I generally try to avoid reading autobiographies of cricketers as I have found that they can be a bit too self serving or poorly written. Often they can contain all the cliches that they have trotted out during the innumerable interviews conducted during their career. Basically, they can read like their ESPNcricinfo profiles with a couple of stories of dressing room banter thrown in for variety. Thankfully, I found none of this to be true when I read Paul Nixon’s book, Keeping Quiet - a painfully honest account of his life and his career behind the stumps.
I must confess that before the 2006/07 Commonwealth Bank Series between Australia, New Zealand and England I did not know much about Nico. All I really knew was that Leicestershire had a loud-mouth wicketkeeper who had been plucked somewhat from obscurity for the ODI series. By the end of the tour, I had an overwhelming amount of respect for the man who had joined a group of players at rock bottom and almost single handedly picked them up and carried them to victory.
The section of his book that describes this second blooming in his career was a joy to read, as the description of each match is so warmly written and full of praise for his England colleagues, particularly Paul Collingwood, with whom he formed the Northerners Union. This precedes the account of the 2007 World Cup, a time that was not so joyous for England fans. He tells the truth behind what happened with Andrew Flintoff and his drinking – a must read for all those interested in the events of that time.
It is a credit to both Nico and his ghost writer, Jon Colman, that this book works. For there is a serious side to it, a side that attracted me to forgo my reservations about biogs and buy it. The description of Nico’s battle with his ‘little man’, his own personal demon that attacks his self belief is something that I can identify with, as I’m sure many others who play cricket can. The advice that is contained within his book is applicable to cricketers of all level has given me plenty to think about.
The writing style of Colman is engaging, fast paced and entertaining, without leaving the reader with the feeling that certain events have been hammed up for extra dramatic effect. As is often the case with eventful careers, the protagonist can appear to be the saint in all situations, yet the truthfulness that pervades this book removes all scepticism of Nico’s account.
There are, of course, plenty of passages within the book regarding dressing room characters and it’s fair to say that Nico probably was not everyone’s cup of tea. However, at no point does he come across as an arrogant man who rates himself above everyone else – he is forever humble and giving.
His fitness regime was off the scale and he makes it quite clear that being a modern cricketer is a lot of hard work. Yet it was this dedication that won over a great deal of his opponents and teammates – the fact that there are two forewords written by Steve Waugh and Viv Richards gives you an indication of the esteem the great man is held in.
Overall, this book is honest. He does not skim over aspects of his life in an attempt to paint himself in the best light, or claim that being a professional cricketer is a great life. He throws the harsh realities of being a youngster in the 2nd XI into the spotlight, and is genuine with his feelings regarding those who did not show him common good manners. It is a thoughtful book from a thoughtful man, and one every cricketer should read before the season starts – if just to become a better clubman.
And Paul if you are reading this, I hope you haven’t got a headache…!
Paul Nixon – Keeping Quiet, is available from Waterstones for £14.39. Buy it here.