England’s greatest all-rounder, with a flamboyant approach to the game on and off the pitch, Ian Botham could be an irresistible cricketing force, and Botham’s Century–his portraits of 100 of the people who had a significant impact on his cricketing life–is a typically entertaining “knock” from one of the great post-war sporting characters.

From fellow cricket legends such as Gary Sobers, Dennis Lillee and Viv Richards, through Test and county journeymen, coaches and physios, to today’s stars–not forgetting the odd surprise such as Elton John and Ian Woosnam–Botham serves up a satisfying, readable blend of anecdote and opinion, accompanied by a selection of colour photos and portrait sketches. The tone is often light and in keeping with the knock-about style we associate with his appearances on A Question of Sport.

He [Angus Fraser] did manage to remove Brian [Lara] cheaply in a county match at Lord’s and, feeling inordinately proud and relieved, made his way back to his fielding position to receive the generous applause of the Middlesex faithful.

“Oi, Fraser!” came a voice, and Gus prepared to wave politely in acknowledgement of the upcoming compliment. “You tosser! I paid to watch Lara bat, not you bowl. Thanks very much. I’m off.”

That is not to say that Botham fails to ask the big questions, or avoids controversy–he reflects on serious issues such as cheating and match-fixing, and confronts his unhappy professional relationships such as the one with fellow all-rounder star Imran Khan. A touch of “great times, great mates” creeps in now and then, but overall Botham strikes an interesting balance between what are sometimes strikingly distinct appreciations of his subjects’ professional and personal qualities. One suspects that one or two of these characters will not be at all impressed by the straight-talking appraisals found here, but for cricket fans, Botham’s Century is a genuine pleasure. –Alex Hankin

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  1. Although as other reviewers have commented this book offers a good read, at times the length of each piece leaves you wanting more. As ever Botham is never short of an opinion, supplemented by some fascinating anecdotes, but the resulting polarisation of the book leaves a lot to be desired. There are too many people who are just “great blokes” who, while eccentric, seem to have few real flaws. While loyalty to one’s friends is to be admired, it leaves at least one half of the book somewhat bland, while at other times the limits of the format mean that issues such as ball tampering can’t get the attention they demand.
    Overall however, if you are looking for a light-hearted collection of anecdotes, then this book is worth a read, particularly if you are a Botham fan. As a real insight into cricketing personalities however it is sadly lacking in depth.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  2. this is the best book written i’ve ever read by any sports person, ever. the humour is great and his description of people like dickie bird “great bloke, completely bonkers” is only to true. some of the stories he tells us great, like darren gough’s “don’t these planes get low to the ground wen they’re landing?” how great you are beefy.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. In the recent times there haven’t been too many books that I can truly say “Excellent” to. Not only is it well written but flows through nice. One I started to read it I couldn’t put it down. It is funny in place and the respect he has for Nelson Mandela is there for all to see. Nice work Ian.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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