Ian Botham arrived on the international scene just in time to ride sport's first big financial wave and exploit the Thatcherite mantra of go-out-and-get-what-you-want. He certainly needed the cash, having been regularly short since leaving state school in Yeovil at 15. In an era short on glamour and personalities, Botham brought an irresistible cocktail of talent, energy and swagger. With the stench of economic failure still in the air, he made the country feel good about itself again. He showed that Britain could still produce champions and that the working class still deserved to be valued. For this he won himself a fund of public goodwill, a fund he sometimes threatened to drain but uncannily managed to replenish.
He had an insatiable appetite, and an uncanny knack, for creating tales of heroism, but if he failed on that score there was always the chance of a scandal or two. He gave the media everything they needed for front pages and back, and some newspapers discovered that it didn't necessarily matter if the story was true or not, as long as he was in it.
Ian Botham tells the story a great piece of British sporting history, one of the greatest: of a man for whom the glamour and the grit came together. And it was the grit of the times in which Botham had grown up, and where he had come from.
Simon Wilde has been the cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times since 1998. He is the author of numerous books, three of which have been shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Most recently, he ghosted David Gower's memoir, An Endangered Species, and was the author of Ian Botham: The Power and the Glory and On Pietersen, all of which were published by Simon & Schuster. He lives in Hampshire.