November 23, 2012

South Africa in Australia 2012-13

Comptons connect across Indian Ocean

Firdose Moonda
Patrick Compton in the Adelaide press marquee, Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day, November, 23, 2012
Patrick Compton has had one eye on India while covering the South Africa tour  © Firdose Moonda
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Cricket tours are like mazes - mazes of tunnels actually. Weeks are spent in a foreign country, discovering new things and working hard. The hours melt into days which spill over into weeks. It is exciting and challenging at the same time and you get completely absorbed into what you are doing. Save for the odd phone call back home, glances at the morning news or meals out with colleagues, there is little time or space for anything else, especially not any other cricket.

But on this Australia tour, at least one mind has wandered elsewhere. Patrick Compton, a journalist with the South Africa's Independent Newspaper Group, is the uncle of England's new opening batsmen Nick. He has been following the series in India with much interest, fielding many questions about his nephew's background and journey and is always happy to share.

The Compton family are well-known and well-respected. Denis' triple-century in Benoni is the stuff of legend and both Patrick and his brother, Nick's father Richard, are much admired for their roles in non-racial cricket in Natal. Nick, though born in Durban, had his destiny mapped out for him in England early on when he was offered a cricket scholarship to Harrow school in London at the age of 15.

Patrick said despite the early recognition there was never any strong feeling that Nick would be the one to make it. "There are so many talented people that it is more about determination and your mental qualities," he told me while we were waiting for a Graeme Smith press conference.

Great resolve was always part of Nick's make-up though, so perhaps the signs were there but the pressure was not. Patrick remembered an incident where Nick's stoic nature was nothing short of annoying for Dennis, who Nick met a few times during his childhood.

"Nick has always been very conscious of technique and working on defence and he was once playing in the nets in my dad's village and dad watched him for a while as he got ready to take guard. It took him about 15 minutes and eventually Dad said, 'You look fine Nick, just hit the bloody ball'," Patrick recalled. "Dad was never the best coach, it all came naturally to him And Nick has always been quite intense. He is not the kind of guy who goes to the nets and then just switches off. He is a careful planner."

After recovering from a duck and 1 to score three half-centuries in his remaining three innings in the tour matches, Patrick was certain Nick would debut in Ahmedabad. Many of the current press corp were interested to know if Patrick's brother (Nick's father) Richard, would be attending the Test. He was due to go to the Mumbai match but now only Nick's mother will make the trip.

"They don't want to put too much pressure on him," Patrick explained. "He had a very tough upbringing in cricket. It wasn't easy at Middlesex. Going to your grandfather's old county doesn't always work in your favour. Things got much better for him at Somerset. He had no expectations; it was a smaller place and a decent batting pitch."

Patrick sees Nick about twice a year, usually once at Christmas although this year will probably be different. He has kept up with his progress, including how he has enjoyed Taunton, through those trips. Nick has also had a profound influence on Patrick's own son, Ben who is in his final school year. "Nick gave Ben a few nets in Durban and a few tips. Ever since those nets, Ben has decided he wanted to play cricket himself."

Ben is also likely to try further his career in England and will have Nick to guide him and the two are fairly close. "Ben heard that Nick was pretty nervous before the first Test," Patrick said. "And who wouldn't be?" News hasn't come through about his feelings ahead of the next match but it is certain to.

South Africans are used to being linked with English cricket but this is one of the few times it is done only out of interest, not hostility. For Patrick it's a way of letting us all in on his family's fortunes, an area a lot of us are obviously interested in. He hopes to be able to experience some of it first-hand soon. "My selfish wish is that I can go and watch Nick in the Ashes next year. I couldn't think of a better family celebration that watching Nick play at Lord's." And he knows we'll all be keeping an eye on that.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Upul Dassanayake on (December 3, 2012, 7:45 GMT)

It is a great pleasure to see Nick's progress over the past few years & to see his fulfilling one of his life goals. Having met Nick in Sydney in 2009 through a close friend of mine (Mohen) who was also from Durban & knew Nick since childhood. Very organised individual, great passion for the game, an emphathetic, humble human being who inspired our kids to be dedicated to what you want to achieve in life. Nick, we have nothing but good words for you. You have a fan club in Sydney. All the best for your cricket! We enjoy watching you batting.

Posted by Chris Goldie on (November 27, 2012, 11:23 GMT)

At Richmond Cricket Club in the Middlesex League, we are incredibly proud of Nick's achievements. He played for us from 2004 until his departure for Somerset. He played at Richmond alongside both Ben Hutton and his brother Olly on several occasions adding a touch of cricketing legend to our line-up - One Compton and two Huttons.

Posted by Paul P. on (November 27, 2012, 0:03 GMT)

Denis Compton is the reason my sleep is shattered during Test Matches because as my boyhood hero he opened the magic door of a cricket spectator, my eye-hand co-ordination means my sporting skills are very limited, first at Lord's to watch him and Bill Edrich against Bradman and the Aussies. Later on The Hill in Sydney hoping the Poms might succeed. Subsequently my move to Canada meant I was deprived of that pleasure. But now with my Apple giving me access to OBOs and even live coverage I can now revel in watching at home. Unfortunately the timing in North America is not conducive to sleep but watching Denis's grandson helping us win against the odds in the wee small hours was certainly worth the deprivation.

Posted by Underground on (November 24, 2012, 5:39 GMT)

Having Nick Compton and Ben Hutton, the grandsons of the two English legends, play together for England Lions several years ago was nostalgic. It is noteworthy that the two grandfathers played on the previous occasion that England were the unofficial number one team in the 1950's. Ben could not make it, but it is certainly a joy to see Nick taking up Strauss' slot.

Posted by sathish on (November 24, 2012, 5:37 GMT)

Great story.

Posted by Elwyn Hurst on (November 23, 2012, 21:50 GMT)

Patrick Compton's SA tour of Oz coverage in The Mercury newspaper is a joy to read. Very eloquent and insightful. As a young boy growing up in SA my great hero was Denis Compton Despite living in Sydney (a wonderful city) for 30 years I am still a Proteas follower. I am following Nick's progress with the England team with great interest and hope that he has a long and successful career with the England team.

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