Although this time of year sees the usual autobiographical swill hit the shelves, there is another cricketing book available this year that deserves more attention than How I Went To School and Played Cricket and Became A Cricketer by Stuart Broad. Indeed, Miles Jupp’s Fibber In The Heat was nominated for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, whilst the only award Broad has a chance of winning this year is for Most Overs Without A Delivery Faster Than 80 MPH By A So-Called Fast Bowler In A Test Match Or One Day International. The book is about the 2006 tour of India. The name might not be immediately familiar, but this is not a run-of-the-mill tour diary or behind-the-scenes tale of how many dime bars Ian Blackwell eats for tea. For Jupp was a fan who tried to turn into a journalist, not through hard work or even by writing a blog that takes the piss out of fat (or blonde) cricketers, but by sheer blagging. An impressive aim, even for someone who even now, seems to be described for all eternity as the person who played Archie the Inventor from Balamory.
The book starts slowly; the first couple of chapters explain the fairly typical way that Jupp fell in love with the sport as a child (happily for 51allout, with reference to both this game and that series). Then, following his post-Balamory purgatory of pantomime, he decided he wanted to become a cricket journalist. What follows is his tale of twisted truths and fraudulent fibs. The ups and downs of his story are not dissimilar to any other autobiographical journey, but once Jupp is in India and the cricket begins, the book really gets going. There are several funny moments – although not quite as many as you’d expect from someone who has guested on Have I Got News For You AND appeared in The Thick Of It. When given a crappy temporary press pass – rather than a laminated one complete with lanyard – he feels like “the weird boy who turns up at school…and has to take all his meals in a hyperbaric chamber.” A contrived effort to take a photograph of Nasser Hussain could be taken from a stand-up comedy show, whilst the funniest moment was probably an anecdote from Peter Baxter about the fast bowler Alf Glover. Let’s just say it involved an upset stomach and a long run-up.
The onfield action, despite being a really rather good series, is ancillary to the story. The only really illuminating element from a pure cricketing point of view concerns what Andrew Flintoff carried with him from the pavilion to the coach. What the book does highlight though, is the unseen life of cricket journalists and broadcasters. Yes, we’d all love to be paid to travel, watch cricket and write 665 words about it, but Jupp also shows the potential homesickness, the repetition and the competitive side of professional journalism. At times, the way the press corps dine together, travel in minibuses together and work together sounds reminiscent of the scene from Airplane! where all the reporters rush to a line of telephone booths which fall down under their impact. What is also revealed is the kindness of some (Simon Mann and Kevin Howells in particular come across as good eggs) and the rudeness of others (neither Mr Who The Fuck’s That or Mr Prickly are named).
It’s a good book and the cricketing nature makes it more appealing than A Year Spent Sitting Cross-Legged or Tightrope Walking In Windhoek or any other tragicomic real life escapade that is published this year; indeed, if you really must have a book about being an imposter in the press box at a cricket ground, then look no further – at least until the 51allout annual comes out.