The View From Down Here – Book Review ‘True Colours’ by Adam Gilchrist

 A few of you may have been noticing that I’ve been writing a few book reviews over in PulseWrestling (here, here, here, here and even here). Well, I took a break from wrestling tomes as I have a few other books to read. And this one fits nicely here into Inside Pulse Sports.

So my next tome is ‘True Colours’ by Adam Gilchrist (2008).

For those unaware, Adam Gilchrist was the Australian wicketkeeper through the start of the twenty-first century and he rewrote the book on what was expected of a wickie in cricket. They used to be expected to be great behind the stumps and be able to hold their own when called on to bat. Gilchrist changed that. He was very good behind the stumps and very good with the bat. His speed at scoring was phenomenal; when he was on song, you knew there was going to be a result. I was something of a fan, and still don’t think the Australian selectors did enough to make sure there was a decent succession plan. Haddin’s all well and good but he’s not Gilchrist.

This is his autobiography, from birth to whenever he wrote it. And this book frustrated me. It rambled at times. Some incidents were glossed over that I felt were much bigger (e.g. Steve Waugh’s retirement); other elements were examined in minute detail that maybe didn’t warrant it (e.g. Damien Martyn getting away from it all). This is my first issue with this 600-plus page book – it needed tighter editing. At least there were no glaring errors in the way it was written; technically it was very good. The editor should have done as much with the content as he/she did with the technical aspects.

My second issue is that, as good a cricketer as he was, Gilchrist’s life is exceedingly ordinary. That’s great for him, but is not a riveting read. Most Australian cricketers get selected for a test team, dropped, then fight back. Gilchrist was selected in the one-day team, made a name for himself, waited for the incumbent wicket-keeper (Ian Healey) to retire and then was cemented into place in the test team until he announced his own retirement. The years of struggle were sort of there, but only in the sense he had to wait so long for his test debut. His family life is wonderful, even if there were issues about the birth of his first child (the child’s health and then, later, rumours about the paternity of said child). And that was it for real suspense. Apart from him wanting to retire every time he failed at the tail end of his career.

He beats himself up a lot and, unfortunately, comes across at times like something of a whinger. He cried a lot apparently as well. We know; we read all about it in here. I think his goal was to try and put himself forward as an ‘everyman’, and to try and use his internal insecurities as a form of dramatic licence, but it did not work for me. Especially after reading some of the wrestling autobiographies – and the autobiography section of Stephen King’s On Writing – this just seemed like the life of a gifted athlete without any real conflict, except with himself.

Maybe that is what this book should have been – how to psychologically overcome your own internal demons and insecurities. It would not have appealed to a cricket fan, but it might have been better with more detail on how he did just that.

That is not to say this book is terrible. Far from it. His look behind the curtain of the Australian team, while guarded, is actually refreshingly honest. Any axes he might have are not ground here. He comes across in this as he always did when facing the media – a nice guy. A great example is Shane Warne. While it is clear Gilchrist respects him and what he accomplished, some of the undercurrent themes make it clear that he disagrees with a lot of Warne’s actions and comments. But then there is the time he said something about Warne and forced an apology onto him, yet when Darren Berry wrote something negative about Gilchrist, he refused to accept an apology. A glitch in the make up of the man. And it did not make me think more of him to admit that.

So, look, if you are a cricket fan, you are going to read this book. It got absolutely glowing praise from many quarters. And I think it is a good book, just not a brilliant one. It needed a dispassionate eye to read over it and edit it first, in my opinion. It is not a book for a cricket novice. It is a book for a fan of modern cricket.

So True Colours is a good book, not a great book. Thumbs up.

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