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  Books   Finding hope beyond drives, pulls and flicks

Finding hope beyond drives, pulls and flicks

| SAAD BIN JUNG
Published : Sep 4, 2016, 6:34 am IST
Updated : Sep 4, 2016, 6:34 am IST

It’s been a long time since a cricketer has written a book.

It’s been a long time since a cricketer has written a book. Not a ghost writer trying to put in his two bits without having played a single delivery at an international level, nor a first class cricketer desperately wanting to make himself look bigger through his words; but a full time genius of a sportsman that just sat down and wrote on cricket solely because he loved the game.

AB de Villiers’ AB: The Autobiography is not just about ABD as it is about a virtuoso that has wielded a bat to greatness and then has taken the effort to actually sit down and explain to mere mortals like us how and what it takes to become one of the greatest ambassadors of the game.

 

The book speaks cricket, it embraces the game and quite apart from taking you through the trials and tribulations of a cricketer, especially a batsman that has transcended technique and achieved heights that few will ever dream of. It also humbly puts into perspective the world of a sportsman that believes in the greater power of God even as he reaches heights of fame and brilliance that would distort even the minds of sages leave alone ordinary humans.

That ABD is human is apparent for he admits to nerves, butterflies before he goes out to bat even after having played hundreds of games. His advise on how to overcome the fear of failure and settle into a rhythm is priceless.

 

The book is sensitive and has guidance that every batsman should treasure. For instance, when ABD writes “Sometimes in this complex game, for no apparent reason, everything just feels right. That imperfect shot feels right, no question,” he is allowing you a look into his character. I think he is telling us that even when you are not in flow and your timing is off, the amazing game has the ability of putting it all back in order for you in the briefest of moments; maybe all it needs is the confidence to go and play that shot even when it just does not feel right.

And that I suppose is the first step towards becoming a genius, for I certainly would never take a shot when it didn’t feel right. And that’s why I remained a mortal whilst ABD has surpassed genius, much like Virat Kohli.

 

The book has a lot of cricket, and in this are hidden tidbits that batsmen will find extremely useful. Apart from the mental and technical skills on the field, the book emphasises that a budding cricketer could well do with a few good friends on the circuit, those that mean him well and become his guiding light through his tougher challenges. The book is extremely mature yet its written in a very simple flow — one that even a child in his teens can relate to. Most importantly, it continuously drips on the reader a need to remain humble and how such humility actually becomes the strength in trying times.

When this newspaper called me in Africa and asked me to review the book I was a bit hesitant. How could anyone write anything but praise for such a brilliant sportsman, especially one who is down to earth and an amazing human Then I thought I would get ABD on issues that he might have omitted like other cricketers, issues of apartheid and its devastation on RSA sport, on Test cricket versus T20, on match fixing and other challenges that plague cricket. In today’s trying times— when it has taken the Supreme court to come down hard on the scandalous cricket fraternity of India — a cricket book that does not address the issues related to such a scourge is not the book to read. To get you to understand how tricky matters have become let me give you an example. After the court ruling that players’ associations should be involved in cricket administration in India, I got a call from a few Hyderabad cricketers to join a chat that would have Ranji players. I was hoping against hope that in the true spirit of the court ruling and certainly in the truest spirit of cricket that had of late taken a hit, ruined by cheats and thieves within our own fraternity, players now would unite to fight the corrupt.

 

I started to post that players that have been chargesheeted for fraud should not be part of the system and we should all try and rid the system of the third-rate crooks that have sullied Hyderabad cricket. Every time that I posted anything of this nature a few numbers would silently exit the chat. I was sent feelers that such issues should be discussed privately and not on open platforms. Needless to state that I was disgusted with those who did not want to clean the system. I backed off.

Under such a trying and compromised situation ABD’s book is like a breath of fresh air. It is unafraid to discuss betting, match fixing and problems associated with a resurging South Africa fighting its way out of apartheid.

 

If only we had people like ABD in India we might not have needed the courts to dictate on how Indian cricket should be run. Sadly we don’t have such people and our cricket continues to suffer. Worse, some of our superstars have actually written autobiographies without even attempting to address the issues that plague cricket. That is why, quite apart from just being a splendid book on cricket and cricketers, ABD’s book is a must read for all those that need to understand that corruption in cricket has become a reality and it is time for people to take an aggressive stance against it. Further, the book also shows how humility and fame can exist together, something that our superstars have been unable to do. ABD’s autobiography must be read by for every aspiring and present-day cricketer as well as by cricketers who are trying their hand at administrating the game. This book proves to me that there is still hope for cricket.

 

Saad Bin Jung is a former international cricketer, writer, novelist, conservationist who runs camps and safaris in Africa

Location: Tanzania