Steven Peter Devereux Smith. Let’s say that again: Steven Peter Devereux Smith. Just four words, and yet contained within them is not only the story of, yes, Steven Peter Devereux Smith, but also the entire story of 51allout. In Devereux’s case, that story is about rising from a joke selection, based on his banter skills, to the undisputed best Test batsman in the world, behind only Bradman in all of history. In 51allout’s case, the story is more about a never-ending series of articles that over-use the word Devereux (and #Devereux) and amount to little more than a wholly unsuccessful attempt to give up the day job for a life writing flippant articles that occasionally actually talk about cricket, but it’s basically the same thing.
Steve Smith’s first autobiography (and it surely won’t be the last) could potentially represent the absolute pinnacle of Western civilisation, a telling of The Greatest Story Ever Told. Unfortunately though, it’s just a bit dull, with very little action, controversy or even vaguely memorable bits that would come in rather handy when attempting to pad an article about said book out to around 1,000 words.
We’ll start with the most significant bit, the bit that was almost certainly serialised in the Australian press (which we literally never, ever read): why Devereux? Where does that moniker come from? Did his parents choose it, or did the name choose him? Obviously, it’s almost certainly the former, as the latter doesn’t really make any sense at all.
Like all sensible people, we went straight to the index: De Villiers, AB; Dev, Kapil; Dewes, John. Not a Devereux in sight. We put this down to an oversight by the printers – perhaps there were so many references to Devereux that it would be pointless listing them all. Ah well, we’d just have to read the actual book. And it wasn’t long (just page 24) before we struck gold:
“One of my middle names, Devereux, is a family name from my grandfather. Dad thinks it was also my great-great-grandfather’s name. Dad believes there were Scottish roots there, as part of his father’s family were called Cameron. The name Devereux is part of Dad’s father’s and his uncle’s names but although it also features in Dad’s brother’s name, Dad missed out on inheriting it too. Mum and Dad decided to keep the tradition going by including it in my name.”
So there we are, after all these years: it turns out Devereux is more of a title than a name, a badge of honour passed down from generation to generation. A bit like James Bond, Doctor Who or ‘recipient of Donald Trump hush money’.
Even though it’s fair to say that no-one cares more about how this particular leopard got his spots than us, the eagle-eyed amongst our readership may have noticed another familiar 51allout trope: massive stalling to avoid actually talking about whatever it is that Editor Steve has tasked us with discussing. And with good reason in this case, as Steve Smith’s book is really, really boring. Having finished reading it, we were struggling to remember one single amusing anecdote that we could insert to pad the dreaded word count out.
A few years back, we had the misfortune to also review Mike Hussey’s autobiography. Like Devereux, Mike Hussey was a fine cricketer, who worked as hard as possible to make the most out of his natural talent, while still being a nice bloke. He was also totally obsessed with the game, to the extent that he basically never did anything else with his life. Devereux suffers from exactly the same problem, with literally nothing happening beyond bland descriptions of standout innings: hundreds good, ducks bad, that sort of thing.
Devereux doesn’t even really have any interests outside of the game – at one point his manager tells him that he needs to find something else to have in his life, with our hero settling on doing cricket-related endorsements and ‘investing’, presumably while also watching the cricket on his phone. And then he got a girlfriend, therefore adding watching cricket while having sex to his list of achievements. (Probably: there’s a distinct lack of discussion of Devereux’s sex life in the book, a missed opportunity if ever we saw one).
All this sounds rather negative. Which is because it is rather negative – there’s really no reason for this book to actually exist. In a perfect world, players wouldn’t be releasing autobiographies while they’re still playing, thus requiring them to file off all the edges to avoid upsetting fellow players, sponsors and people who find interesting stories far too much to handle. The end result is 320 pages of nothing, the literary equivalent of eating a multipack of ready salted crisps. Basically, it’s a bit shit.
Some plusses to finish with: our copy is actually signed by the great man himself (thanks to the kind mother-in-law who purchased it for Christmas) and it has a fair few pictures of him in it. One of them includes a haircut so truly of its time that we just had to include it here, leading to a deviation from our standard procedure for pictures (Google Images, Save As), in that we had to actually take a professional-looking photo of it ourselves: