Cricketer's Diary: Smith's battle honours

GOOCH has guts, Gower exudes grace, but there is no one more solid than Smith. He is the one in the England team most gambling men would have put their house on to halt Pakistan's procession.

There's something about his forward defensive that says: 'Get past that,', the nature of his rasping cut that announces 'Take that, sir' in the manner of medieval jousters.

The duel between Smith and Waqar Younis has been a captivating one all summer, laden with punches and counter-punches, bristling with aggression.

There have been some choice verbal exchanges too. Waqar appears not to have been averse to threatening more target practice after a quick bouncer has been skilfully avoided. Smith responds with some metaphorical chest-beating - a back-foot smash next ball followed by the retort: 'You'll have to bowl faster than that, you know.' This is brave man's talk.

There must be mutual respect between these two but it is not obvious. There were so many private comments exchanged that during one match Wasim Akram, fielding at mid-off, suddenly said: 'Hey you two, why don't you just make up.'

In spite of a lingering South African accent, Smith is an evolving Englishman with a declared love of the country and no intention of returning to his birthplace. But he has never neglected the work ethic that he gleaned in Durban from his British-born father, a saddler, and his mother.

As a teenager he would be up at 5am to practise on a strip of artificial turf in the back garden, a run and swim complementing the pre-breakfast routine.

The Smiths helped to fix up winter club contracts for various other Hampshire players and they would arrive regularly in mid-morning for a session against the bowling machine before sampling one of Florence the cook's legendary lunches by the pool.

It was a far cry from the tense, sometimes acrimonious atmosphere of a Test match, but has stood Robin in good stead. And while he perspires, honing technique and muscle, his brother Chris will be loafing on a lilo in Perth, betraying a satisfied smile. He wagered good money at long odds on his brother playing 50 Tests before he had even made his debut. So far Robin has appeared in 36, his average is 50.86 and rising.

Smith obviously has no worries about imminent winter employment, but he is in the lucky minority. For most county cricketers the last day of the season comes as a nasty shock after five months of having your life mapped out and some of the mortgage covered.

Suddenly you are dumped like a stone with no retainers or fringe benefits and only a contract for next year as a source of some optimism. One leading bowler in his early twenties is still earning under pounds 8,000 this year - calculated on an hourly rate that is less than the average wage of an office cleaner.

With the recession biting even harder in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, winter coaching jobs are more difficult to find and it is possibly time the Cricketers' Association appointed someone to find their members off-season jobs.

It does not matter much what they are. In the past, players have performed as the back end of a horse in a pantomime, caught free-range chickens with a large net, or sampled sugar-beet crop for moisture content, as the wicketkeeper, Chris Scott, will be doing shortly.

Scott wore the benefit tie of his erstwhile colleague, Kevin Cooper, last week as a mark of respect to the stalwart whose release was announced by Nottinghamshire. This is sad news, but Cooper is in a class of his own as man and swing bowler and should find other pastures on which to ply his trade.

Simon Hughes, of Durham, composed his column while rejoicing at the termination of shortened run-ups for bowlers in the Sunday League from next season.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones