Ed Smith’s ‘On and Off the field’.

I read this purely on a recommendation, and it did not disappoint. As much as anything, for me it was quite nostalgic, a topic which Ed himself is asked to talk about on Radio. I liked Ed’s summation that as a practising sportsman you can’t afford to look to the past.

I well recall 2003 when Ed Smith came to our attentions via our TV screens playing for England. He seemed to have a phenomenal past record of achievement. Who wouldn’t be impressed?

The diary of ES – Aged 26 and three quarters.

Ed Smith is like the Dan Snow of the Cricket world : engaging, insightful, intrepid and a Philosopher.

Reading about his very personal account of the highs and lows of the County season with Kent and three Test matches against South Africa, it made me realise how focused he was to get the job done. There is a constant stream of analysis and self criticism.

I enjoyed reliving those days of nearly 20 years ago. I enjoyed reading how Flintoff was on the cusp of some very special days, Pietersen was knocking about with his spin. There’s the double ton in Blackpool, the pair in Chelmsford. Above all it made me want to visit some of these county grounds. Nasser calls him ‘The Jazzer’. Vaughan comes across well. Most fans remember Alec Stewart’s Swansong.

It must’ve been so tough wrestling with his personal ambitions whilst Thorpe made a comeback ton in Kennington, and the call from Graveney the following day was to the tune of ‘You’re on the bench’. Although he wasn’t on the bench, rather the England ‘A’s, no dinner with Murali in Sri Lanka.

I loved listening to Ed on T.M.S. (perhaps he’ll come back); I thought he always brought up interesting points. His days as selector did not make too much impression, but I did enjoy the fact that he seemed to think he was playing Poker in Las Vegas as he was permanently wearing very dark shades. Boycs used to call him ‘The Wordsmith’.

There are a lot of cricketers out there who play just a handful of matches for their country. One thinks of Agnew to name but one. But what we – or at least I – don’t always appreciate is the road to get there. This book goes some way to reveal those moments.

Ed got 64 on debut for England and not another half century. He was in the middle when Hussein got a ton, and Trescothick 150, he knows what it is like to be in the thick of it. One of the most telling lines in the book is, “Bad timing for bad luck”, upon his final Test dismissal in short diary reply to Vaughan’s verbal comment in the pavilion. I also liked the line about how number threes “learn to feel neutral about timing”, ie. you could be in second ball of the day, or the penultimate.

I enjoyed reading about the fly fishing exploits with Andrew Symmonds, and the camaraderie he has with Rob Key. I almost felt I was there in the Kent changing room.

Great book.

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