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White Cap and Bails By Dickie Bird (Hodder and Stoughton pounds 18.99)
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The Independent Online
White Cap and Bails By Dickie Bird

(Hodder and Stoughton pounds 18.99)

POOR DICKIE. After all these years, there is very little he does not know about cricket. But perhaps he has still to appreciate the ways of modern publishing.

Two years ago, with the help of his friend, Keith Lodge, the sports editor of his local newspaper, Dickie committed his enormous fund of memories to print. Dickie Bird: My Autobiography did rather well. So much so in fact that it became the best-selling sports autobiography of all time.

Naturally, the world's best known retired umpire was pretty chuffed about this. Not least because the book signings and all the other elements of the promotional merry-go-round extended his licence to tour instead of staring at the walls of his cottage outside Barnsley. What he may not have appreciated, however, is that the first rule of publishing is that every best seller deserves a sequel.

"I thought that there was nothing else left to say," he writes, innocently. How his publishers must have chuckled. They took him out to lunch. Soon Dickie realised there was much more to say, after all.

So he and Keith donned their thinking caps again (a white one, presumably, in Dickie's case) and by the time deadline day dawned the second set of anecdotes had made for a fatter volume even than the first, which at 367 pages was not exactly slim.

But Dickie does have a small confession to make. Some of the recollections, he admits, were somewhat hazy "until my memory was given a timely jog."

Moreover, lest any reader should take issue with his accuracy, he openly concedes that "some of the stories have been given a little poetic licence along the way."

There is, of course, another rule of publishing, at least within some newspapers: do not allow the facts to spoil a good story. So let that be an observation rather than a judgement.

By way of a format, Dickie's stories are assembled county by county, with some Test cricket memories omitted from the first volume tagging along at the end. That this makes it hard work at times (another confession!) is sometimes evident, not least in the Durham chapter, which includes his appearance on This is Your Life only because he was about to set off for a match there when Yorkshire Television summoned him under false pretenses to their studios in Leeds.

But that's enough carping. For those who love tales from the pavilion bar, this book is another jolly good read.

Jon Culley


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List compiled by Sportspages Bookshops: 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London (0171 240 9604); St Ann's Square, Manchester, (0161 832 8530).