Stewart emulates father with honour

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The Independent Online

Alec stewart was delighted to emulate a family record after being awarded the OBE for services to cricket in the Queen's Birthday Honours' List.

The 40-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who overtook Geoffrey Boycott and David Gower to move into second place in England's list of Test run-scorers last week, had previously been given the MBE in the 1998 Birthday Honours' List. His latest recognition follows a family tradition, with his father Mickey, the former England coach and batsman, receiving the same award some years previously from the Queen.

"The great thing is that I've now managed to catch up my dad because he was awarded the OBE a good few years ago," Stewart said. "It's a terrific honour and it's really pleasing to be recognised in this way. I've always gone about my cricket in a professional way and to be honoured in this way for it makes me very proud and it's a moment I'll treasure."

Stewart has always insisted that the many honours he has received during his long and illustrious career at the top level will only really be given meaning once he retires as a player. As each milestone has been passed, most recently overtaking Boycott and Gower, he has always said that honours and achievements were to be reflected upon after his playing career and not while he was still active.

However, the news that he is to receive the OBE will have touched a player held in great affection by the cricketing public. His outstanding century three years ago against West Indies at Old Trafford was marked with an emotional salute from the crowd on the Queen Mother's birthday while another hundred at the same ground only last year was greeted equally warmly despite the rival attraction of England's football team playing in the World Cup at the same time.

The announcement merely serves to underline his role as one of England's best, and favourite, cricketers, even if his age and almost veteran status has sometimes polarised opinion about his place in the international side. Even now critics are questioning the selectors' continued reluctance to discharge him from Test duty after he has already made it clear that he is no longer available for one-day international cricket.

Stewart has long been regarded as something of an establishment man in the cricket fraternity and is fiercely patriotic no matter what the sport, a point reinforced during the recent World Cup in South Africa when he was seen watching the England football team slip to defeat in a friendly against Australia.

Nicknamed "Peter Perfect" by England team-mates for his neat appearance even after a 26-hour journey to New Zealand, he is also fiercely admired by the whole of English cricket for the determined manner in which he defies the critics. A year ago he was dismissed as a relic after James Foster appeared to establish himself as England's No 1 wicketkeeper during the tours to India and New Zealand, only for the Essex youngster to injure himself and allow Stewart back into the side.

Even this summer people have been advocating a change behind the stumps against Zimbabwe, but Stewart has been one of the most consistent performers within the England team during a rather one-sided series. Then there are the other achievements, which include becoming the first England player to score a century in both innings of a Test against West Indies, becoming the leading Test run-scorer in the 1990s and guiding England to a series triumph over South Africa as captain five years ago.

He has also made more appearances than any other England player at both Test and one-day level, indicating an ability which has stood the test of time since making his international debut 14 years ago.

"All I've ever said about the future is that while the enjoyment is there and I feel I'm playing well enough to warrant a place in the side, I see no reason to give it away myself," he said recently.

"I feel exactly the same as I did 20 years ago. I have the same buzz and pre-match nerves I've always had and that's a good thing because that shows you're still up for the game."