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Wasted by Paul Smith

Release date: 30th May, 2007
Publisher: Know the Score Books Ltd

List Price: £16.99
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By Paul Smith
Know The Score Books price: £11.34, saving 34% on rrp

Following the long-overdue award of a knighthood to Ian Botham, his former team-mate and Sky commentator, David Gower, remarked that it could have been given for services to the wine industry. Beefy's capacity for consuming a glass or two of red is legion and much in keeping with cricket's generally 'jolly' image, although unlike other sports, rarely is a professional cricketer guilty of outrageous behaviour, at least publicly.

To an extent, Paul Smith's often provocative autobiography belies this myth. Granted, there's ample reference to normal bachelor-style high jinks, much of which involves the consumption of copious quantities of booze, but following his ban from the game for taking drugs, Smith found himself out on a limb. Suddenly, his career, which had started as a 15 year-old at Warwickshire, came to an abrupt end. He is adamant that he became a scapegoat for a practice which, while not exactly rife throughout the game, was certainly de rigueur among many higher-profile players.

Moreover, Smith doesn't just whinge, he provides details of culprits who have managed to escape censure and continue their well-paid careers.

Shane Warne, for example, failed a drugs test in 2003 after taking a tablet in an attempt to lose fluid. Smith points out that the pill can also be used as a masking agent to dilute traces of steroids in the urine. Last year, Pakistani bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif were originally banned from cricket for two years and a year respectively. The kid-glove treatment experienced by this trio was in complete contrast to that suffered by Smith, yet he remains sanguine: "Warne and Akhtar sell their sport like few others," he says. "The sport is certainly greater for their involvementÖbut where's the consistency?"

It's a fair point, one which Smith accepts, albeit reluctantly, when he warns there will be no happy ending to his book: "A happy ending is just a story with a chapter missing. Real life isn't so neat." Readers can expect such philosophy to be repeated frequently.

Smith was, however, savvy enough to appreciate that if he didn't help himself, no-one else would, which eventually led to the realisation that by helping others, he could also help himself. It was then that he launched "Cricket Without Boundaries" while living in the US. His idea was to use cricket as a means to motivate and retrain the long-term unemployed; the scheme has been a great success Stateside and to his credit, Smith has since transferred it to the UK.

But this is not just a story of one man's battle against drugs, there are enough cricketing anecdotes to satisfy any fan.

Smith's two elder brothers both played for Warwickshire, so it seemed inevitable that he would too. In amongst these often amusing tales is evidence of Smith's inner strength which has subsequently served him so well. In a one-day match against a powerful Essex side, Warwickshire found themselves staring at a 299-4 deficit (from 40 overs) before they too went out to bat. A few hours later, Smith and his teammates had rattled up 301. It was, he says, a monumental effort, but also "the first example of a side playing as a unit and overcoming a teamÖsuperior in terms of individual quality. It showed what could be achieved if we worked together."

It's difficult for readers to know just what to expect when they read of cricket's "first rock n'roll star" as Smith's offering has been described. The answer is a level of brutal honesty which demands this compelling autobiography should be read.

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