Post-retirement player autobiographies might put a few noses out of joint, but Dirk Nannes says they can play a valuable role in helping to peel back the corporate curtain.
There have been a few autobiographies hitting the headlines recently, most notably those of Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting, who have ruffled a few feathers.
Autobiographies like these have cricketers and boards divided. Are they a good thing? A document telling stories of what occurred in a previous generation; a chance for a player to clear the air; an opportunity to set the record straight. Or are they quite the opposite? A sinister parting shot or even a way to profiteer by slandering former teammates, and sensationalising team life. A reasonable view probably lies somewhere in between the two.
Stuck in a corporate bubble, players these days are forced to tow the party line. Rather than say what they think, players are often told what to say by media managers, legal teams, or CEOs. Boring press conferences with players sprouting clichés are conducted in front of a media who are trying to conjure up anything meaningful to fulfil their daily word quota. It’s a sad state of affairs for everyone, including a duded cricketing public.
I recall before one press interview being asked by teammates to get the words ‘caravan’, ‘gypsy’, ‘watermelon’ and ‘farmer’ into my answers. I obliged, and it made for a great quote, but the respect for the occasion was non-existent.
A book is a players chance to speak without the filter, an opportunity to correct a horrid misquote, or a personal opinion that was forcibly hidden away beneath the ‘corporate disguise’.
As robotic as many players can seem before a camera, they have their own point of view, and are entitled to voice it. At the end of any career, a player must have a huge weight they want to get off their chest, and an autobiography can be a form of therapy – an opportunity to draw a line under events and say, ‘Right, I’ve finally stated my point of view, I feel like the issue is resolved, and I no longer have to worry about it.’
And who can deny them their opportunity?
Andy Flower has said that he would like to see them stopped, but how can anyone? There is a thirsty cricket public wanting to know more, and with boards gagging players from speaking their minds, it makes autobiographies all the more compelling. The diatribe put out in sanctioned press conferences serves nobody.
I’d much rather be reading Ponting’s book than hearing Joe Bloggs is ‘Delighted to be joining the (insert county name and sponsor here) for the 2014 (insert competition name and sponsor here) campaign.’ Spare me!
But then ask: what of the sanctity of the dressing room? Is nothing kept ‘in-house’ anymore?
I believe there is an element of trust involved, and it’s impossible to police this line. If someone is willing to live with the consequences, then go for it. I don’t believe it’s in a player’s best interest to be ‘catty’ or bitter, or to say things purely to sell a book. The cricketing public are much smarter than to fall for that.
I agree there are a lot of things that happen in a team environment that are best left unsaid. But, if some team matters have been dealt with in-house, and adequate time has passed since, then why would anyone be offended when the truth is made public? What’s wrong with the truth anyway? Are boards or teammates exempt from criticism?
If I have a criticism of a board, and nobody ever listened to my repeated calls for it to change during my career, then why can I not write it in a book? Why can I not document my frustrations? People can tweet their concerns openly, write newspaper articles, say things when public speaking, so why not a book?
A book is a more calculated piece, and therefore holds its author more accountable than any of these other formats. There is also a permanency that can’t be retracted, causing authors to be doubly sure they get things right.
I love reading that other changing rooms are the same as the ones that I have both enjoyed and endured and I think that if someone has the balls to write something in ink, they have every right to do it. A well-written, thought-provoking account can help to change perceptions of cricketers. I support them, and if it came to pass that one day someone wrote about me, I’d rather read criticism that was calculated, considered, and articulated without word limits or time constraints.