Home Interviews David Nash, former Middlesex Wicket-keeper

David Nash, former Middlesex Wicket-keeper

by Freddie

As a Middlesex member, this month I’m delighted to be speaking to one of the characters of our side in the ‘noughties’, the rock behind the stumps, David Nash.

Now, a little bit about Nashy, nearly 400 first-class and List A catches, over 40 stumpings, 11 first-class hundreds, and let’s not forget his 2 wickets at a bowling average over 50!

What many of you might not know about ‘the Dog’, is that post-cricket through his company, D&G Group he has helped raise over £20million for all kinds of fantastic charities and at the end of this month his book ‘Bails and Boardrooms’ will be published. I for one can’t wait. In it he describes his journey from cricket, where he openly confesses his struggles with mental health, to becoming a successful businessman.

“The book has been an amazing thing to do,” reflects Nashy. “You don’t initially realise just how much work goes into it. It’s not like you just knock out a few words. You absolutely need a team of people. But it’s a great feeling when it’s done. There’s a lot of cricket books and mine is not notable for me and my career, because I was nobody (he wasn’t at Middlesex!) but it’s my learnings from sport to business. I’ve obviously brought all the cricket stories in and I hope people enjoy it.”

Mental health is an important feature of the book, and Nashy, like so many, fought an illness, which at the time was more common in cricket than many people realised and an illness that people just didn’t relate to as they do now. “There were times when the man-management of me wasn’t good. People thought because I was a Jack the lad, that I could take having the pi$$ ripped out of me and making me feel small. They thought that was the way to get the best out of me and that I could take it, whereas in fact inside it destroyed me and made me fear failure.”

I promise you it’s a book worth reading. It’s compelling and makes you think and reflect.Now, this interview isn’t going to do justice to Nashy’s full story, but I hope it’ll give you a taste. So where did this journey start?

“Well, growing up I was very, very lucky that where I lived in Sunbury, backed on to a big cricket club.  I could literally walk out of my back gate after school and straight on to Kenton Court Meadow (home of Sunbury CC). My old man loved cricket and was a Middlesex supporter, my brother Glen loved cricket, so we’d all just play in the garden and then walk through the gate to have a proper net at Sunbury. I eventually joined Sunbury and the chairman Frank Sharman took a lot of us through there, people like Richard Johnson and James Hewitt and Sunbury was a great club for developing Middlesex players. Toby Roland-Jones is a Sunbury boy. I was very blessed. I was brought up in the right area and the right club which gave me the best opportunity to showcase my talents.”

And who were the heroes as a youngster? “Mike Gatting. I always remember watching him bat and field unbelievably at slip. From a keeping perspective it was watching a lot of videos of Alan Knott and it was great that he became my coach when I played for England Under 19s.”

Interestingly enough though it was the ball in hand, without the gloves where he enjoyed his cricket most as a youngster. “Yep, I was a bowler as a kid! I was the shortest bowler on record! I was a bowler and batsman for Sunbury and I actually got into the Middlesex age groups as a batsman that bowled and I once got six wickets in six balls for Sunbury under 11s versus Richmond under 11s!” Incredible! Now there’s a quiz question!

“The first was LBW, second one was caught & bowled and the last four all clean bowled!” I get the feeling this story is shared quite a lot!

So, why the switch to keeping? “I got lucky really. I was playing in a Middlesex under 12s game and the keeper broke his finger, I went behind the stumps and that was it; I carried on from there. Also, I was never going to be very tall, my Dad isn’t tall, so I was never really going to develop and be good enough as a bowler. Keeper/batter was the way forward.”

It was the right decision. His performances behind the stumps in those early Middlesex years saw him represent England at under 15, 17 and 19 level and then onto an England A tour at 19.

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“For England under 19s, I played 12 Test matches and averaged 119. I remember with the 19s going on a tour to Pakistan and I got a hundred in the first innings in Sheikupura and 87 in the second. We had the likes of Flintoff, Tudor, Sales, Hollioake, Batty and Cosker. It was a proper team. They had Imran Tahir, Razaq, loads of unbelievable players really.  So, I started off really, really well. Then I went on an A tour to Sri Lanka. If I’m honest, I probably didn’t take it seriously enough. The likes of Flintoff had been in and around it. I was having a beer in the Blue Elephant in Colombo, and probably a few too many beers and Ready (Chris Read) did better than me on that tour.”

Nashy made his Middlesex debut in 1997, and in his first five games, scored 90 on debut against Durham, and an excellent hundred against Essex, ahead of that England A tour. As a supporter I asked him what it was like going into such a big dressing room such as the one at Middlesex?

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“Definitely daunting. That changing room was full of international players. Your Gatting’s, your Ramprakash’s, your Emburey’s, your Fraser’s, your Tufnell’s. These were hardened pros that were very happy in their own skin and they were tough human beings. And I was some little lad from Sunbury coming into that changing room with a bit of talent. In those days as a youngster coming into the side, if we wanted to go into the first team changing room, we had to knock on the door. You couldn’t just walk in. We had our own second team changing room. Until you had received your first team cap you were basically looked upon as a poor citizen. It was the way it was. We had massive respect for those players, but I think we probably held them a little bit in awe because you were a bit frightened of them.  You knew your place. You wouldn’t speak up unless you were spoken to but we held these guys in a high regard.”

It’s an interesting insight into what cricket was like in those days. It was the way it was.

And what did he learn from these seasoned internationals? “One thing I did learn, which has helped me in business, is that even the best has doubts. But they are able to override them better than everyone else. I remember times when Justin Langer would come through the door and say, ‘Jesus Nashy what am I doing, I don’t feel like I can get any runs again?’ And when you sort of hear that from, from someone like Justin Langer, whose one of the most mentally tough and resilient people I’ve seen, you’re like Jesus. Even the best has doubts. I look at Mark Ramprakash and Owais Shah and how those two players did not play 250 Test matches between them I have no idea. Unbelievable players. It may have been the culture. I don’t know. Should they have been better managed by England? I don’t know. But imagine if Ramps and Hick were managed properly and just told you two are the best players in England, while I’m the chairman of selectors or coach even if you get 20 zeros on the trot you’ll still be in the team? Imagine what that backing would have done for them. Ramprakash, Hick, Shah, they were incredible players.”

Things started well for Nashy at Middlesex with those early runs, but what were some of his other personal highlights in those early years?

“I loved batting with Langer. I remember one game I was on a pair against Somerset. They had a great bowling attack: Caddick, Mushtaq Ahmed, Paul Jarvis and Graham Rose. Shah did bag a pair and I remember walking past him in the Long Room and he just sort of smiled at me and just went ‘your turn now Dog’ and I managed to get 114. Batting with Langer, we put on about 250 with Caddick abusing the $hit out of me as a young lad and then Langer was just unbelievable. That was a real, real, highlight for me. But in truth, during my time at Middlesex, we didn’t do that well. We came runners-up one year in the Championship. We were a team in transition. We had a lot of boys retiring at the same time, so we ended up being a really young and inexperienced side. We didn’t achieve what we should have done. I really don’t know why. It might have been us; it might have the coaching staff. We were good on paper, but $hit on grass.”

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I asked Nashy if the side felt the pressures of following such a successful team, similar to the struggles football sides like Manchester United have had since a batch of retirements and sustained periods of success? Remember that Middlesex team won everything for nearly two decades. “I think so, because you’re playing at Lord’s and you’re expected to be at a certain standard and when you don’t know your game and you’re young and naïve, it’s hard to go and just average 40 because you don’t know the nuances you need to get to that level. You might get a quick 30 and slap one to cover, whereas those boys from the past would take it on and win the game. So little one-percenters and knowing your game and having experience is massive. In four-day cricket you need match-winners, and you need experience. You look at teams like Sussex back then. They had it. They had a Mushtaq Ahmed that would take 80 wickets a season, we didn’t. It’s funny, I look at Middlesex now, and even though we won the championship in 2016 and Gus and the boys did brilliantly, we are not a big club. People say we are. But we’re not. Yes, we play at Lord’s, but we don’t own Lord’s. We’re a tenant. We haven’t got the pockets of your Surrey’s, your Warwickshire’s, your Lancashire’s. Everyone says Middlesex is a big club; yes, on paper we are, but we haven’t got the finances to go out and spend £250k on an overseas player. We just don’t have those finances because we don’t own our own ground. It’s a really difficult one because you strive to be a big club and everyone thinks you should be coming in the top three every year, but the truth is how can you be coming in the top three each year if your spending is like number 12 or 13? Let’s be honest, it’s not rocket science. The more money you spend on the best players, the better your squad will be.”

It’s very valid arguments.

One overseas player who did represent Middlesex for a short period during Nashy’s playing days was Glenn McGrath. I was keen to hear what he was like to keep wicket to?

“Absolutely brilliant. He had unbelievable self-confidence. His self-confidence was on another level. Good pi$$-taker, good banter, a really good guy.”

Now, people always talk about the famous Lord’s slope and how difficult it is as a batsman or a bowler, but people rarely talk about the difficulties as a keeper, so Nashy over to you… “Oh mate, honestly with those Dukes balls, Lord’s was a flipping nightmare! You watch some of these series now and you watch them bowl with the Kookaburra ball in Australia and the ball is coming through from knee to chest height and not doing anything on the way through, it’s an absolute piece of pi$$. And then you see Lord’s with the slope going one way, you have Gus Fraser coming in from the pavilion end, getting wide of the crease, shaping it in and then it’s holding its line against the slope and then they knick it the other way and you’re wrong footed, it’s so difficult. You have the slope to contend with, but also the wobble. It wobbles like anything at Lord’s. We used to have a guy called Nantie Hayward who could bowl at 90 clicks an hour, but the wobble he would get, oh my God, honestly it was awful.”

It was an interesting insight into life as a keeper. And it got me thinking about another challenge for keeper, serious pace or spin, what do they prefer? “Pace is fine. It isn’t an issue. It’s just if they get the wobble on the way through, that’s the issue. The thing is it makes you look stupid. The batter will leave it and it will just look like a regulation take and then suddenly it will move back the other way or dip hugely. And the ball will end up on the floor and everyone, I mean everyone, including your team-mates will just look at you like, did he have too many lagers last night?! But there’s nothing you can do. You’ve seen some good keepers like Gilchrist and Boucher come unstuck in England.”

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I also asked Nashy, during his playing days about the importance of a keeper having to be good with the bat. “It is important. I would say I was fortunate that I was always more of a batsman than a keeper anyway. I was steady with the gloves and never let anyone down. I knew the importance of getting runs and that was something I loved. I loved digging us out of the $hit. If we were 30/4 me and Weeksy would genuinely get us out of the $hit, I loved that. I really struggled coming in when we were say 250/4, because there was nothing on it almost. I think with my batting I needed to have that edge to really, really want it. I remember reading an interview that Paul Weekes gave once, and he said players used to chill when I was batting because I never looked like getting out, which was nice. And you know in the four-day stuff, I never really played and missed much, I could leave well, and I basically just waited for the ball to come into my areas. I felt I always knew my game and I knew where to score my runs. But I needed that edge.”

And did keeping to things like serious pace from players like Nantie Hayward help as a batsman? “Not really. I don’t know anyone that is comfortable with facing serious pace. I remember a game against Durham that was reduced to 30 overs a side and they had Shoaib Akhtar running in. He was running downhill, downwind; I’m not kidding he got rid of everyone, Straussy, Joycey, their stumps went everywhere. And I was due in, I was scrambling around for everything. I didn’t have a chest guard and it was side on viewing at Durham and this guy was bowling at the speed of light. He was obviously playing for his contract, but I had never seen anything like it. As he was running into me, I remember thinking ‘you’re going to f$cking kill me’. He bowled so fast and I remember walking up to Shah who was at the other end after about three balls and just said to him, ‘f$ck me can you please get up this end!’”

Unsurprisingly from what Nashy had said about Nantie Hayward, that he was the bowler he lists as the toughest he kept to, but there was another, Tuffers. “I love Tuffers to pieces but if you missed anything off of Tuffers it was like you’d shagged his Mrs! He wouldn’t talk to you for the next month so I always felt under pressure not to let him down and to drop anything off him, and to be honest I never did really, which might have been because I was so switched on keeping to him.”

And what about with the bat, who was the toughest bowler? “Well, I got a brilliant hundred against Murali at Lord’s. We were bowled out for 200 and I got a hundred. He was turning it miles. But despite that hundred I would still say him, because he made me look silly on other occasions. My issue was I always got out to the flipping bowlers that you wouldn’t expect to get out to. I remember Langer asking me once to open the batting against Worcestershire when McGrath was playing. I got through McGrath brilliantly. Then Stuart Lampitt came on and I was LBW first ball. It was always those frigging medium pacers!!”

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Nashy’s numbers are up there, among the keepers of his era. In first-class cricket a batting average of over 35 from 140 games as a keeper is not to be sniffed at, but I wanted to speak in more detail with him about the mental health issue, especially given its importance to so many people. He obviously talks about this in far more detail in the book, but I was keen to ask him when the early signs of mental health crept in for him?

“I was doing brilliantly until I went on that A tour. Before that tour as I mentioned I’d done really well for Middlesex. I scored a 90 against Durham on my debut and then a hundred against Essex in my first five games for Middlesex, going into it.  But from that point on, with pressure from coaches etc, I feared failure. I had the mindset of trying to get through every day without failing rather than achieving. It affected me and so much so, I’ll be honest with you, in the last 5 or 6 years of my cricket career I pretty much hated it. At the time I had no idea what mental health was. I remember going to the doctor during one game and I told him that I couldn’t even judge easy throws from the boundary; I was all over the place. I knew then that there was something wrong with me. It felt like an out of body experience. The doctor said to me, he thought that I was dehydrated so I then used to drink loads of water but then I eventually realised what it was. I was having panic attacks while playing cricket, it was horrible.”

I asked him, if he was playing now, with the focus that there now is on mental health and the support structures that are now in place, if he believes his career would have turned out differently? “I think I would have had an amazing career. Why? Because I wouldn’t have been able to do all of the things, I thought was helping me mask what I was going through. For example, going out and drinking excessively, gambling and that sort of stuff. Things that at that moment made me happy. I wouldn’t be able to do it now, because no one does it anymore. Players stay in their bedrooms and play FIFA. I used to live for getting showered at the ground, going back to my hotel room, whacking a bit of aftershave on, meeting down in the bar for three pints before going out and having a curry or whatever. That’s what I lived for. I lived for those four or five hours before I had to go to sleep because I had to play cricket again in the morning.”

“Also, when I was playing, you believed what people said to you. People would ask me ‘what are you going to do after cricket?’. You don’t have many A-Levels or GCSEs, who’s going to take you? You’ve got no real skills or CV, and it would go on and on and you start believing it. And that’s where I think the PCA have done a tremendous job. They’ve now brought in winter courses and educational programmes.  That really is massive because when you’ve finished playing, you’re done and it’s a weird time sitting there and thinking, ‘$hit, what now?’ I was lucky. I made over 400 grand in my benefit year and that gave me a buffer but not only that it allowed me to support a children’s hospice, Shooting Stars Chase, and importantly gave me a purpose. I learnt about business and that’s how me and my brother set up an events business that now supports charities and it’s been incredibly successful.”

Indeed, it has. D&G events www.dggrp.com has raised just shy of £21million for over 450 charities. It’s a remarkable effort and one which Nashy should be unbelievably proud of.

“Having a purpose is massively important to everything that we do.”

From speaking with Nashy you really hear it in his voice. I loved watching Nashy behind the stumps as a Middlesex member, but getting to know Nashy now, off the field, he’s a guy driven by that purpose. I won’t go into more detail about the book other than to say, it’s definitely worth the investment and they are supporting the Ruth Strauss Foundation through sales of the book.

He and Andrew are very, very, close friends. One thing I will share though, are the three keys to success in business, as told to Nashy by the chairman of his first client, House of Fraser:

1) always go with your gut

2) always get great people around you

3) wear your best suit when you see your bank manager!

It’s pretty spot on. Although Nashy did fall out of love with cricket during his playing days, I wanted to close by asking him, if there was anything from his playing days that he does still miss?

“I miss the lads, the banter and the dressing room. If you were going to have a row with one of the lads, if there was a disagreement with someone, you could have the row and sort it out, then have a beer and move on. Whereas today, people say they want an open changing room and honesty, but they don’t actually mean it in my opinion.  As soon as someone is honest it gets held against them. In the real world you have to be very, very, careful so I do miss that about cricket. The lads, the friends and the camaraderie it was your mini family really.”

Nashy mate – thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

You can order a copy of Nashy’s book by visiting: https://bailsandboardrooms.com/

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