In Another Bloody Day in Paradise, Frank Keating performed several miracles. One, he wrote about a phenomenally one-sided series with enough flourish and flair to make it engrossing to the level of gripping. Secondly, he managed to make Geoff Boycott and Ian Botham appear normal everyday blokes, so touching and compassionate were his descriptions of their more human sides. It is little wonder he later wrote the biographies of both these intriguing characters.
Finally, he approached the tragic death of manager Ken Barrington with a masterly mix of pathos and humour – at once making the reader smile and well up with tears. Barrington helped him along the way, with his penchant for the most curious malapropisms. Keating himself, however, provides the writers of his obituary no such help – he was an established master of the language.
Since joining The Guardian in 1963 as a 26-year old, Keating spent half a century as one of the leading lights of sports journalism. He moved around in his early years, across the press and television world, being employed by Thames TV and Rediffusion TV. But, once he returned to The Guardian as a sub-editor in 1970, he stayed there till the very end of his journey– soon having his own columns covering cricket, football and rugby. `He continued writing for The Guardian and The Observer till last month.
Known for his “remarkable gift for phrase and observation”, he also wrote for magazines such as Punch, The Spectator and The New Statesman and was honoured as the Sports Journalist of the Year in the 1988 British Press Awards.
Apart from Another Bloody Day in Paradise, perhaps the tour diary most loved by the cricketers themselves, he wrote numerous other books. In his famous biography of Ian Botham, High Wide and Handsome, he characteristically dwelt equally on the all-rounder’s exploits at Headingley, 1981, and his epic walk for leukaemia.
He also co-authored the biographies of Graham Gooch and Geoff Boycott. His own autobiography, Half-Time Whistle, was shortlisted for the Sports Book of the Year award when published in 1992.
In spite of his renown, Keating remained unassuming, and in spite of the current day obsession with the sound byte, he remained happy writing in the background. Along the way, with his jovial company and ever-engaging smile, he made numerous friends in the worlds of the journalists and sportspeople. His writing style – a lovable cocktail of sporting action, human emotions and gentle humour – won him plenty of ardent readers.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix
First Published: January 31, 2013, 10:56 am