In 2009, then-Worcestershire quick Richard Jones wrote about how his former team-mate and idol, Graeme Hick, inspired him to take up the sport.
First published in 2009
Looking back on the early part of my life, the majority of my memories are sporting ones. My earliest recollection is of my father taking me to a West Bromwich Albion football match, and it seems as though I spent most of my early childhood playing with a football. At that age, playing football was all I ever wanted to do. But one summer’s day everything changed.
The date was July 9, 1994. I was seven years old. It was the thrilling finale of the Benson & Hedges Cup at Lord’s. I hadn’t been to many cricket matches before and I didn’t really understand the occasion unfolding before me. The match was a local derby between Worcestershire and Warwickshire, a fixture which has always bred fierce competition.
My father had been a Worcestershire supporter for some years, and I suppose he was keen for me to develop a passion for cricket in the same way I had for football. As a fully-fledged football fan, I was unaware of the complex laws that regulated cricket and most of the game passed me by. But shortly after the start of play, my attention was captured and gaze fixed by the coming together of two green-helmeted batsmen.
When the second Worcestershire wicket fell, it bought Tom Moody to the crease, joining Graeme Hick. I recognised their names, and my father informed me that these men represented Worcestershire’s best hope. I stopped fidgeting and watched the game unfold.
I remember a genuine sense of excitement as I watched Hick smashing a ball high into the Lord’s grandstand, accompanied by all manner of elated cheering around me. There it was again; another hefty blow from Hick, another roar of approval. I sat there thinking, ‘I want to do that’.
It wasn’t until the Warwickshire innings when the game recaptured my then dwindling interest and a familiar feeling engulfed me. Hick was fielding; sweeping the boundary right in front of our seats. I watched and waited for him to do something out of the ordinary, just as he had earlier with his bat.
All of a sudden he jolted into life, charging predator-like around the rope. He stooped, scooped and unleashed a rocket-like throw with pinpoint accuracy. Intrigued and amazed, a similar thought became apparent, once more Graeme Hick had made me want to play cricket.
The experiences of that day brought about an entirely new dream for me. I joined a local cricket team in the winter of that year. I first represented Worcestershire at the age of 10, playing right through until I was 16.
At 18, after two years in the Worcestershire Academy, I was offered my first full-time professional contract. For the 10 years since I first encountered the cricketing genius of Graeme Hick, I had wanted to be a professional cricketer. My dream was now a reality.
It was a brilliant and overwhelming feeling to sign that first contract with Worcestershire. But with all the elation and joy I experienced, there was something surreal about it all, for it dawned on me that I had just joined the playing staff and in doing so would now be working alongside my hero.
Five years earlier, it would have been impossible to comprehend playing cricket with Graeme, so for it to actually happen was insane. I didn’t know what to say the first time I met him and this sense of adulation didn’t relent the more I got to know him.
Bowling at him in the nets on a day-to-day basis seemed ridiculous. Not only was he one of the greatest batsmen to have ever played county cricket, but he was one of the main reasons I was standing at the end of my mark with the ball in my hand. I felt seven again, in awe of a master.
When people speak of Graeme Hick, some will think of his records; the 64,372 runs; his name forever revered. Some will debate his handling by the game’s senior figures, and, like Ian Botham, wonder how much more English cricket might have got from him had he been handled differently.
But for me, it will always be more personal. I feel honoured to have played alongside a true icon of cricket, and am thankful for the part Graeme Hick played in my career.
Published in 2009