Pushing the Boundaries

Published: 2019
Pages: 280
Author: Pringle, Derek
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Rating: 4.5 stars

Living in Australia and spending a good deal of my time watching sport or reading cricket books, I was not overly familiar with the writings of Derek Pringle. As such Pushing the Boundaries was my first real exposure to his authorship. I must admit to being impressed. My only disappointment is this appears to be his only book, apart from a treatise on the 2005 Ashes series. The latter, you imagine is quite a different book to the one under review.

Pringle, during his playing career, was a poor man’s Ian Botham. More of a bowling all rounder, he lacked Botham’s ability to turn a game by an hour of big hitting, a deadly spell of bowling or a freak catch. Pringle was more of a steady bowler and reliable fielder. He was able to play a big hitting innings, although he never really came off in a Test match.   

As a result, a fit Botham was always given preference in the England side, and Pringle often played when Botham was unable to take his spot in the team. This doesn’t appear to have generated any real rivalry or envy on Pringle’s part, he writes lovingly of Botham both on and off the field.

Pringle starts his story with his early days at Cambridge and the cricket he played there. He tells of an earlier encounter with the complicated Peter Roebuck and later returns to him, during the sacking of Viv Richards and Joel Garner from Somerset. Roebuck does not come out of the sackings with too much credit.

For the majority of the book, Pringle seems to be having a good time, with copious amounts of alcohol and late nights ever present. From a distance, you can’t help but think how much more he would have achieved as a cricketer if he was more dedicated.

Bob Willis, Pringle’s captain on the Ashes tour of 1982/83, certainly made it clear to him that both Pringle and Graeme Fowler had let Willis down on that tour. Willis basically stated that Pringle and Fowler treated the tour as a holiday and spent too much time knocking about with Botham. It was brutally honest of Pringle to include this exchange in his book, and perhaps it best sums up his unfulfilled career.

The writing throughout is top notch and there is always an element of amusement even in the darkest days of English cricket. For instance when England appointed four separate captains for the 1988 season, Pringle writes, “it was a head count that made Henry VIII look positively forgiving”.

There are so many outrageous stories in this book that it’s hard to pick a favourite. On balance my personal choice was from the 1982/83 tour where Derek Randall dressed up as a woman and picked up a punter outside the England hotel. All this to win a bet with Botham, who as always appears in most of the hedonistic stories contained in Pringle’s book.

Pushing The Boundaries is highly recommended. It’s an excellent read and should be in all cricket lovers’ book collections.

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