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The '80s was a colourful period in English cricket. As a member of the most successful team in Essex's history and an England side capable of extraordinary highs and lows, Derek Pringle was lucky enough to be in the thick of it. Now, with the perspective of more than 20 years as a journalist, he lays bare the realities of life as a professional cricketer in a decade when the game was dominated by a cast of unforgettable characters whose exploits became front-page news. Picked for the Test side while still an ear stud-wearing student at Cambridge, he was as surprised as anybody to find himself playing alongside the likes of David Gower, Allan Lamb and Phil Edmonds. He also had to contend with being hailed as the new Ian Botham, even though the old one was still going strong - and playing in the same team. For England, it was a time of mixed fortunes, as Ashes victories alternated with humiliation by a dominant West Indies. The chop-and-change policy of the selectors - culminating in the summer of four captains in 1988 - made cricket such an insecure profession that some players chose to go on rebel tours of South Africa while others relished every opportunity the game provided - on and off the field. The hard slog of domestic cricket, meanwhile, had never seen so much talent, with counties boasting overseas players like Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall and Javed Miandad. A coach-free zone, it was left in the hands of canny old pros such as Keith Fletcher and John Lever, who guided Essex to multiple Championship and one-day successes. But cricket was changing, and not necessarily for the better. By the end of the decade, as the new coaching culture established itself, it became clear that the days of the maverick cricketer were numbered. Few players ended the '80s wealthy, but as Derek Pringle's eye-opening memoir reveals, all left rich in experience, with enough stories to last a lifetime.

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