It Never Rains: A Cricketer’s Lot (George Allen and Unwin 1984), by Peter Roebuck, is a wonderful, wonderful read. Probably the best book on sports that I had read this year.
Peter Roebuck (photo courtest Cricinfo)
In fact, this is hardly a book, it’s a diary, a journal, a blog. Peter Roebuck was a player for Somerset in 1983 (and by then a senior player, a gnarled veteran of some five years in the county circuit). A top order batsman, sometimes an opener, for whom the word dour and doughty almost come as compliments, so defensive he confesses to be as a batsman, he was part of the crack Somerset team of the early eighties of Botham, Viv Richards, Garner, Vic Marks and Brian Rose. This book is a journal of Roebuck’s and Somerset’s 1983 county season, and shares wonderful stories of the life of a traveling pro cricketer, and the various characters, some legendary and some forgotten, that he shared the dressing room with.
And most of all, this is about Roebuck the man. In his present day writing, it is almost impossible to trace a hint of lack of confidence or a shadow of a doubt, in Roebuck. As a cricketer, he was hardly that. In this book, Roebuck is as finicky, over-analyzing and bewildered as a batsman could be, albeit one skilled at the art, you don’t become a pro cricketer (and a respected, almost-played-for-England one) without being quite good.
He is a brilliant analyst of people and behaviours, of course. And he writes well, his opinions are intelligent, direct and if sometimes acerbic, never anything but honest. It is indeed not (yet) the writing of one of the best cricket writer of our times as he later turned out to be, but that of a cricketer who has a talent for observation, who has top-class writing skills, who has humour by the shovelfuls, and one who does not take himself so seriously as to not to be able to laugh at himself (albeit it’s a completely different story about his batting technique and his average).
I cannot recommend this book highly enough to fellow followers of sport. Read it, it’s a joy.