Book Review; Out of the Park
I love the game of cricket, I love the history it has, and I love the mundane side of statistics. I have read a lot of books on the game however most have been specific to a country’s history, almanacs, about series, or high, (I mean lofty, big kahuna, heavenly) profile players of the game. I find cricketer’s biographies seem to have a self-indulgence that those from other codes have, and by this I mean they seem to be less modest, focused on stats, and have a common ingredient of wanting to hit back at someone. Even rugby players, the rough and tumble men of New Zealand sport seem to be somewhat self-effacing in comparison…
I have read (a few of) The Don’s, a great Hadlee bio, one of Richie Benaud’s, and a cracker one of Steve Waugh by the brilliant Peter Fitzsimmons, and in fact haven’t even read any on Warne. But through a chance meeting, and a gentlemen’s agreement I had to make the effort to read this one about one of NZ’s more maligned players…
in fact, I don’t ever remember a player ever (if at all) drawing as much flack as Craig McMIllan, aka Macca.
I met Craig about 10mths ago when he asked for some assistance in setting up his iPhone and over that time I have visited him in the manner a doctor might make house calls. Truth be known, the iPhone, his iTunes, and his laptop should have been declared dead a long time ago but I finally got it to something that resembled a working setup that he could understand and use. By his own admission, he is somewhat of a technophobe.
Now, as an Aussie, and as a Cantabrian, Craig was an individual I loved and hated as I watched cricket during the period he played. He could smack the fastest and most accurate pace bowlers out of the ground, and treat even my hero, Warnie with absolute disrespect, and for this I loathed his fantastic skills. But, begrudgingly he was good…in fact he was fucken good, and did everything, batting, bowling, and fielding with consummate ease and what could only be described as an air of arrogance (don’t get me wrong, I love arrogance, it is a trait distinctly missing in a lot of NZ sportsmen and women).
But it was his brilliance which also became his albatross around his head. The Kiwi public, the most fickle of all sporting observers had the knives out at the ready to carve the man when he got out for playing a ‘rash’ shot and hung and quartered and tarred and feathered the guy in the press and on talkback radio. Never a mention of the bowler who may have been spanked to all corners, nothing about a top order who failed more than often, not even a mention to the brilliant and (often) match saving efforts of days before. The public had someone they loved but could just as easily sacrifice like a virginal offering.
This book hits back at that treatment, and lays some facts straight to those who didn’t know the truth. In fact each and every chapter has a vein of payback in it and this was the side of the book that didn’t sit well with me. The people he wanted to payback are never likely to read it, and the people who do have a genuine interest in him as a player or the course of his career and unfortunately both suffered a bit by the poison pen. Maybe a chapter, with a reference in following chapters was all that was needed to explain the public spat with Bracewell and co, and once explained, or touched on, that was all that was needed, the point was clear. It seemed to resonate through the writing that it was personal and detracted a lot from other stories in this book.
However, in saying that it gives you an insight into the guy and the issues he had to overcome. I for one was aware of his battles with retaining his place in the Black Caps towards the end, I mean who didn’t, but to read the actual story about it, and his gutsy and skillful method to get back is inspiring stuff to read. I was also unaware of his Type 1 Diabetes, and being somewhat ignorant to all afflictions faced by others until I experience it myself, I found this a particularly touching and personal side to the book which makes you grow further respect for what he has achieved.
Stories of his introduction to cricket, achievements, and focuses on certain games are great reading however these are too far and few between as those in the book are well written however cut short just as you get into them. So it left me wondering if this book should have been in the sports section of the library (where I retrieved it from) or in the biography section as it is difficult to gauge what it is trying to tell.
A good book overall…heck, anything would have been a masterpiece after reading that shit, 50 Shades, and I recommend it to anyone who ripped Macca apart at one time or another (that pretty much sums up all of you). It also has great photos and a nice little by note of his wife and kids where you are left in no doubt are the most important part of his life. It may, in fact will, change your view on the guy. Unlike a lot of sport’s bios, it lacked a stats summary which was neither here nor there, and the chapter chronicling his thoughts on certain current and past members of the Black Caps felt amateurish and an attempt to write pages, but otherwise it is a well written book with great little insights from other players and coaches (not to mention Cherie, his wife). There are some stand out anecdotes; Craig’s take on the terrorist bomb in Pakistan, the Black Caps changing room when Dion Nash took the test by the scruff of the neck, Shane Warne and the ‘open stance’, and the hilarious note passing on a plane between Craig and Adam Gilchrist.
And I finish with an example of his brilliance…after retirement no less…