The gloves are off as Chris Read opens up

The Nottinghamshire keeper was badly treated by England – and Duncan Fletcher in particular. He talks to Mark Sellek

In 2002, the former Australian wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh said Chris Read was the best English stumper he had seen since Alan Knott, and a far better keeper-batsman than Marsh himself at the same age. Read went on to play just eight more times for England and has barely warranted a mention since his last Test almost four years ago.

If Nottinghamshire, whom Read has captained since 2008, go on to win the County Championship later this week (they go to Old Trafford tomorrow to face Lancashire in the final round of Division One games with just a two-point lead) it will be one of the more dramatic, although curiously rather quiet, tales of sporting redemption.

"Unfairly treated" is a phrase so often used these days that one tends to dismiss it. But Read genuinely suffered at the hands of selectors who, on the Ashes trip in 2006-07, were split as to who should guard the timbers. In the Read camp was the former chairman of selectors David Graveney and former Academy director Marsh. And then there was the coach, Duncan Fletcher.

"Going on to the plane I honestly felt as if I was England's No 1 keeper. I hit 55 during the last Test at The Oval in 2006 [against Pakistan]."

So, what was the problem? Ever the diplomat, Read smiles, like he wants to tell all. "Rod Marsh, one of my main mentors, was always going to back me. Fletcher didn't want me and, what can I say, he was coach."

After England went 3-0 down in Australia, Read, who had not played any serious cricket for four months, suddenly found himself walking out to bat in front of 96,000 at the MCG. Naturally, he floundered. "I was horribly out of nick. All I'd had was a couple of nets," he says.

The Fifth Test at the SCG in 2007 was the last time England picked him. But that wasn't the last of it. Read was singled out for criticism by Fletcher in a score-settling memoir. Contrary to Marsh's assessment, Fletcher thought Read's keeping was flawed, and his batting lacked defensive technique. Much worse was the implication that Read was too timid mentally to be a Test cricketer.

Read's own form has been outstanding since 2007 (he has averaged 45, 55, 75, and 50 in the past four Championship campaigns). "It sounds sort of arrogant to say it, but there have been times when I just know I'm going to score runs. I know my own game inside out. My keeping, which in most people's eyes is my stronger suit, hasn't dropped off either."

I played alongside Read when he was a youngster in Devon. I remind him of what he was like back then. Quiet as a mouse, unfailingly polite. Except when he was notching up hundreds for fun. I haven't seen him for 15 years. So how did he become a county captain, which seems to be an extrovert's job?

"I learnt a lot from [former New Zealand captain] Stephen Fleming, who was skipper when we won the Championship in 2005. He was as laidback as it's possible to be without falling asleep. I'm still not much of a shouter, Fleming taught me that you don't need to be."

So is he still bothered what the selectors think? "Matt Prior has set immensely high standards, and good luck to him, he's a fantastic cricketer, but you don't just give up. Anyway, Alec Stewart was 40 and still keeping wicket for England, so why not?

"I'm not really that intense about England, and that's helped my game: being captain, and focusing totally on that. Notts is what I call the day job, and if we win this title, it will mean everything. The culmination of 12 years' hard labour standing behind the stumps. But I also have other things going now. I'm patron of Bowel Cancer [one of Read's mentors in Devon died of the disease] and my second child is due in January."

Read swells with pride when speaking about his team. "It's one of the best sides I've played in. Andre Adams has been amazing with the ball. Steve Mullaney, a young all-rounder, has a great future. Samit Patel can still play for England. And then there's the older brigade, myself, Paul Franks, Ally Brown. Two players, a bit like me, who could have played a lot more for their country if things had turned out differently. County sides don't get much better than that."

Read is weary after keeping all day. "Pint?" he asks, as I turn off the tape. There's a few Notts players in the members' bar, proof that not all the amateurish traditions of county cricket have succumbed to modernity.

"Now what do you really think of Duncan Fletcher?" I ask. "Not a chance," he says, smiling, wiping Guinness from his lips. "Not a chance."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us