Captain of the national side at 25, and one of the most successful top-flight opening batsmen in the game, the bare facts of Mike Atherton’s career portray him as one of the golden boys of English cricket, but in Opening Up he reflects on a sporting life equally characterised by his struggle to match lofty expectations, and the off-field politicking that tested his resourcefulness to the limit.

From his early days as a university-educated upstart marching into a Lancashire first-team dressing room filled with seasoned pros, to the constant wrangling behind the scenes of the English game, and a rarely harmonious relationship with the press, Atherton has found himself engaged in a constant battle to retain focus on events out in the middle. Even when there, things were far from plain sailing, and he recounts it all with admirable candour, epitomised by the story of his Test debut, where the fresh-faced youngster was given a lesson in professional reality by a senior team-mate: “You play your first [Test] for love, and the rest for money”. Elsewhere, amid the analysis of his time at the helm of an often struggling England side, Atherton highlights a career-long battle with injury and pain suppression, which resulted in what would have been seen in other eras as a very early retirement. At the centre of the book is the infamous ball-tampering row in 1994. Illustrated with extracts from Atherton’s diary of the time, the man at the centre of the huge media storm makes a concerted defence of what many argued was behaviour unworthy of any cricketer, let alone a national captain.

There can be little debate however that Atherton, a broadsheet columnist, can write. His characterisations are deftly drawn, particularly of key figures such as Illingworth, Gooch and Boycott, and there is plenty of pithy humour, some earthy language and an eye for what makes good gossip, to counterbalance what is at heart a refreshingly serious and thoughtful book. Too often sports autobiographies leave readers wishing that a more subtle, expressive and observant author was reporting from the arena–not in this case. Atherton resists the temptation to manufacture controversy, but comments on his own, and other’s achievements, with a laudable sense of perspective. An enjoyable, skillfully worked “knock” from a tenacious and talented cricketer. –Alex Hankin

Opening Up: My Autobiography




  1. A. Mceachern says:

    A terrific book by a man who took on so many great fast and spinner bowlers of an era where not many batsmen succeded. His is a valuable opinion as athers was generally surrounded by poor management and an uninspired side and made the absolute most of his talents to earn so much respect from his collegues and opponents.

    The book details so much and his story telling is so addictive, with opinions and many experiences to call on you cant help but feel interested all the way through.

    A great read, well worth the money.

    Top stuff athers, top stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. A. Webster says:

    I found this to be a refreshing change from the normal “This is my life through my eyes and aren’t I wonderful” style of autobiography that is all too common.

    Mike Atherton tells the reader all the things they want to know. He doesn’t hold back on his opinions of the people within Cricket that he encountered, but he manages it without any blatant character assasination.

    His private life remains firmly where it should be, Private, and he therefore avoids falling into the trap of boring the reader with 3 chapters of his early years. Another failing af many other autobiographies.

    If you have followed cricket for the past 10 to 12 years I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK HIGHLY ENOUGH.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Captain Grumpy was the nickname coined for Athers by the media during his tenure as England skipper. Though unshiftable at the crease, he was undemonstrative in the field and unforthcoming to the press. Watching him, one often wondered if he actually enjoyed playing cricket for England, moreover, one doubted he enjoyed captaining England. This autobiography serves to confirm both of those suppositions.

    The book is utterly reflective of what is probably most English cricket fan’s view Atherton’s personality. He comes across as dispassionate and detached, honest and frank, self effacing and self critical but not self absorbed. There are consequently no fireworks in this book, no gossip, no melodrama, no long standing animosities, blazing rows, character assassinations, stirring vitriol or dewy eyed references to three lions. There are no highs or lows – the book is as flat and steady as the author’s delivery in the commentator’s box, similarly it’s also spot on. This is good, but sometimes, like when he’s describing the dirt in the pocket incident, or the Caligula-like posturing of Ray Illingworth, or the most memorable and electric period of cricket most of us have ever seen (versus Allan Donald at trent Bridge in 1998) you find yourself thirsting for some PASSION. The book is too downbeat to be very re-readable and earn the full 5 stars

    He neither heaps praise nor damns people within cricket with flowery language or cliché. Instead he is utterly objective in his descriptions of people and his relationship with them; it seems irrelevant to him whether he personally ‘liked’ people, rather he defines them in terms of how much he respects their cricketing abilities – playing, coaching or organising. On his own abilities he is equally objective, though a little too humble in this reader’s view – he is not afraid to state what he thinks his strengths were as a player and captain, but he dwells rather more on his failings.

    You get the impression from the book that Atherton was an intelligent, thoughtful and reflective captain. He had a good cricket brain and was a confident and intuitive tactician who learnt from his mistakes. A voracious reader and keen cricket student, he had studied captaincy, including particularly Mike Brearley’s work on the subject. His writing on the England captaincy, its difficulties, the role within the context of selection and team management, man management and the qualities of a good skipper make for very interesting reading. He was perhaps TOO thoughtful and intelligent to ever make a good skipper in the media’s eye – he wasn’t one for the banal or cosy soundbite.

    You also get the impression that he was utterly dedicated, but had few close friends in cricket. In this he came across as very similar to Geoffrey Boycott, indeed he refers to Boycott throughout the book as a batting mentor and the echoes of Boycott in this book do not end there. His opinions on the state of English cricket and the relationship between county and Test cricket in this country are similar to Geoffrey’s, and expressed just as forthrightly. Atherton confesses he cared little about statistics nor his place in the history of the game (which is of course the antithesis of Boycott, or so is the popular view), but like Boycott he just saw Test cricket as a personal test of his courage, concentration and technique – with him being his own ultimate judge. Like Boycott’s autobiography, there is an overwhelming feeling that Atherton either was too consumed by succeeding at cricket to actually enjoy the game, or that his struggles against a bumbling and utterly inept institution, in the form of the England hierarchy, gradually wrung the love of the game out of him. He fought constant battles against elders with egoes in inverse proportion to their talent and with their own prejudices, agendas and petty jealousies. The most pleasure Atherton seemed to derive from international cricket was not the sport so much as the exposure to foreign cultures, into which he immersed himself as much as he could. Like Boycott, cliques, laddish socialising, striving to be liked and toeing the line were not for him.

    In all it’s a well written record of a recent low point in English cricket – a period of disorganisation and disunity before the advent of central contracts, as observed by a talented and honest young man caught up in the middle.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  4. P. DATTA says:

    Opening Up- My Autobiography by Mike Atherton is a life story of a professional cricketer. Mike Atherton during his days was a fine cricketer, as he achieved modest success with the England team during the 90′s. The England team though not absence from experiencing a few problems. The team struggled against strong oppositions and could not match Australia’s class. The noticeable weaknesses included battling collapses, fielding laspes and inability to play spin bowling and quality pace bowling.

    The autobiography is a clear reflection of a career filled with mixed success. Mike Atherton strikes me as a honest and knowledgeable individual person. He offers insights on a variety of matters that affected the cricketing career. The key areas touched upon include injuries, Cambridge days, first class career, international career and captaincy. The contents of the book are really interesting to read around. A full picture of a cricketing professional emerges.

    Mike Atherton proves his literacy skills are outstanding. He is open minded about his views and opinions, which are clearly highlighted. A brief career summary is included in the autobiography, supported with statistics.

    The facts that a professional sport-person is writing this book adds credibility and authenticity, as opposed to a biographer interest of studying a subject for a long time. In terms of sport autobiographies, I would rate this highly. My only criticism reserved about this autobiography is may be a little outdated as it written around five years ago. During that time, we have observed recent innovations in the game, with twenty over game, retirement of veterans and new players emerging in the scene. This clearly suggests that cricket is a sport affected by changes. The autobiography still remains a strong favourite with me. The Opening up by Mike Atherton is an interesting read of a cricketer from a particular generation.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  5. father2 says:

    In this autobiography Mike Atherton has provided readers with an insight into the mind of a top class England cricketer before the days of central contracts and the general commitment to the England national team by all concerned. We learn how Mike Atherton started playing cricket, his rise to playing for Lancashire and then onto the England team. This book details how Mike Atherton rose quickly to become the England captain at a time when England players were in and out of the England team constantly. Mike Atherton provides enough information for the reader to know clearly what he thought of Ray Illingworth and the other selectors, during their time. It is obvious that Mike Atherton enjoyed playing under “Bumble”, as David Lloyd is affectionately known, from his association with Lloyd at Lancashire. This book describes how these two gelled well together, in a similar way to the union of Fletcher/Hussain and Fletcher/Vaughan subsequently.

    You will find extracts from Mike Atherton’s diary when he considers the dirt in the pocket affair, though this is a very clever spin on a matter that has not been satisfactorily resolved in my mind at least, I felt much is held back. For that matter there are a number of sections where I felt that things were being held back, which is a shame, but maybe Mike Atherton feels that he does not want to upset people in cricket. In an age where England cricket has central contracts, an outstanding coach in Duncan Fletcher and coaching facilities that rival any other cricketing nation, it is interesting to note that Mike Atherton recommended many of the measures that England now enjoy. Indeed Mike Atherton makes it clear that the only thing not accepted during his time were central contracts, but he did recommend them. Today we have much to learn from Mike Atherton, a batsman who could occupy crease for long periods of time and frustrate the opposition. Personally I enjoyed reading about Mike Atherton’s batting exploits and felt at times that I was right there beside Mike Atherton as he batted, which is a testament to his clear writing style. If you want an insight into 1990’s England cricket then this book should be top of your listing.
    Rating: 4 / 5

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