Making a big noise: Paul Nixon opens up


Keeping Quiet:The Autobiography, by Paul Nixon (The History Press)

Paul Nixon once could barely contemplate reading a book, let alone writing one.  The former Leicestershire -- and England -- wicketkeeper always found that his concentration would falter and his eyes become tired after only a few pages, so however much he might want to improve his knowledge or simply be entertained by the written word, the contents of any volume would tend to remain an undiscovered pleasure.

Although it would be many years before it was diagnosed, Nixon suffered from a condition that lay somewhere between dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, which explained not only why he found reading a challenge but also his poor concentration, his butterfly mind, even the fidgeting at the crease when he batted and the incessant jabbering behind the stumps that prompted Steve Waugh, the former Australian captain, to liken him to "a fly I wanted to swat".

He overcame the problem by undertaking some extraordinary exercises recommended to him by Wynford Dore, the father of a dyslexic daughter, whose extensive investigations of his daughter's handicap and related disorders brought into focus the crucial role played by the cerebellum, a part of the brain at the base of the skull that influences co-ordination and attention among other things.  Dore's prescription included trying to stand upright inside a moving box and reciting mathematical tables while hopping on one leg, exercises that Nixon added to the already complicated set of routines he followed in his efforts to prepare as well as he possibly could for action on the cricket field.

This story and many others illuminate the pages of Keeping Quiet, the autobiography Nixon has written lucidly and coherently after finding an attentive and diligent collaborator in Jon Colman, a sports writer from the News and Star newspaper in Nixon's native Cumbria, whose work the cricketer was with through his interest in the fortunes of Carlisle United.   Colman spent more than a year putting it together, transcribing hours of recorded conversations. "He has so many stories to tell it was deciding what to leave out that was the problem," he said.

These include a good deal about the elevation to England player that came late in his career, his time in a Leicestershire dressing room in which the likes of David Gower and Peter Willey once reigned supreme, his insight into the character of the late, disgraced South African captain Hansie Cronje and how the murky world of match fixing dangled temptation in his face.

He talks frankly about how his willingness to engage in 'banter' with opposing batsmen from his position behind the stumps earned him a perhaps ill-deserved reputation as a sledger and offers his opinion on Michael Atherton, 'Freddie' Flintoff, Duncan Fletcher and others.

Of course, he talks with pride about the great moments in his career, particularly with the Leicestershire side that became the masters of Twenty20, a game that might have been made for a cricketer as hyperactive as Nixon.

But there are also deeply human stories from his life off the field, his battles against the voice of negativity -- the 'little man' whose picture appears on the dust jacket -- that would so often undermine his confidence, about his dyslexia and how taking part in a séance with some team-mates in a spooky Durham hotel convinced him that there is a life after death.

"The book isn't about a fifty here or a hundred there although cricket matches are part of it," Nixon told The Sports Bookshelf.  "More it's behind the scenes stuff, the characters, family, life and issues that everybody has, in my case the dyslexia and the family tragedies. It's also about people and things that inspire me.

"I wanted to stress that you don't have to be ultra-gifted to make it.  Yes, you have to have some sort of ability but I wanted to show that with hard work and determination and belief and desire and attention to detail you can achieve your goals.  I want people to read it and be inspired by what I went through to get to where I got to."

Nixon could not compliment Jon Colman highly enough for his skill in putting the stories across in a style that he could recognise as his own.

"I was familiar with Jon from reading his reports on Carlisle United and I found him to be a great guy to work with.  He is a brilliant writer and he has captured me really well," Nixon said.

"I really enjoyed the time we spent talking.  We would have to try to catch an hour here and an hour there but I would get so absorbed in it that a 10 o'clock conversation would turn into a 1.30 in the morning conversation sometimes and I'd have Jen asking me if there was any danger of me coming to bed at all.

"I found it quite therapeutic.  The hardest part of it was deciding where to stop because with every story I'd remember there would always be another one."

Keeping Quiet, by Paul Nixon, is published by The History Press.

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