly recommended.



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