Compton can live up to his famous name, says Chris Cowdrey

 

The former England cricket captain Chris Cowdrey has urged Nick Compton to take his international chance with both hands and ignore the pressure that comes with having one of the sport's most famous surnames.

The England opener is likely to become the first Compton to win an England cap since his grandfather Denis played his final Test in March 1957, when he walks out at Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Cowdrey knows Compton well, having offered him advice at various points of a career that began at Middlesex in 2001, and if the Somerset man is handed his debut later this week, he will know exactly how he feels.

The former Kent all-rounder made his own international bow on England's tour of India in 1984. The main piece of advice he received from his own famous father, Colin, was to be careful of the food on one of cricket's most arduous tours.

Now, as Compton prepares to follow in some of world cricket's most famous footsteps, Cowdrey believes the Somerset opener's hunger for runs could make him an instant hit.

"He's a massively improved player," says Cowdrey. "He came and had a chat with me when he was looking to leave Middlesex a few years ago. We had a chat about the pressure that comes with playing with a famous name and whether a move to somewhere like Kent would be a good one.

"There were lots things we talked about and I liked him, I thought he had something about him. He went into the wilderness for a year or two but he has obviously got his technique ironed out and he has that confidence that Somerset seem to give to their players.

"I really hope he plays (in Ahmedabad). Obviously the pressure of the name can sit heavily on your shoulders but I think it helps that he's the grandson, rather than the son (of Denis Compton).

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"There would be a lot of current players who wouldn't be particularly interested in the name. He'll get a fair amount of sledging but none of these guys would have seen Denis Compton play and make any snide comments about it.

"I think when you play for England away from home you're under less pressure too. When you're at home you've got the whole nation knowing who you are and examining your every move."

Cowdrey's own England career started in remarkable style when the then captain David Gower threw him the ball as India's batsmen were making hay 27 years ago.

"We hadn't made many runs, they were already level with us and Kapil Dev was smashing it all over the place," says Cowdrey. "I had been fielding at short leg for a day and a half and I wasn't feeling great because it was very, very hot and dusty and every shot they played was going through the leg side. I was being peppered.

"Typical Gower, he wandered over to me and said 'The moment's come, you're bowling'. I turned to him and said 'I had better take these shin pads off' but he told me not to bother as I wouldn't be on long enough. So I ended up bowling my first over for England with a huge pair of shin pads on and a box."

Despite the additional body armour Cowdrey bowled Kapil Dev with his fourth ball, sparking jubilation among the England players and causing chaos on a snow-covered road in Kent.

"My dad made a few runs for England but he never took a wicket so he was so excited as soon as he heard I was bowling," says Cowdrey. "He was heading up to the City in blizzard conditions and ended up driving the wrong way up a one-way street. He was picked up [by the police] and everything. They ended up letting him off."

Cowdrey played every Test of that series as England pulled off a remarkable win, their last on Indian soil. Despite his father's advice, he did fall victim to illness during the four-month trip, as did every other member of the England, with one notable exception.

"Everybody had an illness at some stage except Mike Gatting," he laughs. "He did everything you weren't supposed to do. He ate everything, curries, salads, he didn't care what it was, and he was fine for the whole tour. He batted brilliantly too – he had a constitution of iron."

Compton will hope to demonstrate similar resilience this week.

Chris Cowdrey's career statistics

First class matches 299

Runs 12,252 Average 31.90

Tests 6 Runs 101 Average 14.42

* Test debut v India in Mumbai, 1984

* One Test as captain, v West Indies in 1988

* Cowdrey spent 16 years playing for Kent from 1977 to 1992

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