Cricket Expert & Columnist
Cricket team-mates - Nasser Hussain: Michael Atherton easiest man to captain
"Thorpe was a fantastic cricketer that would get into most England sides. When people reel off the list of England greats, he seems to slip people's minds. But he was a man for a crisis"
Last Updated: 08/06/20 12:04pm
In the first part of our new series, where we ask the Sky Cricket experts to lift the lid on their former team-mates, NASSER HUSSAIN reveals who he hated rooming with, whose musical taste left a lot to be desired and who would thrive in the modern era…
I could pick someone from England but I'd say Mark Waugh - who I played with at Essex - is the most talented I've played with, given the ease and grace with which he batted. Plus some of the catches he'd pull off! Sometimes he could make it look so easy - it was almost like he wasn't trying but he actually put a lot of work in.
That's a tough one. Graham Gooch or Alec Stewart, I'd say. Stewart was such a professional, but I'll go with Gooch. I remember after he scored a magnificent 150 against the West Indies on a difficult pitch at Headingley in 1991 he was straight back in the nets the next day getting throw-downs. He'd work so hard at his training. He was always in the gym or going for runs and would net as hard as anyone I'd seen. He left nothing to chance.
The one that doesn't get mentioned enough is Graham Thorpe. When people reel off the list of England greats, he seems to slip people's minds. But he was a man for a crisis, for a battle. He used to get 'difficult' runs in a very quiet and unassuming way.
He was one of the very best players I played with. That's what came out of the very first Virtual Test I did with Rob Key; it's nice to remember these players that we sometimes forget, because 'my era', the 1990s, was pigeonholed as a bad time for English cricket. Thorpe was a fantastic cricketer that would get into most England sides.
Worst to room with?
Jack Russell. Easy. He was a combo of the best team-mate but the worst room-mate on the planet! He is one of the nicest, best blokes, but also a complete loon. He'd put his hat in the oven and his gloves and keeping gear absolutely stunk! His undies would be drying on a light somewhere and he'd have paints all over the place. And he would paint with literally nothing on!
Keysy would say Paul Collingwood probably. All coaches loved Colly. I wouldn't call him a teacher's pet, personally, but he always set the right example. He was great for our team; we were trying to change the culture of the side and so we needed people like him who would come in and push everyone in training.
Maybe Colly. But I'd say Stewart. You always felt, with his old man, that it was likely to be passed down through the family from Micky to Alec. He was always a great trainer and meticulous in everything he did. He understands the game inside out and is hugely loyal - to England and Surrey. I always felt he would go into coaching.
Worst taste in music?
My main memory, music-wise, is when one year Bumble made us put some music to a video of ourselves playing, in order to try and build-up our confidence. Nick Knight came out with some kind of 'search for the hero inside yourself' tune or something corny like that! He got the mick taken out of him for that.
Alan Mullally was also big into his music. He was a bit 'heavy metal', if I can remember. He'd bring a sort of boombox with him to games, and I can remember Bumble kicking it to pieces once after we lost an ODI in Sydney - the one where I came down the pitch to Shane Warne and got stumped.
Knighty. Again. Have you seen his umpire's dance for a T20 advert a few years back? Enough said.
Easiest to captain?
Michael Atherton. You'd never worry about Ath; he just got on with it. He was a good man for a crisis. He'd set the tone in the dressing room and when he spoke, everyone listened. He could have easily been bitter or jealous of all the things I had, like central contracts, but he was so helpful. I knew he had my back on days I was struggling as a captain or player.
I remember on a tour to Sri Lanka in 2001, when I couldn't buy a run, I was walking round the hotel in Galle at midnight and I went to see Ath and we had a rum and coke together. He'd tell you how it was. He had so much experience to draw upon; he had been captain, he had been out of form himself. He knew the ups and downs of the game.
Hardest to captain?
I wouldn't say 'hardest', but maybe someone like Andy Caddick. He had a fear of failure, he was a nervous cricketer and was someone you had to put your arm round, try to build up and make him feel a million dollars. All the time, you were having to tell him how good he was, and he was incredibly good! He took a little bit more understanding but he was a high-class, high-quality bowler.
Who'd be a success in today's game?
I'd say Gooch. He was ahead of his time with his fitness as well as his cricket. He was a fantastic white-ball cricketer and would easily be a success in the modern era. He'd get an IPL deal for sure and would be up there with the big-name opening batsmen of today.
Life of the party?
Darren Gough, without a doubt. We had Phil Tufnell, who might push him close, but Gough was the heartbeat of our team. He was one of the best blokes to captain and one of the most important cricketers I played with. He had a great way of lifting us in the dressing room, of reminding you why you played the game. He always played with a smile on his face - and knew where the camera was!
Best at football?
In the current England team, there's a lot of decent players, whereas we had maybe just two or three. Some of the team were good and some were plain awful! Personally, I was somewhere in mid-table mediocrity. Mainly the Surrey clique of Stewart, Thorpe, Mark Butcher and Mark Ramprakash were the footballers, although the latter two, when they saw the red mist, look out! I think Ath still has a scar on his leg from when Butch dived in during a game in South Africa once.
Who would you pick to be stuck with on a desert island?
Definitely not Rob Key! Maybe my old mate Thorpey. Low maintenance, quiet. But I'd prefer to be on my own, if I'm honest!