One of the many things I love about cricket, especially first class and Test cricket is how much of each player’s personality we get to see. At various stages of my younger life I imitated players I admired, often trying to be the aggressive quick witted smart arse, before mellowing into a passive slow witted smart arse.
As I have got older I am still fascinated by the many masks some are able to wear on the field. Warne, KP and Swann are three such examples; talented, arrogant, yet insecure at the same time. They are the experts at asserting themselves on their opponent and creating an aura of confidence, and at their peak, invincibility. This is not a slight on their talent, just a fact that they were as mentally talented on the field as they were physically talented.
At the other end of the scale are the grumpy or even menacing operators, Curtly, Jimmy Anderson, Glenn McGrath to name three. I suspect they also use the stare, mutter, sledge combo to find ways of creating their own edge and getting their adrenaline running.
Some cricketers are incessant talkers (Paul Nixon), some are just very cool … Carl Hooper, Mark Waugh step forward, both looked so chilled out it was not fair!
Then there are the intense but perhaps not very interesting ones, I think Jaques Kallis is arguably the best cricketer I have ever seen, but he is quite a quiet guy on the field. No swearing, glaring or swagger so he goes under the radar.
However, today I want to talk about the smilers, my three favourites in this category are Freddie Flintoff, Joe Root and Darren Gough.
Freddie’s sense of fun occasionally led him astray but on the Test field during the golden 2003/4/5 period he was playing the game with a smile on his face and in 2004 served up the ‘mind the windows, Tino!’ line.
Rooty has a brilliant sense of humour and cheekiness that might endear him to your Mum, but will make you watch your socks in the dressing room. His 2015 impression of the late Bob Willis was hysterical.
But the man who smiled (almost) all the way through the 1990’s is the one who really inspired me with his sense of fun. Darren Gough – there were challenges along the way, no central contract, a team that was often under the cosh, many injuries and having to endure Athers and Nasser as his captain 😊 … but he genuinely played the game with a grin on his face and a sense of mischief. Fast bowling is hard (apparently, I’ve never actually tried) but he always wanted the ball and most importantly he made playing Test cricket look like a dream come true. I was 12 years old when he made his debut in 1994, I had no intention of bowling fast even back then but he was an instant hero.
Humour trumps snarling every day, he was the perfect antidote to the arrogant Aussies. Our own smiling genius fighting fire with a grin, a twinkle in the eye, and a one-liner followed by an in-swinging yorker!
Cheers Goughy, you were a class act on the field and remain one off it!
I love seeing Risbah Pant messing around behind the stumps, Bairstow pretending to run Smith out, Stokes doing handstands. We all want to win, but what is better than seeing your finest players loving every moment of getting to play the game we all love at the highest level!