Unguarded by Jonathan Trott – book review

Sam writes:

My shelves are groaning under the weight of cricket autobiographies.

The best – among them Coming Back To Me by Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain’s Playing With Fire – are well-thumbed.

The others tend to blur together. Tales of pushy parents, age group potential, Test debuts and tearful retirements can almost be written by numbers.

If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, give Michael Vaughan’s A Year In The Sun a whirl. Bet you won’t make it to the end without chewing your own face off.

When Jonathan Trott’s new effort appeared on my doormat, I raised a sceptical eyebrow. Would this tell me anything I didn’t already know?

I needn’t have worried. Unguarded is a wonderfully honest, brutally painful account of how one of England’s most reliable batsmen decided he could bear the pressure no longer.

As a long-time Warwickshire fan, I have followed Trott’s progress since his county debut but never entirely warmed to him.

Regular readers will know all about my obsession with Trott’s middle order colleague, a chap named Ian Bell.

While Bell flashed, dashed, posed and perished, Trott was the guy at the other end. A solid plodder, quietly getting on with the job.

Needless to say, as the years went by he became a firm favourite. He proved you don’t have to be a show-pony to win the hearts of England fans; you just need to score runs. Lots and lots of runs.

Most sportsmen and women sit in press conferences and burp out platitudes about how their chosen discipline has come to define their very existence.

“It means the world to me,” they gush. “I’ve worked so hard to get here.”

This is the story of a man who became so consumed by cricket that it swallowed him whole.

King Cricket once wrote an amusing piece of fiction in which Trott plays his kids at table-tennis for two whole weeks, relentlessly refuses to let them win a game and “feels immense satisfaction with his performance.”

Reading that again now, it takes on a whole new perspective. Living every second for cricket is all very well when you’re churning out the hundreds. When things started to go wrong, there was nowhere else to turn.

The book is structured in an odd way – it might have made more sense to tell the story chronologically rather than jumping around – but there is no disputing its power.

Wisely, he decides not to spend too much time on his childhood and dives straight into the beginnings of what was later diagnosed as situational anxiety.

Unusually for such a self-centered genre, each chapter features contributions from Cook, Pietersen, Ashley Giles, Andy Flower, and Trott’s wife Abi.

The other voices only serve to reinforce Trott’s fundamental character traits: decency, modesty, determination and a hard-won sense of self-awareness which was perhaps lacking during his international career.

You can buy Unguarded from Amazon here.

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18 Appeals

  1. That’s… actually quite a lovely review, Sam, of what I’m sure is quite a lovely book. Thanks for that.

    • King Cricket

      October 25, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      Why does no-one ever thank us when we write something?

      • It’s like we take you for granted or summat.

        I’m sorry KC, I’ll store this away and give you some proper thanks when you next write a piece that makes me feel something. The Philip Hughes piece springs to mind, in cheery fashion.

      • King Cricket

        October 25, 2016 at 2:23 pm

        We’re here to be taken for granted.

        Might even make that the website’s new strapline.

      • I thanked you once, I think.

      • King Cricket

        October 25, 2016 at 2:51 pm

        We probably ignored you. In all honesty, we don’t deal with praise or thanks well. The normal arrangement’s probably for the best.

      • I come here for some brief respite from my incredibly boring job. So this website is better than one of the most boring jobs imaginable. Will that do?

      • King Cricket

        October 25, 2016 at 3:03 pm

        In more than one sense, that was why the website was created.

    • I liked your review of Sam’s review, Balladeer. Heartfelt and sincere, without becoming schmaltzy. Nicely done.

  2. I thank KC for making it possible for Ged to thank Mike for thanking Balladeer for thanking Sam.

  3. This book review is marred by missing out one of the most important parts – how good is the index at the back? I judge a book by its index. I suspect this means I’m doing it wrong, but it is true that most of the times I reuse a book after the initial reading, I’m directed by the index.

  4. Review of a review of a review. Watto heaven.

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