Monday, April 29, 2013

Paul Nixon - The man who never kept quietly !

“Keeping quiet”  by Paul Nixon and Jon Colman. Review by Paddy Briggs published in the Bulletin of the “Cricket Society” May 2013

Paul Nixon is that rare English cricketer of modern times - one who was popular and well known despite never playing Test cricket. He had a late flowering as an England limited overs player - famously in the 2007 Cricket World Cup - but he had missed out on International selection until he was 36 and was never really that close to securing a Test place. This marvellous book explains Nico's appeal - he is as mad as a badger, a loyal and talented team-mate and a bloody good cricketer. It is a wonderfully honest telling of his tale and it is characteristic of the man that he not only names his ghost-writer, Jon Colman, but that Colman's name appears alongside Nixon's on the front cover and in the same size font. That's pretty rare and hats off to Nixon for doing it. I cannot praise Colman's work too highly - this is a well-structured, highly literate and intelligent book and he has done Paul Nixon's story full justice in his telling of it. It is also well-presented with good photographs, although the absence of an index is a bad omission.

Nixon comes from Cumbrian farming stock and as a child had to work hard on his family farm. He was spotted as a young player and honed his skills in Club cricket, as a Lord's apprentice and then in the Leicestershire seconds. He made his full county debut in 1989 and soon became a regular. After ten years of loyal service and selection for a full England tour to Pakistan and Sri Lanka as second wicket-keeper (he got few chances with the obsessively fit Alec Stewart holding the first team place) he could not secure his future with Leicestershire and moved to Kent. The book is illuminating on the frankly woeful management he saw in County cricket and Nixon pulls no punches. After Kent, who also disposed of his services rather peremptorily in favour of Geraint Jones, Nico returned to Leicestershire for a second spell and as Captain and his career peaked in 2007 with his England Limited Overs selections. He went out with a bang in 2011 with a T20 triumph for his County.

Incompetent County administrators. Standoffish First team regulars and "cliques" at both County and International level. A drunken England Captain (“...worse for wear and smelling of booze”) . Peter Willey ("... the most miserable bugger I have ever played with") Michael Atherton ("... as patronising as hell") Hansie Cronje (“...the tightest man in the club) all get neatly hammered by Nixon in this brutally honest book. He is open (perhaps too open) about his own shortcomings as well - that he was inwardly riddled with self doubt for much of his career will come as a surprise to those who only saw his self-confident swagger.

My only quarrel with Nico is his obsession with sledging – well described in the book. This obsession, which once got him an official reprimand from the ECB, gives the book its ironic title. He criticises Chris Read for not joining in the "verbals" between Paul Collingwood and Shane Warne in a Sydney Test Match with these words " ... silence from a wicketkeeper in those circumstances is a criminal offence" . I disagree. For me the extreme form of gamesmanship that is sledging demeans the game and diminishes those who do it. Sledging is an admission of failure by its adherents and Nixon’s love of it is a regrettable descent to the gutter of sport by an otherwise very decent and admirable sportsman.

“Keeping Quiet – Paul Nixon”

by Paul Nixon and Jon Colman

The History Press £17.99

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