Playing With FireAbebooks Exclusive Interview With Nasser Hussain

Abebooks' Richard Davies (who's bonkers about cricket) recently spoke with the retired captain of the England cricket team about books.

Nasser Hussain captained the England cricket team in 45 test matches and retired in July 2003 after scoring an emotional century at Lord�s. He has been acclaimed for sparking England�s revival after a decade of defeats. His book, Playing With Fire, recently won best autobiography in the 2005 Sports Book Awards.

What�s your favourite cricket book?
It�s probably The Art of Captaincy by Mike Brearley. I know there are plenty of biographies by the likes of Alec Stewart, Mike Atherton and Geoff Boycott, but they tend to recap their careers. I like the Brearley book because it explains his techniques for man management and how he handled people like Ian Botham. I read it before I became England captain and it made me think about captaincy.

Are cricketers great readers?
They like sports books and you see them reading things like Addicted by Tony Adams. You would see Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe reading the latest crime novels, and there�d be Michael Atherton reading something very intellectual.

To be honest, cricketers from my generation have adopted the PlayStation and many lock themselves away in hotel rooms and play computer games. After a day�s play, I liked to go down the bar, have a glass of wine and talk about cricket with someone.

When a cricketer publishes a book, the other cricketers tend to flick to the back and see what pages they are mentioned on and then go and see what�s written about them. It�s a bit like the newspapers � if you score a hundred you order the paper, if you get a duck then you don�t.

Which of your team-mates surprised you with their reading selection?
Matthew Hoggard came into the team and he came across as rather mad and not the brightest player in the team � a typical fast bowler perhaps. However, it soon became obvious that he was a clever man and a deep thinker from the sort of books he was reading.

Did your autobiography draw line under your career?
Writing a book was something I�d been talking about for a long. I wanted to let people know what I thought � there are a lot of misconceptions about me because of things written in the papers. I don�t want to be misunderstood and wanted to explain the way I saw things in my career. Sportspeople get pigeon-holed and that happened to me. When I was younger, I was considered to be fiery and ruffled a few feathers, but I just wanted to win very badly.

What cricketer deserves to be written about the most?
It�s already happened. Phil Tufnell is by far the most interesting character that I met. He�s very intelligent, very good company but self-destructive. I think they call him �The Cat� because he really does have 100 lives and he has used lots of them up. In many ways, he was an old school cricketer compared today�s modern players � I was probably old school too.

What moments from your career do you treasure the most?
I enjoyed scoring a double century against Australia at Edgbaston in 2000. There was the last innings at Lord�s. However, I will always remember our winter tour victories in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. I loved touring India because I was born there.

Do you miss playing cricket?
No. I�d hit the wall. I think you need to be an athlete to be a professional sportsman and my body was starting to creak.

Will England win the Ashes this summer?
The Australians will say that they heard all about England revivals in the past and they came to nothing. England will have to play at their best throughout the season and not slip up once � if Steve Harmison and Freddie Flintoff start firing, then why not?