Andrew Strauss is a serious man and Driving Ambition (Hodder, £20, Spectator Bookshop, £18) is a serious book. It looks like most other sporting autobiographies: there are heroes, jokes and solecisms aplenty. Yet it is also the Bildungsroman of a determined bloke making the most of his talents.
Strauss rejects the truism ‘You make your own luck’; but in his case, I’m not convinced. He matured as an adolescent when his contract with Middlesex County Cricket Club was threatened. Then he conquered mental frailty to make a career-saving century for England against New Zealand in 2008. There was lots of graft in between.
It was his personality principally that turned the England team from a demoralised rabble in 2009 into an irresistible host by 2010. When he fell from power, he fell with dignity, leaving us wanting more from the man rather than the faded cricketer.
Readers who hope that Strauss might set about that preening genius Kevin Pietersen will be disappointed. Restraint is a characteristic, for he sees no worth in enmity. He recognises strengths in different temperaments. He admires the gifts of people he appears to dislike and has the humility to forgive personal slights. But he can’t forgive treachery to the team’s shared cause; that’s as close as he comes to condemning Pietersen.
Cricket reveals something of those who play it. Andrew Strauss is a selfless leader and decent man. He commands the respect that an egoist would demand.
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