HiggyMartin Chandler |
Author: Alastair Hignell
Publisher: A & C Black
Rating: 5 stars
Higgy is the autobiography of Alistair Hignell and, as such, I dare say there are more than a few readers of this review, particularly those under 35, who are wondering just what sort of a cricket book it can be.
Let me say first of all that however unfamiliar his name might be that Hignell was an international sportsman. He was capped by England’s Rugby Union selectors 14 times between 1975 and 1979. In those days any hint of professionalism in that sport resulted in an immediate expulsion and inability to take part at any level so Hignell’s paid sporting career consisted of ten seasons of county cricket with Gloucestershire. Over that time it would be fair to say that he never did enough to trouble the England selectors, but almost 7,500 First Class runs with 11 centuries and an average of almost 30 is the record of a decent county pro.
Is the story of Hignell’s struggles to establish himself as a professional cricketer worth reading? The answer is a resounding yes. It is an honest and frank account of a largely very happy time in Hignell’s life. A subsequent career in journalism equipped him with the skills needed to produce a superbly written book and there are some hugely entertaining stories; One about his upsetting Ian Botham when a student is absolutely priceless, and another about Geoffrey Boycott barely less amusing.
The same approach is brought to Hignell’s Rugby career. Now I have to admit that, in those days at least, I was almost as keen on the oval ball game as on cricket or soccer, but even if I weren’t the story of Hignell’s playing career, interspersed as it was with many bouts of injury, would still have entertained me. The story of a touring Cambridge University XV’s win over an Italian side who never normally lost to touring teams is in the same high class as the Botham and Boycott tales.
Injury ended Hignell’s Rugby career early and an opportunity to settle down into a teaching career ended his First Class cricket at the age of 27. Teaching did not, however, claim him for long and he soon moved into broadcasting where he remained, for various employers, until retirement in 2008.
It is the ambition of many to retire, as Hignell did, at the age 52 but in his case it was certainly not through choice. As well as having three sporting careers to chronicle (Rugby, Cricket and Broadcasting) Higgy also deals with its author’s long run of health problems that culminated in a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. A significant part of the book’s mission statement delivers a brutally frank portrayal of how Hignell and his family dealt with the hammer blow that that news delivered to them.
As cricket books go Higgy is a long way from the mainstream, and I have little doubt that the same applies to Rugby books. That much conceded it would be an absolute tragedy if this autobiography managed to fall between the two stools. It is a magnificent book. There are passages of victory, defeat, struggle, achievement, joy and desolation but above all of hope, determination and triumph. It is five stars for Higgy from me. Go out and buy his story – you know it makes sense.