‘Oi, Key – Book Review

First of all, a declaration. I am a Kentish Man as is Rob Key (if you accept that East Dulwich is part of the cricket catchment area of Kent!)

I have also been a cricket fan and Kent supporter since the age of 5, when Kent were at the height of their powers, as they won three County Championships, three Sunday leagues, three Benson & Hedges Cups and a Gillette Cup in the 1970s.

They had so many great players during that period as well: Asif Iqbal, Derek Underwood, Alan Knott, Alan Ealham, John Shepherd, Bob Woolmer, Chris Tavare, Brian Luckhurst…

Since then the trophy shelf has been a bit bare, and during the 1980s and 90s, rather than be known as the Kent Spitfires, it would have been more apt for them to be known as the Kent Runner-Ups.

So, when a great player came along, hopes for a Kent revival are always raised, and Rob Key fits that bill and joins my list of all-time Kent greats.

He is seventh on Kent’s first class century list with 49 – only behind the likes of Frank Woolley, Les Ames and Colin Cowdrey. 6th in the list for most List A runs and 5th in the list for Twenty20 runs – and was captain when Kent won the Twenty20 Cup in 2007.

So, while in lockdown I was looking forward to reading his book. It is not an autobiography, but the book revolves around chapter topics whether it is about some of the modern greats such as Flintoff, Murali and Warne and even a chapter on Nasser Hussain (well he did play for Essex!), or specific times in his career, and on his thoughts around subjects such as captaincy, playing county cricket or coaching.

And the book benefits from this, because it allows him to show his great cricketing brain and insight into those that play it and the game itself.

Despite being the man in possession of the England shirt before the 2005 Ashes Summer, he shows great humility and rationale as to why he didn’t play that summer and the end of his England Test career.

Personally, I think he should have played ahead of Ian Bell and I would bet heavily that he would have scored more than Bell’s 171 runs at an average of 17.1 runs but having read the book I also have every sympathy with Duncan Fletcher at the thought of managing Flintoff, Harmison and Key in the same team!

The book covers a wide range of topics from why he thinks it is important that kids play adult cricket at clubs to his thoughts on sledging and to the fact why you shouldn’t walk because umpires are there to make decisions.

While I agree on most of his insights, with regards to umpires I have to disagree as we’ll end up down the route of football and the abuse that referees receive from players and crowds at all levels of the game. But again, when your livelihood and career is in the balance then my thoughts would probably be different.

However, that aside, I really enjoyed the book and the insights it offered. Rob is a great addition to the Sky Cricket coverage and well deserves his place (and there is a chapter about his commentating career in the book).

Sky’s gain is likely to be at the loss of a potentially good cricket coach though. His observations and understanding of how coaching should differ between International and County Cricket aligned with his cricketing nous would be good in the Test arena.

A great book and I highly recommend as a great addition to anyone that has a cricket library or even thinking of starting one.

Finally, it is good to see him back in the commentary box after his health scare, as his lockdown interviews and watch-alongs on Sky were a TV highlight during the lockdown

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