Whenever you read an autobiography – be it cricket, football, golf or any profession for that matter – you always want the subject’s personality to shine through. In “Oi Key” by Rob Key you feel it does.
There is a humour and friendliness in the writing that draws you in, makes you feel like it is just you and Rob, as you chat – maybe over a pint in the pub – about his life, career both on and off the field and the characters he has met along the way.
Two of the main characters your new friend Keysey talks about are his best mates, Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and Steve Harmison. He played with both through the age groups, and got to represent his country with them in Test matches, something that Key himself admits was an unbelievable experience. He made his debut with Harmison and won a Test match out in the middle with Flintoff.
The affection Key has for Flintoff and Harmison is evident for all to read throughout the book, and it’s reciprocated in the foreward written by Flintoff about Key, even pulling his leg about his new found love of Nasser Hussain.
The book follows Key’s entire career, from first breaking into the Kent second team as a teenager and battling the perception he was unfit, securing a place in the first team and then cementing his place in Kent’s top order. It looks at his England career, his magnificent double century against the West Indies, his time back as Kent, the captaincy and all the extra pressures that brings, then finally his retirement and move into broadcasting.
Each part of his career is talked about with an open honesty and you never feel like Key is hiding anything, nor is he performing a hatchet job as so many autobiographies do these days.
With Key playing for England just 15 times in Tests and five times in ODIs, you could be forgiven for thinking he would not have many stories to tell or names to discuss, but the chapters on his experiences playing with and against some of the biggest names in cricket continue in the friendly and entertaining vein.
Who wouldn’t want to hear the story of him welcoming Steve Waugh to his accommodation in Kent with a scene akin to the Hangover film after a night out with Andrew Symonds?
Or how he and the Kent players taught Muttiah Muralitharan a variety of drinking games and swear words? Or Murali’s opinions on Fleur Key being too attractive for him as he doesn’t have a face for the ladies.
All the stories are told with a gentle level of self deprecation showing that Key never took himself too seriously, apart from when he was wanting to score runs in whichever game he was playing, and score runs he did. You forget how prolific county run scorer he was and what a career he had as his broadcasting career goes from strength to strength.
Key has produced a book which reflects his personality and career beautifully, a lovely gentle jaunt through the career of a likeable honest player, a player who probably deserved more chance at the highest level, but with story telling like this, it is easy to see why his broadcasting career has blossomed and taken him now to the highest level of his new chosen career.
The final line of the book says he hopes that he will be hearing “Oi Keysey” for years to come and if there is any justice in the world he will and he will have more stories to tell.