Tales From The Front Line

Published: 2020
Pages: 288
Author: Fletcher, Luke
Publisher: Pitch
Rating: 3 stars

Luke Fletcher’s autobiography was published last October at a time when, perhaps, the 32 year old Nottinghamshire seamer would have shared the views of many that his best days were probably behind him. Personally I always liked Fletcher, a man who I would describe, with no disrespect intended, as an old-fashioned county cricketer. A reliable bowler with the potential to make a few runs if necessary I nonetheless cannot imagine that his name has ever warranted too much discussion amongst those responsible for selecting England sides.

In the circumstances whilst Fletcher’s book is not styled as a valedictory one I have to confess to having rather assumed it was, and it has taken me until now to get round to reading it. As I do so however Fletcher is having the season of his life, nine First Class appearances bringing him 47 wickets at just 13.06. Unexpectedly finding his services required in the original draft for The Hundred back in 2019 seems to have given Fletcher a new lease of life.

In terms of what sort of book Tales from the Front Line represents that is, essentially, autobiographical. That said the book does not delve too deeply into Fletcher’s psyche and is largely, as its title suggests, a selection of short and snappy stories, often laced with humour, from Fletcher’s cricket career. The recounting of the many and varied experiences over as many as fifty chapters means that his reader gets to know the larger than life character that Fletcher undoubtedly is, but at the same time he certainly holds a good deal of himself back.

By the nature of their content many of the chapters involve others, not always in an entirely flattering light, but there is no settling of scores and none of Fletcher’s teammates or opponents are going to be consulting their lawyers about what is written about them. In fact many of them are given, and take, the opportunity to add their own perspectives to Fletcher’s ‘tales’.

Despite those reservations the reality is that when you have a decent writer like Dave Bracegirdle assisting in the  production of a book with so many chapters there are bound to be some gems in there. One example is Fletcher’s account of Notts’ victory in the 2017 Royal London Cup final at Lord’s. That chapter describes an excellent game of cricket very well, but more importantly the addition of the player’s perspective from Fletcher brings the whole experience of a Lord’s final to life.

A week after that Lord’s success, a game I didn’t watch on the television, came one that I did see, Notts’ meeting with Warwickshire in the Blast. An otherwise routine game contained that appalling looking incident when Sam Hain hit a full blooded drive straight back at Fletcher and which then struck the bowler on the top of his head. The sound of leather striking bone was terrifying and all in the ground and more particularly the commentary box feared the worst. The game was delayed for some time and not unnaturally there was speculation that the match would be abandoned.

In one sense the incident is, gratifyingly, something of a non-story in that although as a thoroughly sensible precaution Fletcher did not play again that summer the damage seems to have been neither serious nor permanent. Nonetheless Fletcher’s philosophical take on the incident and its aftermath that must, for a time at least, have been as frightening for him as for everyone else present, is well worth reading.

All in all Tales from the Front Line is an entertaining read but, in some ways, something of a missed opportunity. It would have been interesting to know more about Fletcher himself and, although I can understand why it is an issue he chooses not to make reference to, the travails of his great mate, Alex Hales, whose problems he must surely have strong views on.

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