Even brilliantly accurate satirists can become boring unless they have something to say. That is the triumph of CrickiLeaks. Purporting to be a series of spoof Ashes diaries that reveal the innermost thoughts of famous English and Australian cricketers, CrickiLeaks doesn’t just superbly capture the players’ voices and vocabularies, it also makes them say surprising, hilarious things.
Like a champion batsman, CrickiLeaks raises its game when the challenge is greatest. Consider the difficulty of taking on Geoff Boycott. Every cricket fan has heard dozens of decent imitations of Boycott’s thick Yorkshire accent and self-confident manner. How could a satirist put anything new into Boycott’s mouth?
I first met Bob Dylan when he came to watch me get a hundred on a seaming pitch at Scarborough in 1966. He asked me for a couple of tips and I told him my door’s always open… Dylan was having some problems with his technique, so I suggested to him that he should think about his head position and, if that didn’t work, go electric.
According to the CrickiLeaks version of history, it was Boycott who shouted ‘Judas!’ at the Dylan concert at the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Hence the folk-to-electric turning-point in Dylan’s career only came about because Boycott was furious that the American folk icon ‘reckoned Raymond Illingworth were twice the captain I’d ever be’.
They patched it up, though, Bob and Boycs. ‘I respected him and I know he thought a lot of me. Great player, but of course he never had to play on uncovered pitches.’
The diaries of David Gower and Graham Gooch are adjacent entries in Cricki-Leaks. The two England teammates — one languorous and laidback, the other fiercely driven and disciplined — bump into each other in the hotel lobby at 4.45 a.m. Gooch, on his way to the gym, writes that Gower ‘was in a black suit and white shirt combo; some toff fashion statement I suppose, but at least he was awake and ready for an important day… Maybe I am finally getting through to him.’
Gower interprets the meeting differently. ‘Slightly awkward moment just now: I had been at a black tie do with Prince Andrew… when I saw the ridiculous slave-driver Gooch in the lobby.’
Steve Waugh, the gritty Aussie battler, finds his true voice in a diary entry written when he was aged 10 ¾:
I looked around my classmates with disbelief. Where was their passion, their strength of character, their desire to be the best Year Five Australian History Class we could possibly be? Their happy faces were like a knife to my heart punching me in the gut.
Waugh and Boycott, Gooch and Gower are just four of CrickiLeaks’s many dazzling highlights. But this book does come with one warning. Don’t try reading it aloud to friends: it is impossible not to break down laughing.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated August 13, 2011Tags: Book reviews, Cricket, Non-fiction