The burden of the Compton dna

Nick Compton, the iconic Denis Compton’s grandson,has played nine Tests for England. He was recently in Warangal as a part of the social service outfit, FRANKwater.-

“I do not have my grandfather’s genius or flair, but I’m comfortable with who he is and who I am. There’s more in me to be seen though,” Nick Compton tells A. Joseph Antony in this chat.

To carry forward the legacy of a legend is never easy. With so many sons of famous fathers/forebears falling by the wayside, Nicholas Richard Denis Compton has come to terms with living in his renowned grandfather Denis Compton’s shadow, himself and his game. “I do not have my grandfather’s genius or flair but I’m comfortable with who he is and who I am. There’s more in me to be seen though,” he adds as an afterthought, hinting the best is still to come.

Compton junior was at Balavikasa in Warangal as brand ambassador for FRANKwater, a Bristol-based charity and sat down for an exclusive chat with Sportstar.

Question: With your grandpa’s (who played for Arsenal) genes, how come you didn’t take up football?

Answer: (laughs) Soccer is not so big in South Africa where I grew up playing rugby among other sports but realised my true calling lay in cricket. I left home at 15 on a sports scholarship to Harrow (the acclaimed English public school). I got to play at Lord’s, the home of cricket, as a schoolboy.

Can you trace the evolution of Nick Compton, the person and cricketer?

I was very ambitious, at the age of 14 or 15 wanting to become a professional cricketer. Maybe I was looking too far ahead. I joined Middlesex, my grandfather’s club, but didn’t fulfil my talents there. The expectations and pressure to perform were higher. Distraction, the biggest obstacle to a sportsman, was a problem too.

Nick Compton signs autographs at the St. Gabriel’s High School, Kazipet.-M. MURALI

What was the distraction?

I was trying to be too many people, imitating leading players of the day. It’s good to want more, but you’ve got to confine that energy into being the best you can be. I had become comfortable with discomfort.

How did you get over it?

My good friend Neil Burns mentored me to channelise my energies. I turned my eyes on myself, my technique and temperament. Then there was less space for the external and I found balance in controlling things I could.

While the world was going the T20 way, I went in the opposite direction, working on concentration and defence that would be world class, aimed at batting for long periods of time. In one County season, I averaged 99.96. The journey was good to prove to myself that with a plan and right quality of work, the reflected results would be no coincidence.

What would your cricket mantra/outlook/philosophy be?

It’s very simple. Face as many balls as possible and the runs will follow. I’d rather be a stayer than a sprinter. Preparation precedes performance and without good technique, the game is a lottery.

Who were your mentors as your career advanced?

Tim Boon, Gordon Lord, Andy Wagner and sports psychologist Ken Jennings were always there when I needed them.

Who were the major influences in your life?

My father Richard Compton, ready to take up the cause of the underdog, had the biggest impact on my life. Even in the days of apartheid, he played for a black team. It was Justin Langer who persuaded me to move to Somerset. I’m very fortunate to talk to him about cricket and life.

Who did you relate to best in the English dressing room?

Kevin Pietersen was warm and welcoming. He understood me and where I came from.

How would you describe yourself?

Two centuries in the nine Tests that I’ve played means the world hasn’t seen much of me. I get into trouble, wearing my heart on my sleeve. Intensity can be misconstrued but it’s my way of saying I’m switched on, that my mind’s in the right place. But I can’t please all the people all the time.

We define ourselves by our sport and success, but friendships and morals are more important in a world so material, that it recognises only people who are doing well.

How do you recharge away from cricket?

With friends, family, coffee, photography. Anything creative.

What are your frustrations/ disappointments?

There’s a lot more to my game which I haven’t shown in international cricket. The challenge would be to allow that to come out on a bigger stage. I know inside I’ve not played the way I could, but I’ve got to go easy on myself. Don’t analyse me after nine Tests, give me a full stint.

What would you be after your playing days?

I’ll follow my parents who are in the media. I have done a lot of photography, TV documentaries, articles for Daily Express and even written a blog for Cricinfo.

Do you follow media coverage of your cricket and anyone in particular?

We stay away from the press when playing. You’re never as good or as bad as they say you are. I do follow Mike Atherton and Peter Hayter.

What kind of books do you read?

The only cricket book I read was by my grandfather. Life stories are inspiring like the one by Andre Agassi. I’ve read Justin Langer’s motivational books.

How does this charitable cause you are supporting now differ from the commercial endorsements you do?

Charity work makes my own life less important. We take water for granted in the west. FRANKwater and Balavikasa are actively involved in providing clean drinking water in rural India. This is a brand for a better cause. My role as a sportsman here is to give back to society through the media.

Any similar experiences?

I was in Compton, cradle of rap music, in downtown Los Angeles recently at the Compton Cricket Club promoting the game among homeless children. Sport has the appeal to take these kids away from drugs and off the streets.

Any episode or incident that has changed your view on life?

Seven years ago, my sister was paralysed after an accident. I realised the greatest gift to mum and dad is to get on with my own life and make a success of what I’m doing.