True ColoursStuart Wark |
Author: Gilchrist, Adam
Rating: 3.5 stars
Adam Gilchrist was widely considered to be the leading wicketkeeper / batsman of his era, and one of the greatest of all-time. As such, a biography of his life, his thoughts and his approach to the game had the potential to be a fascinating journey into the mindset of a legend. Gilchrist has also been involved in many of the major incidents within world cricket in the past decade, and his perspective on these events would be particularly interesting. It was, therefore, unsurprising to see the recent release of his autobiography ‘True Colours’.
When I first got my copy of ‘True Colours’, I was a little disconcerted to find that it exceeded 600 pages in length. Steve Waugh’s attempt to emulate ‘War and Peace’ with his book ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’ has left me a wary of excessive long and verbose autobiographies. In spite of these concerns, ‘True Colours’ is written quite well, without any great pretensions of literary greatness. Whilst there is no official co-author identified, Gilchrist acknowledges Sydney Morning Herald literary editor and writer Malcolm Knox for his assistance in ‘constructing’ the book.
Gilchrist does not hold back with his views, and the sections regarding his relationship with fellow players Shane Warne and Michael Slater are particularly interesting. Gilchrist is refreshingly honest, and cheerfully admits to be ‘scared’ when facing a fired up Allan Donald at the WACA early in his career. Very few batsmen have ever been able to admit they were physically frightened, even when they clearly were, and it is to Gilchrist’s credit that he is willing to confront this issue openly. I found some of Gilchrist’s descriptions of the technical and mental aspects of his game fascinating, with the example being how he focuses his eyes at the start of his innings a great tool for lesser batsmen to consider utilising.
I detest reading book reviews that are composed primarily of a series of quotations from the manuscript. I consider it exceptional laziness to simply use sections of the book in padding out a review, rather than actually providing a carefully thought-out opinion of its literary merit. However, in the case of ‘True Colours’ it is hard to write a review without referring to some of the more controversial aspects of the book that have already been widely reported, particularly in Australia and India. The media in both countries have picked up on a few statements and paragraphs that have the potential to be interpreted negatively, and they have then run rampant with them.
It is perhaps sad that the publicity team has seen fit to clearly leak aspects of the book they considered sensational. In context and within the wider book, I found there was little truly offensive or controversial material. It has been fascinating to note the on-line vitriol from many Indian and Sri Lankan supporters who have clearly not read the book or relevant passages. I actually feel that this approach will backfire on the publishers, with previous fans of Gilchrist choosing not to buy the book on the basis of what they think he has said. Gilchrist has undoubtedly been more open and forthcoming than he could have been last year whilst he was still contracted to Cricket Australia, however, it was not a vindictive or nasty book in any way.
‘True Colours’ is not instant classic, and will not go down in history as a must read autobiography in the same vein as ’10 for 66 and all That’ . It is too long, and some parts could have been successfully edited without losing their impact. However, it is interesting and revealing enough to maintain the attention of cricket followers throughout the entire 600 pages. It has sufficient new material to justify its purchase, even if the reader has biographies of fellow players of this era. If you are a fan of Australian cricket in the past decade, it is well worth reading, and it is one of the better autobiographies released this year. 3.5 stars.
It seems that cricketing autobiographies are becoming longer and longer first we had 802 pages by Steve Waugh and now Adam Gilchrist has managed to produce another whopper. Although I enjoyed the former, on balance I think this is the better read.
Steve Waugh once said that Gilchrist ‘was a once in a generation cricketer’, but surprisingly Gilchrist never thought of himself as a great, and always had doubts about his belonging in the elite cricketing class, both as a batsman and a wicket keeper.
This was a surprising revelation, but was one of just many such revelations throughout the book. This could well be the most honest heartfelt cricket biography ever written – although I have not read Rising From The Ashes by Graham Thorpe which is said to be brutally honest – with the author seemingly prepared to bare his soul on everything, both on-field and off-field incidents.
You really believe you know ‘the real Gilly’ after reading his journey from breaking his nose the first time he kept wicket to the scoring the second fastest ton in Test cricket history, of which surprisingly for cricket tragics Gilchrist had no idea of how close he was to beating ‘King’ Viv’s record.
It was quite amazing to find just how emotional Gilchrist was during his career, seemingly breaking down and crying on a regular basis. He also comes across as being very sensitive, becoming most upset at sledging he received from Shane Warne and Darren Berry, which seemed of a school boy nature, but was obviously still hurtful for the author.
His relationship with Warne is a complicated one, and it seems to fluctuate from mates to enemies throughout their time in the Australian cricket team, although Gilchrist’s respect for Warne the cricketer is apparent.
Gilchrist is quite candid in his opinion of Muttiah Muralitharan believing him good for cricket, but still feeling that his action was against the laws of the game, and that the laws were changed to accommodate the Sri Lankan spinner.
Some controversial points were released before the books publication, but as is often the case, they were taken completely out of context, and after reading the rest of the book, there is no doubt that Gilchrist is honest in giving his account of the most recent SCG Test between Australia and India.
It should be said that Gilchrist is far too close to many of the controversies he comments on, and he often seems unable to give a dispassionate commentary on a number of issues.
The book for its size is surprising error free, with only the very occasional typo. Although I did find one factual error, that I imagine only the most tragic of cricket tragics would notice; Gilly writes that he was only the third Australian wicket keeper to captain his country after Jack Blackham and Barry Jarman.
In fact he was the fourth, with William Murdoch keeping wicket in one Test in which he was captain, although Blackham did play in the Test as a specialist batsman.
The book on the whole was maybe a fraction too long, but it is totally engrossing; for instance his account of the 2005 Ashes series is riveting and Gilchrist surprisingly gives a completely different perspective of a series that has been written and analysed ad nauseam.
If you really want to know what it is like to be a Test cricketer in the modern era of ‘Big Brother’ then don’t miss True Colours four stars from the Mac