David Nash lived and breathed cricket from a very young age. Touted as a future England star at 15, he eventually found the strains of life as a professional cricketer too great. But after the end of his 16-year career with Middlesex in 2009, he set out on a path that would lead to him building a multi-million-pound business. In the third and final of our extracts from his book Bails to Boardrooms, he wonders how England might have got the best out of two of the country’s finest county batsmen.
One of them scored 41,112 first-class runs and hit 136 centuries. The other scored 35,659 runs with 114 centuries. Between them though, they only managed just over 5,500 runs and eight centuries in Test matches. They were two of the finest players I ever watched while playing the game. They were also two players (of quite a few actually) who, when I watched them, made me realise just how far away I was from international honours.
In both cases, neither translated their prodigious talent from the county stage to the international one. There has been much speculation over the years in cricketing circles as to why. I’m going to add to that body of opinion in this chapter. I’m writing, of course, about Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick. Fantastic cricketers and imposing men. They were enigmatic, intense, and both had insecurities that were perceived as aloofness. This wasn’t true, but sometimes, perception is reality.
It would be hard to meet a more committed, driven cricketer than Ramps was. His nickname was Bloodaxe, a reference to his short temper, something to which the showers at the Oval (which he demolished once) will testify.
Thinking about Ramps and showers reminds me of a story at Trent Bridge. I did the worst thing you could to Ramps during one game in particular; I ran him out. Shortly afterwards, I got out myself and so walked into the dressing room very nervously waiting for Ramps to confront me. He was nowhere to be seen, thankfully. After I’d taken my pads off, I went to the loo just to gather my thoughts. There, I was greeted with a sight I’ll never forget. The lunatic Ramps was lying in the bath in his full kit including spikes, pads and helmet, just chuntering to himself about what an arsehole I was. I exited that toilet as fast as humanly possible!
In the case of both Ramps and Hicky, I think they could have benefited from one more thing in their locker, and it’s the subject of this chapter – mentors. The role mentors play in your life. In this regard, I learned something from cricket that has helped me understand how to improve consistently.
For Ramps and Hick, I think it was all too easy for them to go into their respective shells and not talk about their fears, their goals and their state of mind. They were two huge players in their day and probably so big that lots of people didn’t want to approach them.
Ramps’s form for England certainly picked up after a spell chatting to Steve Bull, the England psychologist, but it wasn’t consistent. My hunch is that, in both Ramps and Hicky’s case, broader access to a more open mentor network would have helped their careers immensely.
More open dialogue, more honest dialogue and helping them both to overcome their visible cricketing demons. I hope one or both of them read this book and come for a beer with me at some point. I’d love to know if my hunch is right.
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