Inspired by the worst test cricketers thread, Iíve tried to get into the mind of the kind of player that could see he name up there in that unflattering light.
Right, imagine Ė youíre 19 years old, always been a good athlete. Good hand-eye co-ordination, and stamina too. Sports in general have always seemed quite easy to you. You can play football and rugby very well also, but cricket gives you those moments to shine as an individual you enjoy. Youíre just better than your young peers Ė the try-hard bowlers and steadfast batsman. Itís natural to you. You just see the ball and hit it. Or just mow down the stumps with relative ease when you bowl.
So you move up, youíre playing within a good county league, among a few players like you, some ex-professionals, and a few former internationals. The standards have gone up, and you feel this, yet some of the players are getting on a bit. They like a fag, a pie and a beer and have been in better shape, whereas you, now in your early 20s, are in good shape, in your prime. And are this able to shine. Only last week you took 4-47 with your trusty medium-fast, or off-spin; and you also blasted an ageing former ODI bowler for 40 runs with the bat.
These are tougher times, but like at school and amateur level, youíre still just surviving on your wits without too much thought or effort required.
A year or two down the line Ė youíre playing first class cricket, there are lots of guys like you. Good all-round sportsman and athletes, so for the first season or two you donít shine as much. But you put in some hard yards, learn and acclimatise, and you retain your spot in the team as a kind of all-rounder type. Or a batsman who bowls. Itís hard to tell anymore. But basically, without the need for a huge amount of self-examination, youíre a professional cricketer.
But now thereís an injury crisis in the test team, you get the call out of the blue. You canít believe it. Your Dad nearly faints when he reads that youíll be in the team v South Africa next Thursday. At first, you damn near sh!t your pants Ė but then remember that you DESERVE this. Youíre as good, or not much worse, than many of the players around you on the circuit, so this is your place right?
But problems arise. Out there, in a test match, in front of the crowd and the cameras and the cynical ex-pros, you feel the pressure. South Africa are batting first and are 100-1 and looking good. You get thrown the ball. Something thatísí happened all your cricketing life, but now itís different. At grade cricket you used to just hit the stumps, and even in the first class game you can hit the relatively right spots and let nature take its course and give you a few wickets. But these guys are different Ė their careers, their lives, have been built and formulated on keeping trundling chancers like you from taking their wicket.
Youíre fully 10mph slower, or significant degrees of spin less, than they are used to brushing aside. You canít move the ball away from them or fool them in flight, and the minute you ball a fraction off length, too wide, or too close to the pads, you are routinely dispatched for 4. You get fearful sweat, because you realise you have nothing in your arsenal to offer. The batsmen are starting to cart you around a bit, and nothing you can try can stop them. You bowl full, they drive Ė you try to ball one short, but your 73mph long hop is atomised by the batsman whilst your captain and slips look at you in amazed disgust. After 2 or 3 unsuccessful spells you are withdrawn with bowling figures of 0-80 off 18 overs. Physically and emotionally drained already, the opposition are visibly targeting you, and your captain looks pissed. Youíre dispatched to the outfield where you hope the ball will come nowhere near you.
Worse is to come, you are batting at 6, 7 or 8. This is f*cked up. 3rd ball in and youíre struck HARD on the shoulder to jeers from the fielders. You canít remember the last time you were hit. This guy bowls a lot faster and nastier than you remember anyone before. And he moves it both ways too. You donít know whatís moving in and whatís moving out. The last 3 balls were a blur whilst you were trying to get your bearings. The batsman at the other end is barking instructions and advice, but you canít hear it because all the slips are heckling and abusing you. This is practically a different sport. Youíve never been tested like this. You can no more succeed at this than you could in a particle physics exam following no revision. Mercifully, after another painful blow (this time to the elbow), youíre stumps are shattered and you walk for an 18 ball 3 to sarcastic wolf-whistles from the fielders.
Your coach doesnít even mention youíre dropped after the game. He just quietly ignores you and you drift off never to be seen again.
In 20 years, a number of publications and websites vote you the worst player to have ever played test cricket.
F*cking hell, that was harsh!