This was another commission from John Blake and gave me the double pleasure of being able to stay with friends in Essex while getting Ronnie’s story down on tape.
I was full of admiration for Ronnie’s stamina. At the time he was getting up at some unearthly hour each day to do his talkSport breakfast show with Alan Brazil but he never baulked at the recording sessions, no matter how much he would have preferred to have got his head down for an hour or two.
As usual, it wasn’t the well-known stuff about Ronnie that brought the book to life, it was the details that only he, his family and a few people close to them had been aware of until that moment. One chat about the high divorce rate among cricketers brought on by touring led to an idea that I think works well, a chapter with Ronnie’s wife Lorraine on becoming almost a ‘single mum’ while he had been away for long periods on tour.
Whilst I’m in the taping sessions a small part of my brain is already trying to sort the material into some kind of pattern. The recordings tend to jump around as the conversation goes off in different directions – often you find you have to go back later to get the end of a story that got interrupted by another thought. And I’m always hoping that the book’s opening – the story or fact that will grab readers’ attention – will jump out.
Usually it only comes later when the writing starts for real but in this case I knew I had it when Ronnie said ‘and as I walked down the steps they started to sing my song.’ I stopped him. I’d not heard about a song. What song? He grinned and broke into: ‘His name is Ronnie Irani/ He’s big and he’s barmy/ He bats number five for Essex/ ESSEX!’ I had my opening.
If you would like a copy of Ronnie’s book you can buy it direct from John Blake Publishing