Roderick Easdale: Review of The Judge by Robin Smith


Much of the publicity for The Judge by Robin Smith with Rob Smyth focused on Robin Smith’s post-career troubles which involved alcoholism and plans for suicide.

In fact only four of the 28 chapters cover this stage of his life; the others read as a straight cricketing autobiography.

Smith was a fine player, more comfortable against pace than spin. His perceived weaknesses against spin lead him to play fewer tests than many thought he deserved. 

“My struggles against spin bowling were overplayed and cost me a lot of caps… I scored test hundreds against Kumble, Muralitharan and Mushtaq Ahmed… I had a higher test average against Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka than any other country. You can’t average 44 in test cricket, batting in the middle order, without scoring runs against spin… I also averaged 49 in ODIs in Asia. Joe Root, James Taylor and Ben Stokes are the only England batsmen with a higher average than that.”

But he certainly struggled throughout his career from a lack of confidence – in The Judge he often writes gratefully about those who “pumped my tyres up“.

He played his best cricket when Micky Stewart was coach. “If I saw Micky in the evening he would put his arm round me and say ‘How’s my best player going?’ I’m sure he said the same to most of us, but he just made me feel great.”

Micky Stewart comes out as one of the heroes of the book. “Micky was a very good man manager, especially with the younger players, and took into account the different personalities in the team. He was soft and gentle with me and understood that I had very little confidence of my own – that I was living off the swagger of others in the dressing room.”

When Botham, Gower, Lamb and Stewart all left the England scene in rapid succession “my dressing-room support network had disappeared at a stroke. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I would never be quite the same player again.”

Smith says he struggled at being a senior player in the dressing room. It is a shame, therefore, that he has says so little about his five seasons as captain of Hampshire. You cannot get more senior in a dressing room that being captain.

He is an odd contradiction as a person in other ways, too. He is someone who lacks confidence, yet who loved chatting up women and was a serial adulterer. When his wife learnt of one of his affairs “she was so upset that she had to call a friend round to console her. This led to another major problem, as I was having an affair with her too.”

Robin Smith is not the first sportsman to struggle to come to terms with retirement. In his case he was left unfulfilled feeling both his England and his Hampshire careers had been cut short prematurely.

But he finishes the book on an optimistic note: “I feel positive about the future, which for a long time wasn’t the case…  I have now realised my cricket career was a stage of my life not the whole thing.” 

The Judge by Robin Smith with Rob Smyth is published by Yellow Jersey Press.


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