Sunday, 9 November 2014


At the beginning of the summer I was contacted by an editor from ESPNcricinfo who told me they were going to launch a high-quality digital magazine, The Cricket Monthly, complete with typeface of the old Cricketer magazine.

He said he'd like to commission me to write a piece, and asked whether I had any suggestions. To be honest, I wasn't sure how straight to play this: after all, my four pieces (including one pending) for The Nightwatchman have covered what Jacques Derrida teaches us about Graham Onions' career-best 9-67, the great Aussie cordon (Healy, Taylor, Waugh, Warne, Waugh), having my foreskin trapped in my box by Dean Headley, and the comparisons between cricket and bullfighting.

I had a few other equally niche ideas, but in the end thought I'd go for something more accessible and mentioned that Notts had signed Peter Siddle for what they at the time thought would be a full season, an increasingly rare thing to get someone of almost top-rank stature for the duration of the summer. I suggested a diary. They liked it.

Notts were pretty good about getting me access to Pete, whom I spoke to on three occasions (I really ought to have tipped up more often at Trent Bridge, but the habitual dogsitting duties kept me out of Nottingham for the first 5 weeks of the season), and it was interesting to track his fortunes over the three months he ended up staying. The editing process wasn't quite so enjoyable, however, with every word agonised over and at least ten versions of the piece sent back to me.

The main problem, it seemed to me, was the lack of clarity over the brief. I suggested some writerly flourishes, some colour, and that sort of tone was OK-ed. However, when it came to editing my submission, many of these flourishes were tweezered out, to my mind devoiding the piece of much of its personality. I had occasion to wonder whether a more established writer would have had to endure the same treatment. I doubted it (the unconscious inclination to intervene would have tempered by the reputation of the writer; idiosyncrasies would be indulged). Then again, without a frame of reference regarding what they were after (TCM hadn't been published when I started), it was difficult to get a proper feel of what they were after, other than through the aforementioned brief.  

Anyway, shits and giggles. It was my most lucrative fixed-fee commission to date. And, after more than a few emails with other sports writers sharing our gripes and grouches, I'm growing ever less concerned by the final piece that the public sees.

Vicious in the Shires


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