Post cricket, Nick Compton finds healing in photography

After his cricketing career ended abruptly, former England batsman Nick Compton opens up on finding his 'best friend' that helped him get life back on track.

Nick Compton played 16 Test matches for England and scored two centuries. He had an excellent first-class career amassing 12,168 runs in 194 appearances.   -  REUTERS

Nick Compton is 36. It’s been a year and a half since he quit cricket - something that he loved all his life. There have been phases when he wanted to give up everything and walk into oblivion.

But, there was sand in his shoes and a camera in hand. That allowed Compton to shrug off the odds, get off the couch and travel the world. 

He would click pictures of the sea, the sand, the mountains, the forest and the sky. Basically, everything under the sun.

Even though he was a professional cricketer, Compton knew his calling - he just loved to shoot. No wonder his Instagram page defines him perfectly: ‘Work in the shade, live in the sun.’

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A former England batsman, Compton now lives a happy life with his ‘best friend’ - the camera.

But he doesn’t like calling himself a ‘full-time’ photographer. “I would say that it’s been a passion,” he told Sportstar from the South African town of Knysna.

Having grown up in South Africa, Compton has been an avid traveller since childhood. And, that’s how he fell in love with photography.

“My mother was an artist and my father did a lot of photography growing up and was also a wildlife TV presenter. I have always loved art, fine art is a real passion,” he said, admitting that it helped him overcome “the pressures of cricket as well.”

Photography, for him has been like a meditation.

“Some people prefer PlayStation, some go hiking, for me, photography is a kind of meditation. It’s about getting creative and looking for that perfect shot,” Compton said.

- Compton's cricketing journey -

A prolific opening batsman, Compton amassed more than 10,000 runs in County cricket for over almost 20 seasons. However, his international cricket career lasted four four years, where he featured in 16 Tests for England and had a total of 775, including two centuries.

But things never really took off, despite a promising start. Coming from an illustrious family - his grandfather, the legendary Denis Compton, played cricket for England and also won the League and FA Cup titles for Arsenal - there were huge expectations from him.

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“I don’t think the expectations of the family name really burdened me. It was more really my own pressures that I wanted to achieve,” he said.

“I think its more (of a) burden that successful people carry with them. There is always a new bar to reach, there's always a better player, there's always a statistics or an average the game is quite often governed by. There is constant pressure to keep pushing yourself and moving forward.

Nick Compton plays a shot as MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli look on.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

“My grandfather was an example in his era, just like Jacques Kallis or Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar were examples in my era. He was somebody I wanted to emulate for sure. The things he achieved, the success he had is inspiring for any young sportsman,” he said. “I wasn’t burdened by him but I wanted to achieve all those things myself.”

Compton made his debut against India in the first Test in Ahmedabad in November, 2012. That series - which England won 2-1 - did not see him score a ton, but he did stamp his class in the four Tests, scoring 208 runs.

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“The memories with the England team are a little bit mixed. The best memories are definitely touring India for my first Test series. Beating India is something that I don’t think any cricketer can surpass as an experience,” he said.

“To beat India in their backyard was a huge experience. I remember walking out to bat, taking guard and there were MSD (Mahendra Singh Dhoni), Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli all in the slip cordon, and like any young player, you pinch yourself. For me, that was an incredible series. As a debut series, India was one of the toughest places to go but I played quite well,” he said.

- When Compton impressed Tendulkar -

Compton impressed Tendulkar, who walked up to the England youngster and had a chat.

“He (Tendulkar) thought it was my partnership with (Alastair) Cook that set up the victory, because most teams come out here and they try and be very aggressive with the spin because they feel like it's a threat. Whereas not many people can actually stay out there and just bat and take the game deep. Looking back, that was something I was proud of.”

After returning from India, Compton travelled with the team to New Zealand and scored a ton in the second innings of the opening match in Dunedin. He followed it up with another hundred in Wellington.

Nick Compton along with batting greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.   -  Instagram/nick.compton

 

However, in the return series against New Zealand, Compton missed the rhythm and soon he was dropped from the side and also from the Ashes. He was replaced by Joe Root at the top - an experiment that never really worked for England.

“Things went a bit wrong when I went back to England. Root was clearly an exceptional player. But I think they made a poor decision by asking him to open the batting. They should have stuck with me,” Compton said.

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“I should have carried on at least for the next year or two and should have been given the confidence to push through. That was a difficult experience.

“At the time, there was no need to change. We were winning every game and series. The team was in a good place. If you are losing games, it’s fair enough to make a change, but we were winning. I don't think what they were looking for was necessary. And it then culminated into 12 different opening batsmen over the next three or four years,” he added. 

- Battling Depression -

That’s when depression slowly sunk in.

“It was incredibly difficult as I went through a major period of depression. And at the time, it was bit like you fight at the top of the order to stay in and get through the new ball, I was fighting depression,” he said.

“But I didn't want to succumb to it. I wanted to fight through it. I wanted to get my place back in the team. But I think depression is something that you have to respect and understand that it isn't something you can just turn on and off like a button. It's something that creeps up on you and you look at yourself in the mirror and think things are not well.”

Nick Compton now lives a happy life with his ‘best friend’ - the camera.   -  Instagram/nick.compton

 

It culminated over a period of time. “I was pushing so hard to prove myself and to turn it around. But I think there came a point where I realised that I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. I felt like I was very tearful on the field. And I lost all my energy.

"For the first period of time, I didn't really know what was wrong with me. But slowly realised that I needed to get some help as things were not good,” he revealed.

- Personal Issues -

Even though he returned to the England side in 2015 and slammed 85 in Durban against South Africa, it was curtains on his England career.

“It's disappointing. I think I could have achieved a lot more. But there's no blame,” he said.

 

As he tries to put the past behind him, he remembers how he walked up to the then England coach Andy Flower and captain Cook to find out where he was lacking.

Nick Compton captures a Zebra crossing a road.   -  Instagram/nick.compton

 

“I went to Andy Flower a number of times to really find out why on earth was I dropped and why they did not stick by me? I guess I had some personal issues in the two Tests, I played against New Zealand. We are all human and those issues really attracted me for about a two week period.

"And unfortunately, those two weeks were when we played New Zealand. I could not play very well. That was the end of my stint and I guess they made a decision on me as a person and as a character…”

In 2015, when he returned, Trevor Bayliss was the head coach. “Bayliss is more of a T20 and ODI specialist. I did not feel his understanding of Test cricket was quite like mine. I felt it was uphill battle to prove that someone of my ilk was necessary in the team,” he said. 

Now that he has moved on from the game, Compton wants to do an exhibition in India and help the underprivileged kids through his charity. 

Done with the willow, Compton has indeed found a healing in photography!

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