Tempering disenchantment with humility

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Though he hardly comes to mind as a temperamental Gallic type, in his way Graeme Hick is the Eric Cantona of cricket.

The England batsman, a believer in the power of self-control, is unlikely ever to vault a boundary fence intent on launching a kung-fu attack on a spectator. But, in other respects, he and Manchester's enfant terrible have much in common. Isolated? Persecuted? Both would answer yes to those. And, of course, both are foreign; or, in Hick's case, not English by birth, which is probably significant whether you like it or not.

Hick might not have called Raymond Illingworth a brainless idiot when they met to "get a few things straight" before this match but he may never be closer to doing so. Tears may have greeted the news that he had been dropped at Old Trafford but there was anger brewing underneath and he arrived here full of it.

In a comic book world, this story would be about the day he turned his spite on the West Indian fast bowlers and blasted them to oblivion but this was not the reality. In truth, the pitch tamed the wild beast and Hick was calm, measured, at times even a little tentative.

But then he knew he would seldom happen upon a more promising opportunity, not in this company, at any rate. He knew too that it was most certainly not in his interests to fail if he had it in mind to extend his Test career. And, in as much as he edged past Michael Atherton and England's highest scorer, he did as he had been told during his and Illingworth's exchange and played the leading role.

"Not a lot was said between us, really," Hick said afterwards. "I wouldn't say it spurred me on, but I suppose it served its purpose. It was nice to go out knowing where I stood. After what has gone on in the last fortnight, today meant a lot."

When his 15th boundary took him to his hundred the applause was warm and sustained and, to his credit, he signalled his acknowledgement to each corner of the ground, rather than to the players' balcony, as is the modern, ungracious habit. Small things like that are appreciated.

It is a pity, then, that such moments must for him be soured a little by bitterness, sullied by the joylessness of craving revenge on his critics. Like Cantona, he lives with the belief that the world, or significant parts of it, is against him.

Cantona's bete noir, excepting the one at Selhurst Park, makes rules and sits behind a desk; for Hick it is the media, whom he accuses not just of damaging his own standing but that of English cricket in general.