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No Boundaries by Ronnie Irani

Release date: 15th October, 2009
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £18.99
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No Boundaries
By Ronnie Irani
John Blake Publishing price: £9.49, saving 50% on rrp

Having bowled a particularly good delivery to Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, Ronnie Irani was disappointed that the great man tried to haul him out of the ground. Quite naturally, therefore, he walked towards the revered cricketing god and suggested that Richards should show a little more respect when he faced a good ball. "I turned on my heel," writes Ronnie, " already regretting what I'd said."

Not surprisingly, Richards pursued him, initially with an imperious bellow. "Young man," he hollered several times before Irani eventually turned, "cursing myself for being an idiot."

"Yes Viv. What is it?"

"Young man, you will go far in this game," said Richards. And with that, he turned and went back to his crease and blocked every ball of Irani's next (maiden) over, after which he hollered again: "Well bowled."

Astonishingly, this incident took place during Ronnie's debut for Lancashire. It sums the man up: not afraid to back himself, even when still a rookie, and certainly prepared to challenge the world's best.

No Boundaries is an appropriate title for it is packed with similar examples (including a particularly funny one involving Sachin Tendulkar) which reveals him as an honest cricketer who fans appreciated because of his willingness to never give up. How such a committed individual appeared only three times in an England shirt is astonishing. Sure, he was plagued by injury, but one fancies that Ronnie would have been delighted to play through pain in order to represent his country.

Unlike a number of wooden sporting tomes, No Boundaries is as well paced as an Irani opening ball. From his inaugural gig as an after dinner speaker with Sid Dennis to the ribald stories of being on tour, especially when rooming with Phil Tufnell, readers will find themselves suffering from frequent bouts of nose-snorting laughter.

But it is not just a collection of humorous anecdotes. No Boundaries provides a candid account of life as a professional sportsman where we learn why one side of a cricket ball is illegally 'roughed up' and where we have an empathy for those fringe players not awarded contract extensions, not least because they're Ronnie's mates.

There are some great cricketing tales too, especially when Ronnie scores his maiden century in a match where Essex required 405 to win on the last day against Worcestershire and achieved victory off the final ball. His pre-England debut dinner when, as tradition dictates, he sat next to chairman of the selectors, Ray Illingworth, is another example of cricket's greatest exponents being more inclined to encourage, rather than disparage, the efforts of younger players. This was not always the case with some of the cricketing stars with whom Irani rubbed shoulders during his career.

He had intended it should be spent with Lancashire (he was born in Bolton), but unable to get much first XI exposure, a chance remark by Graham Saville led him to forge a successful career with Essex instead.

Ronnie is grateful for the people who helped him along the way and he is particularly thankful to Frank Dick, former director of coaching for British athletics who, he says, was responsible for giving him "a transfusion of optimism and self-confidence."

Listening to him on Talksport nowadays, few would imagine Ronnie being short on confidence; that he admits it is just another example of the man's disarming openness. Read it.

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