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The Judge by Robin Smith

Release date: 16th June, 2019
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £14.99
You Save: £4 (21%)
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Following England’s nerve-shredding victory over New Zealand last weekend, we should prepare for a tsunami of cricket titles likely to start hitting retailers’ bookshelves within the next few weeks

In the meantime, there are three cricketing biographies likely to appeal to cricketing enthusiasts, both old and newly-converted.

Anyone who has listened to Vic Marks on TMS will recognise that he knows the game inside out, a point reiterated in Original Spin: Misadventures in Cricket, his beautifully-written, easy-going memoir covering the full panoply of his playing and what might be called his ‘observational’ career (he writes a column for a national newspaper).

The period in question encompasses his earliest days at Somerset, where he was part of the same year’s intake as Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Peter Roebuck, through to his many years spent watching and writing about the game. Not everyone will agree with his views on the modern game, but this doesn’t make his opinions any less valid.

Perhaps the most disappointing of the threesome is Jimmy Anderson’s Bowl. Sleep. Repeat: Inside the World of England's Greatest-Ever Bowler.

Anderson was a great player, claiming more than 570 Test wickets and almost 300 more international wickets across the game’s various forms, but his story lacks the pace and tenacity of his wonderful bowling.

The best of the three titles is Robin Smith’s The Judge: More Than Just a Game.

Known as The Judge during his playing days when he looked as though he actually enjoyed going out to face the world’s most intimidating fast bowlers, Smith enjoyed universal admiration, both for his bravery and undoubted skill. Yet despite establishing himself in the England set-up, Smith was dropped in his early thirties and so began a period of prolonged introspection and doubt.

With alcohol his preferred go-to option, Smith went from being the fearless warrior to the frantic worrier, suffering with financial, marital and mental health problems, eventually reaching the point where he considered taking his life. To read how a sportsman with the world at his feet can plummet to hit rock bottom in a comparatively short period is distressing.

Prior to the onset of a debilitating depression, Smith partied as hard as he played and admits to serial adultery, but it is clear that he remains admired by many giants of the game. This is an engaging, but often uncomfortable read which explains why it’s a contender for sports book of the year.

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