October 18, 2009

Mike Holmans

Valete - I

Mike Holmans


Jason Gallian was more of a bruiser; he was a slender version of Mike Gatting, sharing his appetite for runs though not for food © Getty Images
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Eight former England players announced their retirements during the 2009 season. I have already written about Andy Caddick, Mark Butcher and Michael Vaughan, who all had substantially successful Test careers, but the others have received little in the way of public appreciation for their efforts over many years.

In the first Test of the 1989-90 Under-19 Ashes, Jason Gallian made an impressive 158 not out and 14, while John Crawley made 52 and 44 not out. They both made their first-class debuts for Lancashire a few months later but in the youth game Gallian, having been born and brought up in Sydney, was captaining the young Australians. He also qualified for England through his parents and was enticed back by Lancashire's offer of a contract.

Crawley was the earlier to become successful in first-class cricket. He impressed in 1993 and it was no surprise when he was picked for England the next year. He was an exceptionally good player on the leg side and a more than competent player of spin, but he never quite clicked as a Test player.

He scored 106 at The Oval against Wasim and Waqar in 1996, and 156 not out in Muralitharan's famous demolition job at the same ground two years later. He also hit a hundred in Bulawayo when Zimbabwe still had Andy Flower and were a good match for England, but his weaknesses outside off stump were repeatedly exposed by Ambrose and Walsh for West Indies and by any number of Australians and South Africans.

No longer in England's favour, he began to fester in county cricket, but was rejuvenated when Rod Bransgrove recruited him for the new, go-ahead Hampshire. Lancashire refused to release him, so he had to buy out his contract after an acrimonious legal tussle.

In his first match for his new county in 2002, he scored 272, which led to an England recall against India. He was one of four centurions in his comeback Test, the others being Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Ajit Agarkar, but thereafter it was back to the middling scores of 30 and 40 and he played his last Test on the 2002-03 Ashes tour.

Until very recently, he continued to rack up the runs for Hampshire, phenomenally so against Nottinghamshire, his scores in five matches from 2004 to 2006 being 301*, 39 & 6, 311*, 106 & 116, and 148 & 23. He finishes his career with over 24,000 first-class runs at a highly-respectable average of 46.5, as well as four Test centuries. He's more than earned his keep.

The captain of Notts when Crawley notched up the first of those triple hundreds was once again Gallian, whose career had been more chequered. Where Crawley was stylish, Gallian was more of a bruiser; he was a slender version of Mike Gatting, sharing his appetite for runs though not for food.

Picked for England largely on promise in 1995, he was not ready for the big time and swiftly returned to county cricket. His response to being dropped included a match against Derbyshire in which England captain Mike Atherton recorded a duck while Gallian went on to make 312, numerically at least the peak of his first-class career.

Perhaps hoping to revive his England career, he moved to Notts for the 1998 season, and was promoted to the captaincy halfway through that campaign. Over the next six years, he did for Notts what Nasser Hussain was doing for England: turning a poor side into one which could win games, only for someone else to take over and win the glorious prizes.

He had inherited a bowling attack largely incapable of taking wickets, so results were very poor in the early years, but as the youngsters gained experience and overseas players like Chris Cairns and Stuart MacGill were signed, things looked up, even more so when a South African lad with English parents by the name of Pietersen turned up to try and make his fortune much as Gallian had done a dozen years earlier. And as the team's fortunes improved, so did Gallian's personal contributions. He enjoyed his richest form in his early thirties: perhaps if he had not been pushed too far too early in his career, he would have reached his batting maturity somewhat earlier and ended with more impressive figures than 15,000 runs at 37.6.

Despite these personal and team improvements, Gallian was sacked as captain. He and KP had not got on well at all, with the result that the Notts dressing room became fractious, and though Pietersen jumped ship to join Crawley and Shane Warne at Hampshire, the county decided that a new captain was required and appointed Stephen Fleming for 2005. Back in the ranks, Gallian had his best season ever, making 1200 runs at 53, in the course of which he was twice run out for 199 – and Notts won the Championship.

But it was his last success. Over the next three seasons he averaged just under 31, and then moved to Essex for 2009, where a meagre 245 runs in seven matches told him it was time to quit.

These were substantial careers. They did not fulfil the optimistic dreams their early displays of talent encouraged, but they have certainly not wasted the last twenty seasons.

Enough for now. I will wave goodbye to the other retirees in my next post.

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Posted by Richard Shield on (October 19, 2009, 13:39 GMT)

2 of the lost generation of English batsmen who never lived up to their potential. Things must have looked very rosy indeed in the late eighties with a potential top 6 of Atherton, Stewart, Hick, Ramprakash, Crawley and Gallian ready in waiting for the nineties. where did it go wrong?!

Posted by Vikram Maingi on (October 19, 2009, 7:37 GMT)

A very well written article Mike.

Posted by Tony Bennett on (October 18, 2009, 15:04 GMT)

nice article. I particularly liked Crawley. I saw his 156 against Sri Lanka and he batted beautifully. He could build huge innings and it's a pity he didn't do so more often for England, but he was a very good batsman and was perhaps treated with less patience by the selectors than some more recent choices.

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