Last Updated: 7 August 2023, Author:

Steve Harmison Interview

Interview with Steve Harmison

In this candid interview, former England fast bowler Steve Harmison reflects on his prolific cricket career. He discusses playing under influential captains, his mental health struggles, treasured moments like winning the 2008 County Championship with Durham, and much more. With his characteristic wit, Harmison recounts his triumphs and tribulations on and off the pitch. His insights provide a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of England's most formidable bowlers.

If you could grab a hat trick at Lords or Wembley, which would you prefer?

I think if I had a black and white shirt on, I'd say Wembley because I've nearly got a hat trick at Lords. I've got two at Kits and two at Lords. So I think the Wembley one would be something that I'd be, especially if it was in a black and white shirt, I'd definitely go for Wembley.

And how did it feel playing for Yorkshire when you were on loan there?

It felt different. I enjoyed it. The history of Yorkshire Creative Club is massive. It's huge. You look at just the, what's happened recently and you know, the dark times that have descended on Headingley, obviously the course of the Azeem Rafiq stuff and the racism stuff. It was headline news because, not because of, you know, the magnitude of what racism is, because that's a huge topic in itself. But because a club the size of Yorkshire was the one that was involved, I think it just took it to a whole new level. It took it to a level even further because of the size of the Cricket club. The history of that comes with Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Geographically, the radius that it covers, the story was massive. It was always going to be big because racism was huge. But to take it to another level because of the size of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, I knew when I joined Yorkshire even just for a short period of time that I was joining a massive club.

And I think that's what makes it even more distressing. What happened within the last sort of two or three years with what's happened with Cricket at Yorkshire. It's massive for cricket because of something like an organization like Yorkshire where to go under because of what's happened then that would have huge ramifications on cricket in general. So I knew what I was checking on when I went to Yorkshire. I enjoyed it because the lads were great fun. There were some really, really good young players at the time. I was me, I think Ryan Sidebottom, Andy McGraw, Gerard Brophy, the 30 somethings. And then a bunch of 18 year old kids who were in the likes of Joe Root, Johnny Bestow, Gary Ballance. There was some exciting young talent in there. And I was fortunate. I felt fortunate to play alongside these young lads and watch their careers blossom from there.

Was Vaughan's team actually the best England team ever?

It's hard to say. It's hard to, I'm never a big fan of working back through comparing player with player, times with times. I think Strauss's team to go to Australia on 10/11 was probably a side that was up there as good as anybody because of, you know, the history of not winning the Ashes for such a long time. That took some beating. The one that Ben's making now. The way they're playing the game is a magnificent cricket team. But I think of all the characters and I think of all the games, I think we were up there as good as what England has ever produced. Because we had a variation of fast bowlers, we had a spin bowler, we had batters who could absorb the game, and we had batters who could take the game away from the opposition. So as an all around team, I think we covered a lot of bases. So I think we would definitely be in the conversation. If they were building a side that was fit for any age.

If your beloved Newcastle United win the league in the coming years, will it be as good a feeling as personally winning the ashes in 2005?

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. 100%. You play cricket. You play sports professionally and it's a job. You should only support one football team and that one football team should mean everything to you. And I actually work at the games now. I work for TalkSport on reporting and sort of updating on games and it's the best job in the world. I get paid for sitting, talking about Newcastle United. It doesn't get any better than that. So I missed the Wembley trip this year. I was gutted, absolutely devastated. I missed two games of football for Newcastle this year. In my role. One was Liverpool at home and the other one was the Carabao Cup final because I was commentating in New Zealand and I was devastated to miss it, even though we lost. It would've been a brilliant day out. And to see Newcastle continue this path would be great to get them anywhere near winning a premiership title. I think Manchester City would have to have a bad time for that to happen in the next five years, but we're going in the right direction and we live in hope.

Speaking of that Wembley Day, obviously the Geordies absolutely took over Trafalgar Square. Are you looking forward to seeing them doing that across Europe this year?

That'd be great. I can't wait. There's a lot of eagerly awaired anticipation for the Champions League draw. We could be going, it doesn't matter where we go in Europe, we'll travel big. Ibrox got that the other night. 8,000 people went up to Scotland on a Tuesday night. I've done Champions League trips before with Newcastle, Europa League games. When training there, I was fortunate to go on the plane with them to Altmar and one or two other places. When the Geordies travel, they travel in good voice, travel in good numbers and there's some tourism boards who will be desperately keen on getting Newcastle in the Champions League next year. I know that for a fact. So fingers crossed we get a good draw and one that we can progress in because I think hopefully it's just the start of a great journey for Eddie Howere with the Newcastle team, not only to sort of be a force in England, but be ideally a force in Europe as well.

How do you rate Newcastle's summer so far in terms of transfers?

The problem you've got with Newcastle is they didn't have a great deal of assets when Mike Ashley had Newcastle. He didn't spend any money, but he didn't bring any money in. Which from a financial fair player is hampering Newcastle at the minute. I think Newcastle are going on the right track. I think everybody's expecting to go and sign, you know, Neymar and Mbappé and all these players that were outside of Newcastle. Nobody in Newcastle either wanted that or expected that. Newcastle just wanted their club to be loved again. And they've now got that, probably a couple years ahead of time. But they've got that. Their transfers will be, I think mirrored to the manager and the way he wants to play. So I don't see too many egos coming into Newcastle. I think Harvey Barnes would be an excellent signing. I think Allan Saint-Maximin gives Newcastle some points of difference, but I think he's a point of difference when off the bench, and I don't think Saint-Maximin Max really wanted that.

And I think he is the one ego that probably Newcastle had and Harvey Barnes gives them something. Probably one or two more will come in before the close of the window. But I think all in all, I think Newcastle are building something where they've got, they had 15, I think now they've got 17. Two more players will take them to 18, 19 players where I think Eddie will have comfort using them. Where last year I think he was only up to about 14 where he consistently used the same 14 players. I think now with one or two additions. I don't think he'll be as lucky injury-wise as he was last year, this year. I just don't think that can happen. Buttman and Sharp played so many games. And I think with the Champions League pressure as well, which would be difficult. So I think he'll bring another defender in and I think he probably still thinks he's looking in the sort of attacking options as well. So I wouldn't surprise me if they get two more in after Harvey Barnes, but I still think Newcastle have got more players to go out than they have got coming in.

Back to Cricket, just how wide was that really wide ball you had all those years ago?

Yeah, well it started in Brisbane and the way the story goes now, it's in Sydney now, so even, you know, it's amazing. You get the same stuff at the start of every Ashes series. I think Michael Atherton said at the start of this one it was in Sydney so it tells you how wide it was because it started off in Brisbane. Ian Ward said it was at fourth slip, so it wasn't quite that bad, but it was bad enough. It was a lesson of preparation if my preparation into that series wasn't the greatest because I got injured just before the first test match. A little bit like Jimmy at the minute, Jimmy Anderson at the minute. His preparation was hampered and we haven't seen the best of Jimmy Anderson and I feel as though I can sympathize with that because I just try too hard.

The body was telling me to bowl as fast as it can, but the preparation wasn't there and you know, the timings weren't there. And I pulled out too early and me best mate gave me the ball. He gave me the honor to bowl the first ball of the ashes and 20 seconds later I gave it back and just missed the middleman out. So it was just one of those things, you know, these things happen in life and you get stronger obviously from times when things don't go so well. And I definitely got stronger from the back of that.

That first bowl in that test in Australia, as it left your hand and went towards Freddy at the second slip, what did you say to yourself in your head?

What do you say to yourself? Do you just walk off and cry, and go into the, you know, I wanted the ground to open up. I remember what I did say to myself at the end of that, at the end of that sort of over, was there's a test of character here. And you either sink or you swim. And the sinking part would've been to finish that day's play limp through the end of the test match and never be seen again. But I made sure at the end of that over I walked down a fine leg and took a whole load of abuse, and made sure that right for whenever England picks you, because there's a good chance they're going to drop you in the next test match. But you make sure that you don't sort of die in a hole.

You make sure that you do not sort of go missing and make sure that you stay on this field and that's the test of character you show. And unfortunately, because England didn't have a great squad going into that series, and unfortunately the way the series went for England, I had to play every single test match, played every single day. I never went off once and I made sure that I was true to my word that I was going to, it was going to be a test of character. And I'm going to make sure that I'm not going to obviously, you know, run away from what has just happened. And for me that was probably one of the best things that happened to me after that, because I made sure that I could easily wilt and never be seen again. But I was never going to let that happen.

So do you think DRS should be replaced by VA umpires? So LBW’s can be given out/not out on field and play goes on? So the VA umpire will overturn it if it is wrong, so no reviews need to happen.

No, I think the review system, cricket's got it right. Rugby's got it right, football's got it wrong. Miles wrong. And the thing with cricket , and same as rugby, it's all line definitive. It's not anybody's or that's somebody else's interpretation. That's where football's got it wrong. They've got it, so it's somebody else's interpretation. So if somebody on the field passes the buck to a man, Stan, he passes the buck, it should all come to the man on the field. In football, I think every Premier League game is live on TV somewhere around the world. It's run by a director and in cricket you hear the third umpire talking to the director of the TV. That's who he's talking to. He's not talking to anybody else. And the TV director who's running the game for the TV cameras and he's basically saying, have you got another angel? Can you blow this up?

Can you, can you slow it down? Can you speed it up? And what in football you are getting is when you're looking at somebody else's interpretation, the line one is simple. I've got no problem with the toenail being off-side because it's the same for everybody. It's consistent. Is it in the box? Is it outside the box? Is it a goal? Is it not a goal? They're line definitive, you can't get them wrong. They're exactly the same for everybody. It's the same technology but it's whether it's a penalty or it's a red card, all these things for me, that shouldn't be made by anybody other than the referee. And the referee, if you can hear what the referee's saying, which I think they're starting to do, like in cricket, like in rugby, if that referee can ask for another angle. If the referee can ask for it can be speeded up.

If the referee can ask, can you blow the incident up where the contact is made and how it's made, then all of a sudden he will make a better decision than the man who's sitting in an office. Because he's feeling it and he's seeing it. So for me, the man in the crowd tells the man on the screen, the man on the field, what, you know, I think you've made a mistake, I think you need to look at it again. And then, for me, the referee should take over with the guy who's controlling the cameras, which would be, can you give me another look at it?

Can you give me another angle to it? Can you blow the point of contact up? Can you slow it down or speed it up to real time? And then, well what I've seen live is what I'm seeing and why I made the decision. No, I've got, I haven't got it wrong, I've got it right or I've actually, or I've seen something I didn't see. I have got it wrong and I am going to overturn my decision. Rather than a man in the field interpreting to a man in the crowd. And I think that is where cricket is spot on. But cricket's more line where football's more is interpreted by two people or three people or five people, who by the time they get to the consensus, we've seen so far with VR, they made the wrong decision.

So how do you think England's performing in the Ashes this year?

I just think they've made mistakes. You know, they've made mistakes and they're always going to, England is always going to make mistakes because of the way they play. So the mistakes they're making are, I think they go hand in hand with the way England are trying to play. England are trying to play some positive cricket. They're trying to play cricket which is on the front foot, actually. It's exciting and entertaining. What you get with that, the pitfalls of that is you are going to hit one up in the air every now and again. You are going to hit a man on the boundary when you're trying to hit a six. Because that's what these players are trying to do. So I think they could have gone to leeds or they could have left leeds three nil up, they could easily have left leeds the mistake they made three nil down. I think they're fortunate they're still in this series.

So, and as we sit here, I think they're in a good place in the fourth test match. So I think this new way of playing will take time and it will evolve when it's being put under pressure like it has done against Australia. The reason why it hasn't been put under pressure is because they'll be playing two and three match series against teams from all over the world. Who by the time they've got the grips of why, how, and where England are playing. The other teams have been shell-shocked and they've been out of the series. And when they've played against Australia, pressure of the Ashes, longer series going on where teams can work each other out, then they were always going to have little bumps in the road. And that's unfortunately what they've had so far this summer.

Where does Ben Stokes rank for you amongst the greats?

He's up there with one of the very best, Bolth and Flintoff. They were two all-rounders that are talked about in this sort of highest regard when it comes to all-rounders in world cricket. And like I said before, I don't want to compare eras against each other, but I think Ben Stokes will probably go down, if he can win the ashes as a captain, then that could be the final tick in the box, which elevates Ben to being the very, very best. Because I think, you know, Beefy was obviously the main man in his time, obviously Andrew was in my time, and Ben is one of the best situation players I have ever seen when it comes to what the team needs, and how the team needs to play. If he's in the middle, England have always got a chance. And he did that at the 2019 World Cup, Headingley World Cup in the T20 in Australia. And if he can manage to get England into a position of winning the ashes, then I think that might be the tipping and balance for it, for people to think that Ben is going to go down as the all-time greatest.

What was your take on the stumping controversy the other day?

It was out. Bit of dozy bating, it was just out. The spirit of cricket only falls when it's against your side. And for me, Alex Carey did nothing wrong. He caught the ball, and threw the ball at Stumps, after witnessing Johnny Bestow leave the crease on more than one occasion. Would Johnny Bestow have walked out the crease if Alex Carey stood up to the stumps? No, he wouldn't. So why did he do it then? They can say it's the end of the over, you've gotta wait to see what the umpire says. It's like playing to the whistle. Kerry caught the ball, threw it in one motion. Unfortunately for Johnny, he was out of his crease and I wouldn't have had a problem. I know a lot of former cricketers and teammates of mine said you would've called him back.

I'm not sure I would've called him back. And we've seen many, many other examples of it happening in cricket. Just think it was a dozy bit of batting and one that Johnny I don't think will repeat anytime soon. It's like a goalkeeper catching the ball, throwing it down to go and kick it and not realizing the center forward behind him. Like Shay Given did when Dion Dublin scored at Coventry all them years ago. You know, you've gotta be aware of the situation you're in and what's around you. Unfortunately, Johnny wasn't

So crickets evolved significantly in recent years, particularly with the introduction of T20. So how do you think these changes have affected as a whole and do you think more needs to be introduced?

I think it's better, it's faster, it's more entertaining, it is what we want to watch. I worry about Test Cricket outside the big three, England, Australia and India. We're watching Stuart Broad go past 600 wickets, which is just a frightening achievement from a bowler's point of view and the longevity of Broad and Anderson, which will be never seen. I don't even think anybody will get, I don't even think anybody will get 400 wickets in the future, nevermind to get anywhere near 600. So I love the 2024 format of the game. I get abused off the sort of TV channel and ECB because I'm a big, I keep having a go at the hundred and I only have a go at the hundred for one thing, the format, the player, nobody else is going to play it around the world.

So I don't see the point of why we're playing it. And if the times are right this week that there changing, they might be bringing it all together. That would be a good thing for English cricket because English cricket's about to get left behind. If they don't wake up, smell the coffee, English cricket's going to be left behind by the American company, the American League that's coming in. So for me, I think England, we have this stiff upper lip, whatever you want to say, that ICEC report tells you that we do have a society problem, a class problem in this country. I think the allocation of test matches tells you that in the not-too-distant future. And we do have old men in suits that run our game, which I think from an ego point of view, they go, well, we invented the game. We run the game, we'll tell you what to do.

Unfortunately money dictates what's happening and we are going to get left behind if we don't change a few things, you know, soon. And I think we're trying to change it by all accounts, but I think that the formats of the game are what make the game great because they make the game great for everybody. There is a format for you to go and watch and love. Because a lot of people play test match cricket and don't like the white ball formats, that's fine. It's great. We keep them and yeah, we give cricket to them and we make them enjoy it. But we also have a lot of people who have an attention span of, you know, very, very short attention span who don't like test cricket, don't understand cricket, but love the T20 format. And I think the a hundred format has been great for them.

But unfortunately for that format to evolve, it's gotta go back to 2020. And if the hundred goes back to 120 balls with eight teams the best playing against the best with the money that they've ploughed into it and the money that they've made it to hit all four corners of the country, then I think we've got a great chance of having a competition. That would be brilliant. But I think watch the space on that one because if we don't change quickly, we'll get left behind. But as formats go, I think we've got enough balance there to appease all cricket fans, which is great.

With the game constantly getting called off for weather conditions and extreme weather getting more common lately, do you think we will ever get to a stage in competitive cricket where cricket has to move indoors?

Good luck building that stadium, I would say. That's going to take some stadium to build. A stadium with a roof on? I've played in a stadium with a roof on, the pitch wasn't very, wasn't very big. It was in Sydney and great if we could get that, you know, it's magnificent. But especially the longer format of the game, what makes Test cricket so, so intriguing and so good is the weather is the fluctuation of six and a half hours of the sun coming in and then, you know, the clouds coming over and it being good for, you know, for the bowlers. What you don't want is to lose a day and a half in a big series of rain like the Ashes. But unfortunately, we haven't been quite there in this series. But I think we'd all want to see cricket played the best it possibly can, in the best conditions as we possibly can.

So if we could get stadiums that were indoors and cricket was allowed to play indoors and it was, you know, the stadiums were there, then great, we'll be all for it. I think that would be the next step. But at this minute in time, especially the longer format of the game, test match cricket, the nuances of it are largely down to what the weather brings in. And that makes it a great challenge because, you know, you could win the toss on a cloudy morning, done that many times. You win the toss on a cloudy morning and you know, five, 10 minutes into the game, the sun's come out and the pitch is down flat, and it's a different animal to what you were expecting when you first, or when you made the decision at the toss. So for me, that's what makes cricket great.

And obviously you were known for your fast bowling, it played a crucial role in Ashes victory in ‘05. What do you think the factors were that contributed to your success in that series?

I think we had a lot of luck. I think to win an Ashes, you've gotta have lady luck on your side. If England were to win this Ashes, wow. They've done it the hard way because they are two nil down, but they've won four out of five tosses at the minute. They've had a lot of weather conditions go their way, we had the same in 2005. We had decisions go our way. Demian Martin was given the LBW three times and he, you know, I don't think he could have hit the middle of the bat any harder, inside edge onto the middle of the bat, when it comes to decision-making that went in our favour. The runout went in our favour. Not many injuries that went in our favour, you know, McGraw getting injured.

So I think coupled with the fact that we had a very, very good, well-balanced side and a fantastic bowling unit was one of the reasons or the biggest reasons why we won the ashes. So it was a brilliant summer. It's a summer that I think we are possibly ready to eclipse because if England can win at Old Trafford, and go to the oval, then I think this summer's been as good if not better than 2005. And it'd be brilliant if we can do like that, like they did come out on the right side of it, which would be a great achievement. Seen as we were 2-0 down.

And obviously throughout your career you've faced many formidable Batsman. Who would you say was the toughest to bowl against? And do you think you change your game sometimes to try and dismiss them?

Ricky Ponting was the hardest I played against. I was fortunate to play against some of the greats of the game. The likes of Lara and Tim Dolcun, Travid Callus Smith, you know, I'm missing a whole load out there. Mohammed Yusef, I'm trying to think of another, Kumar Sangakkara. I had a bouncer that I could use to intimidate batsmen. I couldn't intimidate Ricky, I just couldn't. He was just impossible to bowl to. He really was, he had my short ball hit to six and if you just pitched it up that little bit, he hit it straight back past you. He was, for me, the hardest I ever faced. And when you look back at what your strengths and what your weaknesses were as a cricketer, your strength was something which was intimidation as a fast bowler, big talk a bowl at 90 plus miles an hour.

And he used that as his strength because for every short ball, he tried to hit you for six and then your margin for error, especially for this, you know, somebody not very, not that tall. Ricky was about five foot seven, five foot eight, your margin for error was so small. For me, he was one of the best of all time. Like I said before, the others, like, you could get at, you could hide the ball, you could bowl bouncers at and they wouldn't take you on. Ricky was the opposite. You couldn't hide it. There was nowhere to hide it for him. But it always felt as though it was either six or out, you know, we were going to have a good crack at an entertaining contest here. And he was going to get a few runs or he was going to give me a chance to get his wicket, which was always, you know, a great battle.

Obviously you also played alongside legendary cricket players in your career. Who would you say the players are that influenced you the most?

One of my first captains, David Boone, who was about five foot five, had a great big moustache. Came off the back of scoring hundred after a hundred, after a hundred growing up, watching the Ashes when you grew up watching the Ashes in the nineties, you just, it was just Boones scores another hundred for Australia against England. And Boone's got another hundred for Australia against England. So as a 17-year-old walking into the Durham dressing room. I just couldn't, I was so in awe of him, I couldn't speak to him. There's this little fella that I played a hundred times for Australia, and I couldn't speak to him, but to be fair to him, when I said that to him afterwards, he did say it was a good job. He says, because it took six months to understand a word you said because he couldn't understand the Geordie accent.

He was just a great man. And I was fortunate to play with some good characters at Durham, you know, Simon Brown who played for England. John Wood. But then, you know, growing up I was fortunate to have Darren Gough as my hero and now he's one of my best. And sometimes you say, don't meet your hero, but mine is just, my hero is, it was everything you want him to be and more. And watching Gough on TV as a 14, 15, 16 year old take on Australia the way he did and then to come into the England side play alongside Gough. That was like a dream come true. So keep reminding him about that whenever you want anything off him. But he was a brilliant character, an unbelievable man, a great performer and lit up any room that he walked into.

You played under a few different captain's in your career, do you think their leadership styles differ at all?

I think your leadership style differs on what team you've got and how you want to play your games. So Michael Vaughan was different to Andrew Strauss, shall we say it. Strauss, didn't have the all rounder for the entirety of his leadership with England. So Vaughan got Flint off at his best, but Shawty got Swan at his best and Swan was a different type of bowler to Ashton Giles. So I think as a captain, you try and for me, you're only as good as your bowling attack because that's what wins your games. 20 wickets wins you games. So I played, I think Vaughan was the best captain I played for because he was, I was probably playing at my best when he was in that leadership role that he had.

He was very relaxed. I think Strauss was always going to be an England captain, but his outlook of the game was completely different. And that was for England, for me, the best captain I ever played for was Dale Benkenstein at Durham. He was, he puts himself down a lot. He captained Natal for a lot of years to a very, very successful side. And he captained Durham for a lot of years on a very, very successful side. And he was somebody who'd seen the game in a calm way, who understood the game inside out. He could work out what was coming next in the game and what we needed to do to combat what the next role was. But he was also, you know, firm and fair. And that is something as a, as a bowler, when you look at your captain, you don't want to see him panicking.

You want to know that he's listening to what you are trying to do and obviously trying to achieve, but he's also got in his own mind in how he's trying to drive the game forward. And I think that is a great art in leadership. And so from a captain's point of view, you can't just, it's not one size fits all. I think it's about the group that you're trying to mold into. And Strauss did that in a different way to Vaughan. Vaughan did that in a different way than to Benkenstein. But for the two that I probably played the best for were domestically for Benkenstein and internationally was probably Vaughan.

And the mental aspect of cricket is often overlooked, but obviously it can greatly influence a players performance. Stokes has been quite vocal on the subject himself. How did you handle the high pressure situations during your career?

I'm not saying I didn't struggle, I struggled going away from home when it comes to the mental aspect of it. You know, there was one year we had 300, I think we had 300 nights in hotel beds. So, you know, September to I think 2007 I think it was, or 2008 for that whole year we were basically on the road. I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was in the early 2000s. So it was always a challenge of that side for me. On the field, no challenge whatsoever. It was like, this is my, you know, once I went over the white line, this is my stage, you know, I'm an actor, I'm going on, and I bluff my way through a lot of it. As an actor, you just, you go on stage and you read your lines, you do your performance and I felt as though that was my release.

It was off the field that I had real mental, mental struggles and mental issues. So from a performance point of view, I was fine. This is what I prepared for, this is what I'd worked hard for. Three weeks going into the tour was about making sure that when you went over the white line in competitive games, you were ready, your body was ready. You know, your skillset was ready and off you go and it became just your natural game. I think sometimes there were a couple of trips where I wasn't ready, Australia being one of them in 06, 07. South Africa in probably 05, before the 2005 Ashes. Where preparation was hampered by the sort of mental aspects of what I struggle in life, in general life with. And that had a knock-on effect with performance. Once I got on the field, it was like, this is what I'm here for. I never had a problem with that.

So obviously you just mentioned you struggled a bit yourself in the early 2000s. Do you think more should be done to sort of support athletes and help them manage their well-being from the association level?

I think more is done now than what there was then. I think back then it was seen as a weakness, not an illness. I think Marcus Trescothig was the sort of first one to come out. And obviously Jonathan Trott and one or two others. I think that, in itself is something which is spoken alot more now than it was then. In my day job now on talk sport, I've got a mental health show where we're now, we're now into the fourth series, talking about after, it's called After the Lights Go Out, with Leon Mackenzie, former Premier League footballer and professional boxer. And we talk to players who have had real struggles coming away from the game and what their support mechanism was. And nearly everyone said there was nothing in there. There was no support there, there was no help there. You know, we deal with everything from alcohol to depression to gambling, to abuse everything that was happening. But I think Cricket was the trailblazer really.

They were front runners, Jason Radcliffe, Richard Bevin, you know, really sort of grabbed it by the scruff of the neck. And I think they were game changers when it comes to the mental aspect of what's out there from a help point of view. And this is seen as an illness and not a weakness. So I think it is improving. We all want it to get better. And fingers crossed it does, but I think other sports can really take a look at cricket and say, right, they've got their house in order when it comes to that, because there were some alarming stats in cricket in the early 2000s. The highest divorce rate in any sport was in cricket. The highest suicide rate in any sport, I think in the nineties and 2000s was cricket. So I think because of that, I think Cricket got a thousand orders and there is help there now if anybody does, you know, have these sort of mental struggles and we try and help them through it.

So you've just mentioned sort of After the Lights Go Out there. I'll be quite interested to know, like how did you find making the switch from player to commentator? Did you sort of feel like you lost a bit of that buzz or?

No, I've had enough. I was ready for my finish. Some people know when it's time to go and I certainly didn’t. I should have, I carried on playing for four years and I should never have done that. In 2009, I walked off playing for England. I should have finished there and then, but now bills are gonna be paid and you feel as though there's still more to be given and there's contracts on the table. And I just didn't feel as though my heart was fully in the latter part of my career. But to fall into the commentating side, it's fairly easy to be honest. We love the game. I love the game. I went around New Zealand this year and there were four of us. You know from TalkSport. I wouldn't say it was like a budget production.But there were four of us in a car driving around New Zealand, commentating on the cricket, living in a flat, and I loved every minute of it. And if you don't love doing things like this, then you won't do it. It's something that, it's the same as coaching. I didn't really fancy coaching. Coaching, you've gotta love what you, you've gotta love coaching, to be a coach, to live in the life of a coach. I didn't have that. And I think it's got to be the same as a commentator, you listen to the likes of Sky, Sky's got some brilliant commentators. And the, the dude, the technique of the game to a visual aspect. I mean a whole new level. And I'm not sure me and Sky are best mates at this moment of time.

But when I look at it, I mean that's largely down to my opinion of the hundred. But if I'm sitting down at the house and now, I'm gonna sit and watch I'm really looking forward to watching and listening to the commentary because they are fantastic. You know, from a visual point of view. Sky is brilliant. They do it unbelievably with the graphics and the replays and how they cover cricket and the commentators are excellent. They're a bowler short, largely down to obviously sadly Warne passing. I think if they could get Darren Gough on commentary, that would be brilliant.

But, and I think, you know, Nasser is as miserable as he is, he is an unbelievable commentator to listen to. And for me, Nasser, you've gotta love the game. And Nasser does love the game as much as he, I said the four years he was a captain grumpy. These guys love the game and they love talking about the game and they love bringing the game into your front room. And that for me is what I think you have to be as if you want to go into the commentary, you can't bluff it, and you can't not do your homework. You can't not know the ins and outs of the game, the laws of the game, the stats of the game. Yes, there are other people there to help you, but you've gotta do that. And if you don't do that properly, you get found out very, very quickly.

What advice would you give to a young cricketer who wants to make it professional based on your journey?

I'd say you've gotta work hard. It's as simple as that. That's a given. Working hard is a given. I would encourage anybody to embrace all the challenges. Play everything you can. Be everything you want to be. If you're talking about a young cricketer at sort of 13, 14, try everything. Try, you know, bowling spin, try bowling fast, try wicket keeping and look to sort of bat as high and as challenging as you can. But the simple fact is, your body, especially 11, 12, 13, 14, your body will determine where you go in life when it comes to cricket. So what I mean, an example of that, if you start getting, you know, I've got a 15 year old son who's six foot two, he's never gonna be a wicket keeper at six foot two. Because by the time he gets to 18, he's gonna be too tall for the weight keeper, probably for a spin bowler as well.

And what you do is by utilizing all these skills, you learn the game more. You learn what the game is from a spin bowler's point of view, what the game is from a fast bowler's point of view, you know, think as a batsman. And that for me would be that as in, you know, from a junior's point of view. From a young adult's point of view, one, you've gotta enjoy the game. If you're gonna be a bowler, you're going to have to realize it hurts. And you can't get away from the fact that, you know, for the next 10, 15 years, your body's gonna hurt most mornings. You see Stuart Broad, one of England's greatest at the end of the day's play, limp towards the sort of TV interview that he has to do at the end of the day's play.

And he limps there with a spring in his step, which sounds contradicting, but he limps there to do the interview knowing that he's had a great day and his body's limping there because he's given everything he possibly can. And unfortunately, it hurts as a bowler, there's no getting away from it. And the other way would definitely embrace all formats of cricket. Don't just pigeonhole yourself as a 2020 cricketer because you'll lose a hell of a lot of aspects of the game. If you go and try and do the best red ball cricket, you can be, you will be a very good white ball cricketer as well. Because the skills you have to have as a red ball cricketer, you can transfer that into white ball cricket. So for me, it would be to not shut any doors and would be to keep them all open and try and embrace each and every one to the best you can possibly be.

So reflecting back on your own cricket journey, what are the moments that you cherish the most when looking back?

Everybody asks what's the best day in cricket, and it's like everybody's expecting Jamaica and 7 for 12. I had training with Newcastle for the best part of six or seven years. So Bobby Robson, I think I have seen about five or six managers. So Bobby Robson, Graeme Souness you know, I think I eventually finished when Sam came through the door. And that was a great experience. 2005 was the obvious one of experiences throughout that summer. Representing England was something that you could never, ever take for granted. And it's such a great honor and privilege.

But the best experience I've had during my career was, funny enough, it was a celebration, but it was on a bus. And that wasn't 2005, when it was 2008. I signed for Durham in 1996. Durham were four years into being a professional club. And in 2008 we were travelling back from Canterbury, having won again, expecting to be runners-up in a championship. Now some professional cricket counties, I think Somerset still hasn't won the championship. You know, other clubs have not won the championship. Other clubs have won it once, it took them 50 years to win it. You know, we won it after 16 years. and to go on that bus feeling as though we got runners-up was a special achievement, don't get me wrong.

But then when we came through the other side of the Dartford tunnel and Nottinghamshire had just lost and we were now champions, that for me, was the achievement. That's the best achievement I've had in my time. I wasn't on the England team at the time. I took 60 wickets that summer. And I was playing with cricketers from my area who were plucked outta school and given the dream that I was given. To see them win the championship after me who had already won the Ashes. For me, that was the best day in cricket in my life when Durham beat Kent at Canterbury in 2008. We were big champions for the first time in Durham's history. In 16 years yhat was a proper achievement for me.

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Last Updated: 7 August 2023
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