Cricket: Hollioake hones a positive outlook

England's former one-day captain plans to regain respect after dealing with bruised pride.
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The Independent Online
THE NEXT chapter in the rollercoaster ride of Adam Hollioake is about to be written. In which direction the story will turn is anyone's guess although the man in question is confident that the good times are coming back and, with the World Cup now under way and England facing the underdogs of Kenya today, there is no better time for him to hit the heights again.

In the short space of a 45-minute drink the former England one-day captain revealed how his loss of the captaincy was the right decision, how he believes his younger brother Ben possesses far more talent than himself and how he feels his enormous self-confidence has turned many people off.

On that latter subject he is philosophical. "It's just the way I am," he says, with a shrug of his shoulders and an apologetic look on his face. "I've always been like it, and I guess I'll never really change.

"I'll always have a tremendous belief in my own ability. A lot of people will say I have too much. It's got me into trouble in the past, that's for sure. It's just there are days when I truly believe I can do anything, absolutely anything, I want to."

Some will say that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Yes it is," he counters. "You have to know your limitations, both as a sportsman and as a person. As a consequence many people don't like me because they think I'm too arrogant."

He says, and sometimes does, what he thinks which, judging by the recent outburst over his v-signs to an impatient Essex crowd and his rather unfortunate reference to smoking joints last year, has not always done him any favours. Yet his general bemusement can be understood, if not forgiven, when his topsy-turvy life in the sporting spotlight is analysed.

By his own admission Hollioake was a victim of his own success. He and brother Ben burst on to the international scene in extraordinary fashion back in the summer of 1997 when they almost single-handedly destroyed the Australians in the one-day series. Adam found himself hitting the winning runs in all three matches, helping himself to two sparkling half- centuries in the process. The media, especially the popular press, went berserk.

He describes those days as "mad". "Sure, there were times when it was very nice, but there were other occasions when it was very difficult to handle. What was worse was that from that point on people expected me to hit the winning runs in every match I played." He laughs. "I blame Ian Botham personally. People are still looking for his replacement, but you've got to understand that a guy like him comes along maybe once in a century."

Still, far from suffering, Hollioake was appointed the England one-day captain for the international tournament in Sharjah that December and led a side that appeared well below world-class to five straight victories and the trophy.

"I was beginning to wonder what was happening," he recollects. "I was very aware that things were going my way and at that point I felt that I could have done anything, like catch the ball on my bum, and it would have worked. Everything I wanted to happen was happening, but in the back of my mind I knew my fortunes would change. That's not being negative, just realistic about the nature of sport."

In the subsequent one-day series against the West Indies and South Africa the team faltered badly and, with Alec Stewart becoming the Test captain, the selectors agreed to hand him the responsibility of the one-day side as well. "It was disappointing during those series against the Windies and South Africa because I didn't do too badly, but people were writing me off. They thought I was a bit of a golden boy. I can take criticism, but I'm not sure if the amount was wholly deserved."

Hollioake says he was not surprised when he lost the captaincy. "I expected it to happen. It was the logical decision to make Alec captain of both sides. And, to be honest with you, it was the right decision to make for English cricket. I didn't strive to be the captain. My goals in life are to play for a successful team. And, no bullshit, I had no problem with Alec at all. He used to be my county captain, now I'm his. When I was made the one-day captain he supported me all the way and was totally professional. Before any of that we were mates, and we've always had a lot of mutual respect."

You sense that's not the total picture, however. "You're right," Hollioake concedes. "I'll admit my confidence and form were dented, and I was a little bitter that people seemed to look upon me as a failure when I had managed to win 60 per cent of my matches against the hardest one-day teams in the world. I'd have people coming up to me in the street and saying to my face `You're having a real shocker, aren't you?' That was deflating."

Brother Ben has also failed to live up to the enormously high expectations that followed his carefree induction into international cricket. "Yeah, and he's the one out of the two of us who has the talent," his elder brother admits. "There's no doubt about that. I look at some of the things he does when he plays and shake my head with disbelief."

Maybe, but clearly this has not proved to be enough. "I'd agree with that," Hollioake concedes. "He isn't harnessing his talent, something I seem more able to do. At first I tried to let him work it out for himself. Then I completely confused him by advising him all the time. Now I think I've got it right by advising him every now and then. I'm sure he'll come good, but he knows he hasn't done as well as he could and he can't rely on people's faith in him."

Hollioake Senior, meanwhile, is maintaining a positive outlook and finding his form again. "There's not much point looking back, is there?" he reasons. "Besides, I'm not fazed by it. I always look for the positive side of life. If someone says to me it's a pity it's pouring with rain, I'll reply that it could be a lot worse, it could be a tornado. I think that kind of attitude has helped."

On the field he says he has knuckled down, worked hard and feels confident about his form again. "It's never easy playing in my role, of course. It's rare that I get the chance to make a big score. Normally I'm required to make a 30-odd off 20-odd balls, and sometimes even a 15 is useful. But on the averages it just states the scores. It's strange how it almost always comes down to me whether we win or lose. I'm not saying I'm the most important player. It's just the way it pans out. Batting at six or seven means that often I can either win or lose the game in the last five overs or so, and I'm normally bowling towards the end when we're trying to keep the score down. It's often do or die, and I wouldn't want it any other way."

Hollioake believes the England team have lost the respect of the public. "That hurts more than anything else," he says. "So you can take it from me, I'm going to try my very hardest to be a success in the World Cup, and I know the rest of the England boys feel the same."