How Not to be a Cricketer

Published: 2021
Pages: 308
Author: Tufnell, Phil
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3 stars

There are a number of books on my shelves with Phil Tufnell’s name on the spine although I’m not convinced that, before now, I have ever got round to reading any of them from start to finish. They have all been in the pending pile at some point, but never managed to get to the top.

How Not to be a Cricketer might have suffered a similar fate. After all two of the other Tufnell books proclaim themselves as autobiographies, so this one certainly couldn’t be another one of those. Which is what made me curious as to who had undertaken the writing duties, and it turns out that is John Woodhouse.

I know Woodhouse’s work well. He has ghosted five other books that I have much enjoyed, about Graeme Fowler, Steve Harmison, James Taylor, Rob Key and Fowler again. All five books are entertaining and well written hence, given a quiet afternoon I decided to take a look at How Not to be a Cricketer.

In order to give an idea of what the book is like it is probably helpful to begin by outlining what it does not contain. First of all there are no descriptions of cricket matches, there is no analysis of the technical aspects of the game and little in the way of impressions of the playing abilities of those who Tufnell played with and against. In short those who limit their reading to ‘serious’ cricket writing will not enjoy How Not to be a Cricketer.

Having stated that the book is not an autobiography, and it certainly isn’t, it is nonetheless essentially autobiographical. Not in the sense that it contains the story of Tufnell’s life, but what it does consist of are a series of outtakes from Tufnell’s past gathered together in a series of chapters that deal with various aspects of his life. All begin with the words How Not To, followed by couplets like Impress the Leader, Achieve Physical Perfection, Be the World’s Best Bowler, Be a Captain and Ruin TMS.

Altogether there are twenty of these chapters. The stories told are always laced with humour, are generally self-effacing and help to preserve the ‘cheeky chappie’ persona that Tufnell has always tried to cultivate. What I don’t know is how many of the stories have been made use of in either of the autobiographies that have appeared in the past, but I do know that most of them are genuinely entertaining, and a number do give revealing insights into the life of an international cricketer.

One thing that is certainly striking is how much every aspect of the way the English game is run has changed since the time, not so very long ago, when Tufnell earned his living as a purveyor of orthodox left arm spin. Naturally it suits Tufnell’s purpose to give the impression that the whole game was run in somewhat amateurish fashion, but even taking that as read it is clear that the professionalism of the way English cricket is organised has improved immeasurably in many ways in the last quarter of a century.

The bottom line is that How Not to be a Cricketer is not going to go down as a classic of cricket literature, but at the same time for those who like Tufnell, and enjoy a bit of humour and irreverence, it is certainly worth a couple of hours of your time.

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