Rob Smyth reviews
Start The Car: The World According to Bumble
by David Lloyd
HarperSport, hb, 310pp, £18.99
English cricket’s everyman loses none of the wacko warmth in print
LIFE IS supposed to begin at 40 but for David Lloyd it hit top gear at 60. Although he had been round the block many times – as an England player, first-class umpire, TMS commentator, England coach – it is only since 2007 that Bumble has become the voice of Twenty20, discovered the joys of Twitter and his beloved Manchester band,
The Fall. Now, as cricket’s man
of the people, a crackpot enthusiast that the cover of this book proudly describes as “one ball short of an over”, he seems to have found his true calling.
Start the Car is the story of Lloyd’s life covering all points east and west, from what makes a good pub (“good bar stools and good ale: the ideal tools for chewing the fat”) to the pros of corporal punishment (Bumble felt the belt for, among other things, “climbing on to the backyard wall to see if I could get a glimpse of my cousin Kathleen in the bath”), the joys of Slumdog Millionaire and why Piers Morgan should shut his mouth. It has the quality of an all-day session in his local: an infectious, unapologetically laddish and very funny trip through his stream of consciousness. It could be a cure for misanthropy.
The diversions are a conceit that could have backfired but nothing feels forced or inappropriate. In any case, all roads lead inevitably back to Lloyd’s love of cricket. The pen portraits of his Sky colleagues, written with mischief and huge warmth, are exceptional. He does not skip over the flippin’ murder incident in Zimbabwe (“I will always have to live that down”) and the book contains strident opinions on video evidence, Twenty20 (“a form of entertainment using cricket equipment”), the primacy of Tests and the urgent need for red and yellow cards.
It is full of anecdotes. Some will be familiar, like the time Jeff Thomson broke Lloyd’s box on a Perth flyer. But there are other lesser-known gems: Jack Simmons’ farcical attempts to signal to his team-mates that he was about to bowl his faster ball, Tino Best whispering sweet nothings about Lloyd’s wife into a stump mic and Allan Lamb locking Lloyd and his fellow umpire Ray Julian in their dressing room before shoving lit newspapers under the door.
This is the story of a life well lived, told with charm and style by one of the good guys. At an age when others are gathering their free bus pass, Lloyd is still starting the car, speeding along in the fast lane with a big dumb grin on his face.
Rob Smyth is a freelance sports writer and author of The Spirit of Cricket – What Makes Cricket the Greatest Game on Earth, out now