Cricket: Self-made Maddy crafts his opening

Stephen Brenkley hears how sheer hard work is now paying off for an England hopeful

DERBY, bless its green tops, ramshackle grandstand and the ring road which sweeps the perimeter, would struggle to appear in any list of desirablegrounds. Seam bowlers might grudgingly have bestowed some affection on the pitch but, generally speaking, if such places had mothers the old Racecourse ground's could well have disowned it.

Yet the constant twinkle in Darren Maddy's eye grew brighter as he spoke of Derby last week. Since he is an opening batsman it crossed the mind that Maddy had gone barking. But he was deadly serious and it is clear that he will treasure the memory for as long as he plays.

"It was early in the season and it was a real big turning point for me," he said. "The ball was doing a bit and I opened the batting. We had Devon Malcolm, Dominic Cork and Phil DeFreitas to face. I got two forties in the game. I love the challenge of facing international bowlers and it was then that I felt for the first time that I could play this game. I felt comfortable that I could bat at first-class level."

That was two years ago. Maddy actually made 43 and 39 but those innings will always match any century he may make subsequently. In retrospect, that first Championship game of the 1996 season also decided the title as Leicestershire, who won it, beat Derbyshire, who finished second, by six wickets.

Maddy has progressed so much since that it seems only a matter of time before he plays for England. If the demands for interviews with which he was being besieged last week are any guide, he could do so in the summer's opening one-day international at The Oval on Thursday, the squad for which will be announced today. But if not then, soon, for England have no settled opening partnership now.

Of course, the disorderly queue of England candidates and their backers invariably forms at this time of year. The selectors may like the notion of a settled side but a settled side who are not delivering the goods needs pressure for places. Maddy has exhibited his credentials.

After he took Derby to his heart, he went on to establish himself as one of Leicestershire's openers, advanced further last summer when he made 1,000 first-class runs for the first time and on England A's winter tour surpassed expectations. In all matches in Kenya and Sri Lanka his 687 runs made him the side's leading scorer and while the double-hundred early on against Kenya was the highlight, his three half-centuries in the Test series against Sri Lanka A (which included being run out for 99) ran it close. At least this time he made 99. When he first played for an England side, the Under-17s, he had two innings, faced three balls, did not score a run and was run out both times.

His one-day form in the early part of this summer has merely been an extension of all that: two hundreds, a fifty, swelling assurance. Apart from technical ability Maddy appears to possess two main strengths: his fervent enthusiasm for the game and his willingness for hard work. He was brought up with cricket. His dad was a good club player and the Maddy household in Leicester is full of cricket and trophies.

From an early age he was cricket daft and the obsession shows no sign of diminishing. He works and works and works. He recalled that after he scored 1,498 runs in the second XI championship in 1994, a record, he did not immediately take to batting against first-team bowlers. He struggled against the faster, shorter pitched-bowling. He went away to rectify that in the winter, only to discover on his return that he was then regularly stuck in the crease and getting out lbw, departing that way five times in 13 Championship innings. More work followed.

Until England A called - and he worked for that trip by getting Leicestershire's coach Jack Birkenshaw to test him incessantly against spin bowling - Maddy had spent five winters honing his game in South Africa. Net after net would be followed by gym session after gym session. He is, by his own perky admission, hyperactive. He can barely sit still for more than 10 minutes at a stretch and it is a tribute to his discipline that he managed to deal with so many interviews last week in a reasonably stationary position.

It is obvious that he has always been desperately eager to learn from the long list he delivers of people to whom he owes a debt. His dad, Bill, comes top but Ken Higgs, Tim Boon, James Whitaker and Graham Gooch are all mentioned with rampant enthusiasm. "They've taught me to be myself. Jimmy, for instance, is so positive. He'll ask in the morning how you feel and if you say that you're all right he'll come back replying that `no, you're better than all right, you're fantastic'. It rubs off.

"In the winter with Graham Gooch he kept making one very important point. It was about cashing in. As a batsman not every day is going to belong to you. Goochie insisted that when it did you had to make sure you took advantage, to go on from 20 or 30 and then on from your hundred. I hope I've taken that to heart."

Maddy has indeed expanded his game lately, having more shots and playing them. One day, they may say that it was Derby that did it.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone