Eight Days a Week
Author: Jonathan Agnew
Publisher: Ringpress Books
Rating: 4 stars
By David Taylor
21 Jul 2008
It was twenty years ago today ... well, this year anyway, that 'Aggers' as we have come to know him, decided to put pen to paper and write a diary of the 1988 season. The idea was not a new one - Bob Willis in 1978 and Peter Roebuck in 1983 had done the same, and Ed Smith would do likewise in 2003, but this was written from a slightly different perspective. Willis was already an established England player, while Roebuck was seemingly content with his lot as a county cricketer. The theme of Agnew's book is his frustration and bewilderment at not being selected for England, as he takes wickets in match after match for Leicestershire, continuing his renaissance of the previous year when he was the only bowler to take 100 wickets.
Indeed the book starts with public recognition of his achievement. He is selected as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year - "after playing for England, it is the biggest honour available in the game" - and picked for MCC against the champion county in the curtain-raiser at Lord's. But it is to be a season of disappointment. England get through 27 players (and four captains) in the Tests against West Indies and Sri Lanka; but there is no room for Agnew, who believes he is paying the price for failing to take advantage of his opportunities when selected in 1984 and '85, as well as some 'history' between himself and selector Fred Titmus. He and his team-mates are incensed at the selection of Monte Lynch, who had appeared for a rebel West Indies team in South Africa (and who is predictably singled out by the Windies quicks).
So he settles in for a season of county cricket, and we are introduced to an oddball cast of team-mates, some of them very well known such as David Gower, Peter Willey and the young Phillip DeFreitas and Chris Lewis. Gower's rather ineffectual captaincy, temper tantrums from DeFreitas and others and fast-medium bowler Les Taylor's never-ending injury worries are recurring themes. At the end of the season Leicestershire have won nothing, Agnew's marital relations are on shaky ground due to his long absences (he and his wife would go on to divorce, though he has happily remarried) and he's left out of the tour party for the trip to India, a tour that would be cancelled anyway.
There is one telling comment that I'd forgotten. He does some commentary on a Refuge Cup Sunday match, and remarks: "I found it quite terrifying. It is one thing to broadcast to Leicester, but this was nationwide on Radio Two. It is a lot harder than I thought. I can empathise with the Radio Three Test Match Special lot. They must be real pros."
If only he knew, eh?