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Wit and Wisdom

GROWING UP

‘You had the bat and a ball. Whoever had the bat batted first and used the manhole cover as the wickets. The streets were all in rows like Coronation Street, so that’s where you played and you had everything there’.

On life in Fitzwilliam 2008

 

‘There was none of this compensation rubbish or disability pay back then. They used to promise my mum a few dozen eggs and tomatoes and it was all nice words but there was no compensation – the bloody union was useless. It was full of fat cats who couldn’t be arsed to move a muscle’.

On the injury his father suffered in the pit and the financial consequences for the family

2007

 

 

EARLY DAYS AT YORKSHIRE

‘I must have been a godsend to writers looking for copy. I was a very rare bird in cricket in  those days – a young man who didn’t smoke and didn’t drink, who was shy and introverted and found it difficult to talk to people . . . and on top of it all I wore those rimless glasses that made me look like that bloody fellow Himmler’.

Reflecting on his early summers with Yorkshire

1973

 

‘Literally hundreds of Yorkshire boys feared Arthur Mitchell.  Many a lad went home on a dark winter’s night with tears after a roasting. I can never remember Mitchell uttering one word of praise . . .You were really lucky if he restricted himself to: ‘Not too bad, but keep that left elbow up’.

On being coached by Arthur ‘Ticker’ Mitchell.

1990

 

‘Brian Close was so annoyed by his sharp-tongued criticism that he used to drive the ball as hard as he could straight back down the wicket in the hope, I am sure, of hitting Mitchell or at least making him jump out of the way. Mitchell never budged and never softened. Not even the best really satisfied him’.

On Mitchell again 1990

 

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE . . . AND CRICKET

‘Adversity never breaks a good man’. 1999

 

‘A legend to me has to be bigger than his figures. He has to capture the imagination of the public. There have to be stories about him, folklore and something mythical. It isn’t just about performances’.

His definition of the term ‘legend’. 2008

 

‘The modern habit of back-slapping and hugging is a bad thing. I know that some people feel that such congratulations help team spirit . . . but not love and kisses’.

2008

 

‘Once the discipline of the early season has gone, fit and lean young men let things slide, and often resemble chocolate bobbies by the end of June. I wonder what county coaches think they are doing in turning a blind eye to such laziness’.

1990

 

‘They should get rid of the huddle on the field of play. It’s cosmetic and done for the cameras. It’s like big girls before a hockey match’.

Advice to captains and coaches.

2008

 

‘There are batsmen in county cricket, some with England caps, parading dreadfully flawed techniques and oblivious to criticism’.

1990

 

‘The game is led by people with one thing on their mind – making money. . .They lack one quality – the experience of playing at the top level’.

2008

 

‘The problem is that the ECB is run by marketing men. Their yardstick is how much money they can make. Well, everyone wants to make good money. The dustbinman down the road, the girl in the shop. But the priority should be to improve the standard of cricket. The money will follow’.

1999

 

‘How can you have a nickname like the Yorkshire Phoenix. We don’t need a nickname. And Phoenix? It’s bloody daft’.

Complaint about a name change to accommodate the new one-day competition

 

‘Nowadays, I believe there are too many writers attached to cricket who know bugger all about it and have no opinions – sensible, valid or otherwise – about what’s happened on the field’.

2008

 

‘They smile and then they stab – and they think the next time they come along for a comment you are going to forget the wounding things they write and obligingly talk to them’.

On the press.

1990

 

‘I realise that people have a natural curiosity about the secrets of the famous, but they do not have any right to be kept informed of what happens off the field. ‘Careless talk costs lives, the Government warned . . . now careless reporting can wreck lives’.

More thoughts on the media.

1990

 

‘We should see it for what it is: an exercise in making a fast buck and appeasing players who have missed out on the Indian Premier League’.

On the Stanford Twenty/20 Series

2008

 

‘The whole affair is symptomatic of the age we live in: a monetary age, when you are judged by how big your bank balance is, not how good you are at what you do, or what sort of person you are’.

Another view of the Stanford Twenty/20 Series

2008

 

‘We can get a man on the moon, yet we can’t find a white cricket ball that lasts 80 overs’.

2005

 

‘They will try to milk it for as much money as they can, and the danger is that after a while people will get fed up. It’s a bit like I always tell people: ‘I like steak and kidney pie but if my mum gave it to me every day from Monday, then by Friday I would be fit to throw it at her’.

On the proliferation of Twenty/20

2007

 

 

‘They have spent the last few years on trial by TV, what with the introduction of pitch cameras, snickometers, hotspot and so on. Nobody wants to see them embarrassed by endless replays of their mistakes’

On the referral system and the pressure on umpires

2008

 

‘It never fails to surprise me when I talk to other cricketers and find they are not aware of the strengths and weaknesses of other players’.

1990

 

 

‘To be a great spin bowler, it is not enough to spin the ball and bowl it on a length ball after ball. That is only the simple basics. You have to think batsmen out by subtlety and variation’

2008

 

 

The players’ parking area at the average county ground is packed with expensive motor cars, some emblazoned with names hardly anyone has heard of, followed by the words ‘County Cricketer,’ which is almost an offence under the Trades Descriptions Act’.1990

 

ON BATTING

‘I loved batting and I do not use the word lightly. . . everything else in life had to come second’.

1996

 

‘The only way to get rid of the frustration was to consider every aspect of my dismissal in an attempt to ensure that I cut down the margin for error in the future. I analysed every delivery that claimed my wicket’.

His response to getting out

1990

 

‘I have read in a number of coaching books and heard people suggesting on radio and television that it is essential for a batsman to remain as still as possible until the ball has left the bowler’s hand. Nonsense’.

1990

 

‘Like Fred Astaire, I never stopped dancing. It is fatal to become flat-footed’.

1987

 

‘Cricket offers no prizes to the man who can hit the ball hardest or furthest. Batting is not a matter of getting in one big, successful effort like an Olympic javelin or hammer throwing; it is about repeating attacking and defensive strokes correctly’.

1990

 

‘I counted any time I was hit on the pad as a dismissal, forcing myself to concentrate hard on not missing the ball’.

On working in the nets

1990

 

‘The only thing I’m frightened of is getting out’.

His response to the question: Are you afraid of getting hit?

1991

 

 

Dennis Amiss used to say ‘Good luck’ to me. I used to reply. ‘It’s not luck but ability that counts’.

2006

 

‘I would expect to score a higher average. The pitches are better and the equipment is better’.

Asked how he would fare in today’s game

2008

 

‘Once they get in, great batsmen do not give the bowler any chance at all. They go on and on to make big hundreds’.

1988

 

‘As I always say, if I knew I was going to get nought, I wouldn’t have got out of bed’.

1989

 

THE MEN IN SUITS

‘Do you realise that all those people, all 27 of them idiots on the committee, sacked me two days after my mother died. I was distraught. The only county I ever wanted to play for did this to me’.

Still seething about his removal as captain.

2007

 

‘I remember playing for Yorkshire and Brian Close would be called off the field to attend a committee meeting. When he came back a lot of the lads were asking if they’d been picked for the next three matches. What a way to run the greatest cricket club in the world’.2007

 

FAST BOWLING

‘Face Michael Holding from 22 yards. That’s pressure’.

1991

 

‘To have some idea of what it’s like, stand in the outside lane of a motorway, get your mate to drive his car at you at 95mph and wait until he’s 12 yards away before you decide which way to jump’.

1993

 

‘Not long after I earned my place in the Yorkshire team, he told me: ‘Keep your mouth shut because if you give the fast bowlers any lip there will only be one winner and it won’t be you’.

Advice from Fred Trueman

1990

 

‘Fred was the greatest character in cricket. There were hundreds of stories about him, and about a third of them were true’.

1999

 

‘Remember what happened to Graham Dilley, who started out as a genuinely quick bowler. They started stuffing line and length in his ear and now he has Dennis Lillee’s action with Dennis Thatcher’s pace’.

On the dangers of over-coaching 1988

 

‘I was able to convince Devon Malcolm that a bouncer missing a batsman by a couple of feet is a waste of effort. The ball has to be aimed at him so that he has to respond, to take some positive, hasty action’.1989

 

ON CAPTAINCY

‘There are times when I wish I’d turned down the Yorkshire captaincy when it was offered to me . . . there is no doubt that taking up the leadership of the Yorkshire team harmed me a great deal’.

1990

 

‘The fates conspired to give Sir Leonard Hutton the best of both worlds. He was snubbed by Yorkshire and passed over for the captaincy, and yet he became the first professional to captain England . . . I would certainly have much preferred to captain only England, for that would have been easier’.1990

 

‘It is easier for a moderate player to throw himself totally into the role of captain, as he is involved only marginally out in the middle as batsman or bowler’

1989

 

‘He’s a very nice lad and quite good company. But as a captain you need to be ahead of the game, you don’t chase the ball with your field placings’

On Michael Atherton 1999

 

‘Captaining an unsuccessful team can tarnish a player’s reputation through no fault of his own. A great player can control his own destiny. But a captain’s fate is inevitably in the hands of others’.1987

 

‘Eighty-five per cent of captaincy is fairly straightforward. The rest of the time you have to go with your own experience, knowledge and gut feeling and hope it pays off’.2008

 

ON PLAYERS AND COACHES

Ian Botham:‘I tend to think of him as a bit like Biggles, the story book hero. Botham likes the idea of coming to the rescue and displaying both his strength and courage’.

 

‘He is the victim of selective amnesia and forgets all the embarrassing things he has done or said, assuming that he can bluster his way out of any situation’.

 

‘When there is nobody about and he does not feel he has to live up to his reputation, he will talk sensibly about tactics. He can be pretty shrewd too’.

 

 

David Gower:‘I enjoyed batting with him very much. He is a very pleasant lad and we have never had a cross word because there is nothing to dislike about him. But he is not like me in any way’.

 

‘Gower understates everything so as not to show any feelings, and I was not surprised to learn his father had been involved in the diplomatic service’.

 

 

Shane Warne:‘Get a single down the other end and watch someone else play him’.

After being asked how to combat his trickery

 

Paul Harris:‘He is a buffet bowler – you just help yourself’

Less than impressed with the South African 2007

 

Dominick Cork: ‘He’s a show pony. Dominick Cork may have talent, but he does have an attitude problem. If you think I was bad, my God, he’s three times worse’.

1997

 

Tom Graveney: ‘Elegant Tom’ we used to call him. What a player he was. He was myidol growing up as a boy and I was able to play with him in a Test match at Lord’s’

On his boyhood hero 2007

 

Andrew Strauss:‘What Strauss is going through drives you nuts. If you care about your batting – which I’m sure he does – he will feel like jumping off a bridge and committing suicide’

On a poor run of form for Andrew Strauss 2007

 

‘These days there are so many coaches and backroom staff helping them out that the players are mollycoddled and not thinking for themselves. I’ve always believed that a thinking cricketer is a better cricketer’

On England’s reliance on coaching.

2008

 

Kevin Pieterson: ‘As a public relations exercise, it was appalling’

On the announcement that Kevin Pietersen was being replaced as England captain.

 

‘What did the England and Wales Cricket Board expect when they appointed him? They knew then he was outrageous and different, a one-off and a showman. But the most important thing is that he’s a winner’

Defending Pietersen’s position.

 

Stuart Broad: ‘I see a touch of Garry Sobers in Broad. The high flourishing back-lift and the lovely straight follow through; it’s wonderful to watch’

 

Michael Vaughan: ‘When a Test player goes back to his county he ought to be performing like a superstar because he’s dropping down a level. But for Michael that hasn’t been the case for four years’

Lamenting Michael Vaughan’s batting form following his resignation as England captain 2008

 

‘Michael Vaughan’s philosophy has been to try and imitate Australia. But what he forgets is that over the past 15 years, Australia have had the better individual players and been a better team than anyone else in the world. My mum could have captained them because they’ve been so far ahead of every other international team’.

2008

 

Peter Moores: ‘His departure doesn’t bother me. For a long time now I have felt this was an accident waiting to happen. Modern coaches have too much power over a captain. Captains must run the team. Coaches should be managers or helpers’.

On Moores’ the departure as England coach

 

 

 

BOYCOTT ON BOYCOTT

‘My ethos on playing is trying to be the best. I don’t think you should ever settle for second or third best’

1993

 

‘I don’t care about being popular’.

1995

 

‘I have a tendency to be abrasive. I am not deliberately rude’

2007

 

‘I’d love to have gone to Oxford or Cambridge. Who wouldn’t? You’d have to be wrong in the head not to want to go to the two finest universities in the world’.

2008

 

‘I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I sleep with my cricket bat’.

 

‘I’d pick my worst enemy if I was playing and needed to win a match. But at six o’clock I’d tell him to bugger off’.

2003

 

 

‘Those of us who established ourselves as strong personalities were condemned as self-seekers and were accused of destroying team spirit’.

1990

 

‘Despite all the things that happen to you in life, the thing is to move on. Life’s quite short. It may seem a long time when you’re 20, but it sure as hell passes quickly’.

2005

 

‘I feel so bad about mine now that I’m going to tie it around mycat’s neck. It doesn’t mean anything any more. It’s a joke’.

His reaction to the award of an MBE to Paul Collingwood for playing in one Ashes Test in which he scored just 17 runs. 2005

 

‘I am a player’.

His reply to a steward who asked him to keep the gangway clear for the players at Lord’s.2005

 

‘I cannot help feeling that I would have achieved more had I taken up golf as a profession instead of cricket . . . Compared to cricket, golf is easy’.1990

 

‘If you don’t have regrets then you haven’t learnt anything from life’.2007

 

‘The day I stop enjoying the game is the day I need to get away from this earth’.2008

 

 

 

ON FIGHTING CANCER

‘It’s horrific. It’s the sort of treatment that reduces strong men to tears. And it did me. Many a time I was so full of morphine I kept falling asleep. And then, when I woke up, the relentless pain was still there. But in the end there are just two of you in that match: you and the bloody cancer’.

 

‘I would count my treatments the way I once counted my runs. I had to have 35 laser sessions. Just get to 18, I’d will myself, then you’ll be on the home run. You have to be mentally strong to keep the crying and the depression at bay. And all the time, through all this pain and fog, there is this nagging question at the back of your mind: Will it work?’

 

‘I used to think cricket was everything. But staying alive is everything. Surviving cancer changes your perspective. You get a second chance and you don’t waste it’.

 

We were very close, my Mother and I, and I relied on her a lot. . . It is a dreadful experience to live with someone you love and see them deteriorate from week to week’.