YOU get a good idea of what to expect right from the start of Ian Botham's autobiography. If the sub-title 'Don't Tell Kath' doesn't give the game away, a candid roasting in chapter one of Ted Dexter, the chairman of the Test board of selectors who brought Botham's international cricketing career to a close, certainly sets the tone. This may be a book about a cricketer, but there's going to be more than just a remembrance of his time at the top of an exacting sport. Ian Botham has always been more than a remarkable sportsman. He is a headline maker, often for the wrong reasons, a provocateur, a brawler, a stubborn and fiercely loyal friend, an unforgiving enemy and a man who now wants to explain his actions, justify most of them and, most importantly it seems to him, to apologise to his wife. She certainly deserves it. Dexter's tongue-lashing starts on page 16. The introductory passages, the thanks, the acknowledgements take up the first 12, leaving no time for a soft start, no early remembrances of a little boy with his cricket bat in the back garden - they are dealt with later. First comes the serious business. Dexter is hit for six just four pages into the book proper. There follows throughout this entertaining exercise in self-justification, similar denouncements of: young players today, they expect everything on a plate; Geoffrey Boycott, too slow and too selfish; Somerset County Cricket Club, Botham's first sporting home, for their disloyalty to his colleagues Viv Richards and Joel Garner; Peter Roebuck, for aiding and abetting that crime; the Queensland State side, they sacked him; the MCC, they didn't appreciate him; the cricketing authorities, they are not offering the best way forward; Durham County - his last team - for being penny-pinching; Imran Khan, for cheating; Graham Gouch, for thoughtless captaincy; Merv Hughes, for intimidating the opposition and Ian Chappell for, well, being Ian Chappell. Then there are the many brushes with the law - both of cricket and of the land - to be explained, the admissions of drug-taking (a minor matter, he says, and hearing the details you have to agree), the many scrapes in pubs, clubs, on a plane and, famously, with Chappell (mostly provoked by others, he claims, with a consistent, wide-eyed innocence) and the dressing-room pranks that endeared him to many, but must have infuriated a few. After all, maybe a professional sportsman out to play an important game does not see the humour in having heating cream put in his jockstrap, even if it makes a fine anecdote to be told later. Or a fellow player having his hotel door charged down because he doesn't want to go out for a night's drinking. Ian Botham made it right to the top of his profession; he was the pre-eminent English cricketer of the 80s and anyone who saw this remarkable all-rounder in full flow was grateful for the privilege. The character who indulged in such antics and who held such uncompromising views was also needed when Botham pulled off one of the greatest Test victories in cricketing history when beating the Australians virtually singlehandedly in 1981 immediately after losing the English captaincy. That was a measure of the man; so too is the rest. Botham, My Autobiography, is not a great cricketing book; partly written by British tabloid journalist Peter Hayter, it contains too little sporting detail for the purist and too many details of his extra-curricular activities. It is written in a simple style; no frills with the language to match the lack of serious thought. Yet this is also the never-say-die hero who walked the length of the British Isles, nearly 1,600 kilometres, to raise a huge sum for young leukaemia victims after being touched by a chance meeting with patients in a west of England hospital ward. Botham, warts and all. Take it or leave it, says this autobiography. Judging by its heavy sales in Britain, many prefer to do the former.