My childhood eleven – The players who shaped my cricket education

I’m often struck when I read about cricket history about the great players that were playing the game in the early 90’s when I was getting into cricket that I just had no idea about at the time. My attention was limited to the players I had access to, whether on TV or at my local club, Somerset CCC. As I got into my early teens I began to appreciate the wider global game but I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of the players who captured my imagination before that, when I first started watching cricket.

It’s hard looking back to distinguish between what I felt at the time and what I have filled in as I’ve grown up, having long since learned the history and context of all these players’ contributions. With that in mind, I’ve tried to base this list on early memories as best I can. Some of it may seem very obvious or even a bit bizarre, but there’s no reasoning with an impressionable youth!

Michael Atherton
To me, Atherton always felt like the epitome of Britishness. A quiet but fiercely determined man standing face to face with the hostility of the formidable bowling attacks of his era.

Marcus Trescothick
As a Somerset boy I can’t ignore how influential Trescothick was on my cricket education. The big man’s seemingly effortless power hitting and an unflappable nature made him a joy to watch. More than any other player it seems like I have grown up with Trescothick, as his domestic career started just as I was getting hooked on the game. I have followed the highs and lows of his career ever since and his contributions to both Somerset and England will live long in the memory after his impending retirement.

Graham Gooch
Given the length of Gooch’s test career, it seems unsurprising now that I viewed him as an ever present fixture in the England test team. I have an enduring image of him playing a white helmet as he nurdled, stroked and bludgeoned the ball around the park for score after score.

Graham Thorpe
I just remember Thorpe as a run machine. I didn’t take any notice of any of the off-field dramas of any of these players, it was purely on how well they did when they were right there in front of me. And Graham Thorpe just seemed to get a hatful of runs. Strangely I was struck by the fact that he was a left handed, too. There’s something quite mystical about seeing a left hander caress the ball around (think Gower or Moeen) and it certainly caught my eye when I was learning the game.

Alec Stewart
Stewart seemed to be the archetypal cricket role model for kid. Clean cut, dependable and always in the thick of the action as a wicketkeeper batsman. He was an ever present fixture throughout my early years of watching the game. An honourable mention must go to Jack Russell here who only missed out on inclusion due to Stewart’s immovable status in my team. Russell was a real character on the field which captured my imagination at a time when I didn’t appreciate the nuances of a cagey low-scoring test session!

Graeme Hick
Seeing Hick play for England is my earliest memory of a player from another country who donned the whites of the Three Lions. There have been many before (and seemingly way more since) but it was the fact that he was from the same region of Zimbabwe as my father that he really stood out. I don’t remember much of his batting, perhaps a result of his slightly underwhelming test average, but his presence in the slip corden wearing his floppy hat is an enduring memory of summers in my youth.

Dominic Cork
My favourite player as a youngster, his hat-trick against against the West Indies is probably my most vivid memory of watching TV as a child, let alone sport on TV. A mercurial bowler who could contribute with the bat, he was my inspiration when I would head to nets on a Sunday morning.

Andy Caddick
As another Somerset stalwart Caddick was always on my radar as a youngster. I was particularly fond of the first few steps of this run up as he charged into the crease to bowl. A little waddle on his heels and off he went! I think he was also the first professional cricketer that I saw in the flesh, right in front of me at the County Ground in Taunton. I’m not sure why it’s such a bizarre thing to see your heroes in the flesh, I suppose it makes them more real, but it certainly cemented him into my cricketing consciousness as a nipper.

Phil Tufnell
I have vivid memories of Tuffers laughing and smiling a lot when most of his England team mates looked very serious. To be fair, back then there wasn’t as much to smile about as there is these days.

Devon Malcolm
All raw pace and aggression, Malcom was a joy to watch in full flow. I don’t remember specific occasions, but have a strong memory of him steaming in, fired up, spearing the ball in at a batsman just looking to survive the spell. His amusingly chaotic batting performances also stick in the mind, although I’m sure he’d rather be remembered for the former.

Alan Mullally
I couldn’t really give you a reason why Alan Mullally captured my imagination so much. But whenever I attempted to bounce out my fellow patio cricketers in the backyard with a bit of extra zip it would be accompanied by a shout of “MULLALLYYYY”. I’m sure we were a joy to be around.

I’m resisting the temptation to write another list of my standout memories of international players. Sure to include icons like Merv Hughes, the Walsh-Ambrose combination and Jonty Rhodes, this feels like a list that deserves its own future post. For now, we would love to hear your cricketing heroes and why they caught your imagination, however tenuous! So please leave a comment or find us on twitter at @PatioCricketers.

Until next time.