A writer when he begins his touring life with a tour to a tournament which all the teams take lightly, can rightfully say that he began on the wrong line. He talks of being affixed with cricket rather than looking around as all sorts of bookies were involved during the tournament. Thus the book seems to be named well.
He talks of getting into tough situations and also talks of how quickly his views on Hong Kong changed. Initially he comes across as an author who complains a lot. He also introduces us to the division within the team; Julios and Nerds. Julios were named after Julio Iglesias.
He likes to talk about his career as a cricket journalist as though destiny favoured him and he was the right person at the right place at the right time. After the first tour, the cricket that he got to cover was the one day legs of Australian cricket team.
This was also around the time when Australian cricket team started to have different teams for ODI’s and Test matches. So, the newspaper that he worked for thought that it was a good idea to have different journalists to cover Tests and ODI’s
So, his first tour was to New Zealand and it was the first time that he saw the crowd trouble first hand. It wasn’t to be the last time too. It was just to be a curtain raiser for what he was to witness and experience on the caribbean tour.
The writing part in the book goes few notches higher because he decides to infuse the happenings with more than a touch of sarcasm. So, his experiences at the hotels makes you chuckle. While the problems he faces with a dial up connection are unknown to a lot of people brought up in the the broadband era, he manages to strike a chord every single time he talks of internet connection.
After the series he is sent to cover the 1999 World Cup and it’s here that he brings his best ability to the fore – describing cricket grounds vividly. He also starts to talk of the ideas bounced to him from the head office as ‘Ideas factory’. Once he starts talking of the ideas factory, he makes it clear from the outset that he doesn’t like them. It’s on these twin tours that he realised how insecure players can be. They can be as fragile as the next man.
He talks of competition among the journalists – to be the person that breaks a news, to be the person that gets the rare soundbites or to be the person that a player wants to talk to. He says in the book, “In the super-competitive world of modern media, being first is regularly preferred to being right”.
Players can be men of moods depending on the way they perform on the field. They can range from being nice to being surly. If they realise that a same publication or the same person is criticising them more often than not, they resort to the simple question, “Have you ever played cricket?”. Andrew counters this by saying,”You don’t need to have killed anyone to report on a murder”
Warne is a regular feature in the book. Be it describing his abilities or his frailties, Andrew doesn’t flinch. When the whole saga of removing Shane Warne played out, Andrew describes it saying, “The nation’s cricket administrators had made it clear that vice was no longer a prerequisite for the vice-captaincy”
Gilchrist also comes in for some major praise from the Andrew as he presented him with impeccably clean columns, to the comma. The next person whom he ghosted for, did not leave him with good experiences. In fact, towards the end of the book, coupled up with his own frustrations he lets go. He talks of the man he was ghosting for, in a none too pleasant manner.
He is brilliant with conveying his emotions at a moment with few words. When he is sent off to cover the Test series v Pakistan and has to describe Sharjah, he does it by saying, “Western morality may be a crime but western extravagance remains an essential status symbol”
Yes, he does put his opinions bluntly and is off the mark when he is forming opinions, but that does not deter you from the fact that he wants to tell you what he thinks. The fall out with the “Ideas factory’ starts to happen on the return trip from Sharjah.
He gives two reasons that made him feel bad about the job. First was the instance when he was asked for a vox pop piece. Instead of approaching people, he made up names and views and sent it back. Second and the major one was after submitting to the ‘Here’s the headline , give me a story to fit beneath it’ principle, he refused to toe the line. There were many things that brought up the realisation. One of them was him going after Mark Cosgrove. After that, he quit the job