Honesty meets wit

EASIER SAID THAN DONE: A LIFE IN SPORT By Alan Wilkins,Roli, Rs 595

By Uddalak Mukherjee
  • Published 1.06.18
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EASIER SAID THAN DONE: A LIFE IN SPORT By Alan Wilkins,Roli, Rs 595

Memory can be a strange thing. A cricketer's memory all the more so. What else can explain the discovery that Alan Wilkins - a jovial soul and a knowledgeable broadcasting veteran - can, at times, be a bit of a sourpuss?

Easier Said Than Done, in which Wilkins reminisces about his career as a county cricketer - he was more than a bit player - is peppered with anecdotes in which Wilkins comes off second-best but not for any fault of his own. On one occasion, Wilkins is denied a room in the team hotel because an influential committee member had helped himself to the cricketer's lodging, severely hampering his preparations for a Cup final. Elsewhere, Wilkins is instructed by Glamorgan's captain to dismiss one of Surrey's favourite cricketers using foul means - run Robin Jackman out at the non-striker's end without issuing him the customary warning. To his credit, Wilkins recounts some of the less-charitable episodes of his cricketing life courageously and with dollops of humour.

Readers discover to their relief that Wilkins remembers much more than his misery. He is, in fact, an inspiring figure. A crippling shoulder injury ended his career that carried sparks of promise. Lesser souls would not have recovered from the blow. But not Wilkins. Here, he describes, without a shred of pomposity, how he looked adversity in the eye and went on to embark upon a new journey, that of a broadcaster of a myriad sporting activities, beginning with the coverage of the Transvaal Ladies Bowls Union Annual Championships!

Wilkins's cricketing tales are enjoyable. His county career, he says modestly, was not remarkable. But then very few cricketers can claim to have got the treasured wicket of Vivian Richards with only the third delivery of an over. What keeps the reader engaged in the accounts of the county matches is Wilkins's witty and detailed descriptions.

For the reader, the trick, though, is to glean some of the bigger issues which, unfortunately, are mentioned only in passing. For instance, in this age of representative cricketing competitions, it is bewildering to read about the ugly shadow that the Apartheid cast on cricket. "When D'Oliveira, a 'coloured' South African who had qualified for England, was excluded from the England team to tour South Africa... in spite of scoring 158 not out in the final Test against Australia, the selectors", writes Wilkins, "were accused of succumbing to political pressure from South Africa..." Wilkins's own decision to travel to South Africa attracted quite a bit of scrutiny as well.

It is a pity that Wilkins chooses not to deeply examine some of the monumental transitions that have taken place in the game and its presentation. The debut of women in broadcasting - a television promotional featuring a commentary team was once, tellingly, titled 'A Few Good Men' - is captured in images but not analysed adequately in the text.

This makes Easier Said Than Done a candid, informative but, nonetheless, shallow telling.