Tom Gleisner is a well known comedian and writer in Australia, and has been an integral part of many successful television series including The D-Generation, The Late Show, The Panel and Thank God You’re Here, and films including The Castle. He is a cricket lover, and has written three satirical books based around the life and times of a mythical test player called Warwick Todd. Gleisner writes in the first person as Todd, recounting his experiences as a member of the Australian cricket team. The book are presented as tour diaries, parodying the annual Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting efforts since the mid 90s. The diaries describe actual real-life matches that were played by the national side, with Warwick Todd slotted into the lineup in a fictional capacity.
The first diary was "The Warwick Todd Diaries", which recounts the events of the Australian 1997 Ashes tour of England. Mark Taylor was going through a fairly wretched patch with the blade, and this provided Gleisner with plenty of material. After a brief retirement, Todd’s second diary “Back in the Baggy Green”, describes the Commonwealth Games of 1998, and the Australian team’s tour of the sub-continent. Cricket often plays a secondary role to the off-field hijinks described in great detail. The third, and to this point, final diary is “Going the Tonk", which covers another Ashes tour of England in 2001.
The humour is often blunt, sometimes offensive, and also surprisingly clever at time. Drinking, carousing and sexual innuendo is the basis for much of the content, however, there is also a lot of far more subtle gags. It is clear that Gleisner is a genuine cricket fan (the lucky bastard is even invited to play as Warwick Todd in charity events with real test cricketers), and has also done his research carefully. Gleisner uses the real tensions and events of the time extremely well. An example of this can be seen with the following paragraph that encapsulates the problems actually expressed by test players in relation to the perceived conflict in Bob Simpson being both a selector and the coach.
“Put yourself in the position of a player with a minor technical problem and ask yourself if you would go to the coach for advice if he was also a selector and the side was being chosen that night? This exact dilemma presented itself to me on the eve of the First Test against England in 1993 when, after a lengthy session in the nets, I discovered a footwork problem. Should I tell Simmo? Should I not? In the end I decided yes, and pointed out to him just how badly Matt Hayden was handling the leg-spin bowling. Next thing I knew – Hulkster is carrying the drinks. Not fair is it?”
Gleisner has also read similar tour diaries and the autobiographies of the players of the time. There is a great reference to not trusting chiropractors that is a direct rip-off of the Geoff Lawson book “Henry”. Unless you have read “Henry”, you would miss Gleisner’s beautiful parody of Lawson’s initial paranoia about chiropractors. Gleisner also managed to delightfully puncture the robotic and choreographed responses that our current day cricketers are taught in Media Training 101.
“Our 12th man was announced during the pre-game warm-up and Julian was something of a surprise choice, considering his excellent form thus far. That a player of BJ’s calibre could be omitted indicates just how much better than him the rest of us clearly are.”
The Warwick Todd diaries will not appeal to everyone. They can be extremely crude and rude in places, and political correctness goes completely out the window in “Back in the Baggy Green”. They are, nonetheless, exceedingly funny in parts, and I recommend them to fans of the sport. Cricket can be taken far too seriously at times – it is just a game after all, and Gleisner managed to remind us all of that.