Of the vivacious Gough

Published : Aug 23, 2003 00:00 IST

Oh, No. Not another declaration of retirement. How bored are my readers going to be if I force them to read one more tribute column.


Oh, No. Not another declaration of retirement. How bored are my readers going to be if I force them to read one more tribute column.

AUGUST 4: Oh, No. Not another declaration of retirement. How bored are my readers going to be if I force them to read one more tribute column.

But I will not be put off. Goughie is a special pal, and my one and only gym coach. Besides there is the way I have the story confirmed after 48 hours of rumours and denials. I am sitting in the Press Box at Lord's — a place where all the best rumours begin and end — where a South African reporter tells me that a relative of his is in a pub on the first night of the Test when Darren rings to say "he will retire at the end of the match". Denials all round from the England and Wales Cricket Board spin doctors. "Must not believe rumours", they say. Then there is a Darren Gough story in his favourite newspaper which says that "rumours of his quitting are grossly exaggerated". But, my ear ever to the ground, I hear another tale that Goughie admits he "finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, no energy, aches in every limb and little enthusiasm." That is definitely not the Gough I know so I start to take notice. First Alec Stewart, next Nasser Hussain and now our Darren, the most extrovert, most persuasive, most talkative of all the lads who come into the England team in the 1990s.

August 5: The announcement comes by e-mail. Here are Gough's comments in full. Read them carefully and you will see that he writes them himself. No-one else can express his thoughts in that wholehearted way: "I've come to a decision to retire from Test Match cricket due to the injury sustained playing for England in New Zealand and, three operations later, the subsequent rehab to get back to Test Match cricket to prove myself and to other people that I could give Test cricket a go one more time. Every day is a hard one and my career is based on being a strike bowler and being the one the captain always turned to in time of need, but I've found the last two matches hard going both mentally and physically — not just on playing days but also against the backdrop of the effort I've put in over the last eight months to get back to this stage. It has become apparent to me, no matter what my heart, head or public want me to do, that my knee will not allow me to play Test match cricket. Obviously I'm sad, but I think every player knows when it's time to step down and I feel in order for me to concentrate on my dream of one-day cricket and possibly another World Cup for England and trying to help Yorkshire move forward, I feel I have to retire from Test cricket. Thanks to England for giving me the chance to play Test Match cricket again, thanks to Wayne Morton, Steve Oldham and Scott McCallister for their phenomenal support. Thanks to Colin Graves and Yorkshire CCC and finally the public, I hope they don't feel that, after 229 Test wickets and a body in bits, I've let them down. I hope I've served England well but as you look around there are some very good bowlers all waiting for a chance and good luck to them. I'm a cricket supporter and I will be supporting them." I think it was probably written on that spanking new lap top all the players were given before the last tour and on which he tried to get me to join in a game of Football Manager. If only I can stand the pace! Goughie puts just as much energy into a computer as he does into his bowling.

August 6: I go to Bristol for the semi-finals of the Cheltenham and Gloucester knock-out cup and suddenly it strikes me that it is only 28 days since one Darren Gough bowls here for England against Zimbabwe in the tri-series and records figures of 9-1-26-4. So what happens in the meantime that causes him to retire from Tests. Yes, I know he still wants to play with the one-day squad but surely with proper nursing he can still have a place in the Test side. He ought to listen to the advice of another old friend who tells him to miss this summer's cricket and try for the winter tours. If he does, who knows, he may still be Darren the Destroyer instead of Gough the Goner. His successor may be one Simon Jones, who plays in his first match since that nasty injury during the Brisbane Test last autumn. He bowls eight overs and fails to take a wicket but he does bowl a beamer and half a dozen bouncers, proving that even if his knee is not completely recovered Jones has the Gough spirit.

August 7: David Graveney, chairman of selectors, wanders round the ground, talking to radio, television and Press, with a smile on his face. Happy at the prospect of replacing Gough? Maybe glad that one of the decisions is taken out of his hands. He knows he has to drop one of the trio of ageing stars; now Gough has gone there is no need for Graveney to lose another friend. He takes me — and no doubt many other people on the same day — and asks: "What do you think?" Never one to refuse to divulge my opinions, I tell him he had to get Hussain out of the side quickly. So that Michael Vaughan can take full control. "Yes, Ted, but Michael wants Nasser in the side." So we agree that, if the captain wants Hussain and, so it appears, Stewart — and will be pleased if Gough is still playing — he must have his way. No vote for Vaughan on the committee but a veto. How sensible is that? After Gloucestershire win with the last pair at the wicket, Graveney takes Duncan Fletcher, Geoff Miller and Rod Marsh, his co-selectors, off to an old-fashioned dinner and a long discussion round a table. "It is the most important meeting of my time in office," he says, still smiling. "Keep smiling, Grav," I tell him. "If you don't carry on smiling you will probably burst into tears."

August 8: I spent the journey from Bristol to our hotel near Worcester recalling the wisdom of Don Revie, manager of Leeds United in their great days, and England in their not so good times. If a player comes to him asking for a transfer he makes no attempt to dissuade him. "Thank you, young man, you have been a good player for me and I will do my best to help you find another club," is his usual line. He feels that if a player wants to leave then his commitment to Leeds United is never going to be as great again and he is better off finding someone else. That applies to Nasser Hussain. He tells David Graveney he wants to retire from international cricket. Therefore his interest in England is less than 100 per cent. Thank you and goodbye, Nass. Instead Graveney persuades Nasser to stay on and watches him bat as if his mind were elsewhere and drop a key catch. Poor Don Revie and his wife are good friends of Ray Illingworth and his wife and they go on holiday together. I bet Illingworth will not act as Graveney has done.

August 9: Instead Illingworth writes a damning column in The Sun in which he says that Vaughan is too soft to be England captain. "I don't believe in captaincy by committee," says Illingworth, an old-fashioned cricketer. He also disagrees with the amount of time off the players have under the coach Duncan Fletcher. "They are being over-protected," he says. Blunt words from a blunt man. But not a word about Darren Gough's retirement, even though it is Illingworth who gives him his first Test chance.

August 10: Finally, a personal memory of the vivacious Gough. I am fooling about — it's the only word for it — in the gym in Karachi one afternoon when over strides Gough. "Now come on," he says, "you'll hurt yourself with half-hearted stuff like that. Now watch me." And he proceeds to give me a lecture on fitness, how to use weights and how not to get hurt. Just a considerate human being under all the bluster. I'll miss him, never mind anyone else.

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