Some days, you get nice little surprises in your inbox.
A few weeks ago, a publicist from Penguin Books asked me if I’d review Dan Brettig’s new book ‘Whitewash to Whitewash’. Of course I said yes, but failed to share that I hadn’t reviewed a book since ‘My Brother Jack’ in year 10 of high school. I got a C+ for that effort.
Before we go any further, here’s some further disclosure.
Although I have never met Dan, we do follow each other on twitter. Once, he even tweeted out a link to a piece I wrote on Dennis Lillee. He obviously knows talented writing when he sees it. We have also exchanged emails on a possible working collaboration last year. Disappointingly, that came to naught.
Any of these things could be perceived as inducing bias. I would hope that my previous writings indicate a willingness to tackle issues and events with a heavy but objectively based hand.
Anyhow, you can make your own minds up about that.
So, let’s talk about the book itself.
Firstly, and most surprisingly, Dan’s name was spelt correctly. That pesky little ‘n’ that mysteriously keeps appearing has been erased fully from the book’s pages. Someone should show his employer ESPNcricinfo how it works:
The book sets out to document Australia’s cricketing journey from 2007 to 2013. This, as Dan sets out, was a turbulent time with multiple changes, issues and scandals confronting a group in a state of flux.
Initially, I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to the story, given I’m not a massive cricket book reader. Most are mundane and meandering stories about topics that don’t easily fit in the interesting basket. Picture an ADHD child trying to sit through a typical episode of ‘Australian Story’ on the ABC. That’s how I usually relate to cricket books.
However, as a 39 year old male who can recall this period quite well, I found myself unable to put the book down.
Dan’s research and story telling abilities have the effect of placing you in the heart of the dressing room. The insights and quotes lay to rest many of that time’s rumours and bring light to the many fables spoken around the bar.
It is as if Brettig was privy to every conversation and decision making process first hand. He assigns conjecture to some other place. The impression gained is that this is clearly a book of truth.
Some cricketing characters will read the book and not necessarily have their reputations enhanced. The undercurrent against Michael Clarke and the immaturity in his people management is not watered down. Interestingly, John Inverarity comes away with us feeling empathetic for what he was trying to achieve behind the scenes. Andrew Hilditch doesn’t fare so well.
The arrival, impact and response of the T20 revolution is well covered, as is Cricket Australia’s failings as a communicator. MonkeyGate is rehashed, noting that Brettig tells the story from the consequences afflicting Andrew Symonds. In fact, Symonds is a constant appearer throughout the book.
There’s also things like obscure references to Nathan Adcock and the woes of selecting a captain for South Australia.
The BCCI’s growing influence over the game is explored, with details behind the Srini and Lorgat spat bubbling to the surface.
Most dramatically for a niche handful of readers, we hear first hand how Ricky Ponting killed off Nathan Hauritz’s career without knowing it.
Brettig explains how Michael Hussey caused the Clarke vs Katich blow up, how Cricket Australia failed to act when a named high profile player was dobbed in by team mates for having cocaine in his system, how James Sutherland risked his career by publicly taking on the board, and a blow by blow account of Australia’s fateful tour to India in 2013.
There’s a deep dive into the Katich sacking and Dan’s own nomination for the worst shot ever played in Test match history.
I personally struggled with the pages covering the death of journalist Peter Roebuck. Primarily because only fleeting mention is given to his alleged crimes and the section appears unbalanced. However, this is the only area of the book that requires any criticism. It also discounts whatever personal connection Brettig had with Roebuck that I do not share.
The book also explains the purpose of setting up the Big Bash League. Interestingly, it appears to be different to why Sydney Thunder General Manager Nick Cummins believes it was set up as he tells me in a recent interview.
However, in the wider scheme of things, these discussion points are minutiae in regards to the quality of the journalism presented.
As if for fun, Brettig does go after fellow journalist Ben Dorries, calling him out for deliberately misleading us over the leaked South African dossier.
They are a plethora of other stories told in these pages, and most will raise an eyebrow or two. The depth of knowledge shown will have you challenging personal beliefs and truths. For example, Dan claims that the majority of cricketers reckon Chris Rogers is a shit bloke.
In summary, this book will not disappoint. Although the topic is Australian cricket chaos, it is also non prejudiced against international readers taking it on.
It is the kind of manuscript you will pick up and read again in the future.