Snappy Q&As with the players

Chris Read

'The worst thing about being a keeper is stinky hands'

Chris Read talks about how unprepared he was for Test cricket, lessons from Stephen Fleming, and that slower ball from Chris Cairns

Interview by Jack Wilson

April 23, 2014

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Chris Read contemplates Nottinghamshire's lost opportunity, Nottinghamshire v Hampshire, County Championship, September 25, 2008
"I'd been on a couple of England A tours but there was nothing like Test match cricket" © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Chris Read

You were 20 when you made your England debut. How hard was it for someone so young to adapt to life at the top level?
It was tough. Looking back, I don't think I knew what I was getting into. There was no Lions, there was no England Performance Programme, and I wasn't as prepared as they are now. I'd been on a couple of England A tours but there was nothing like Test match cricket.

Was that as much off the pitch as on it?
Off it, mainly. The intensity and the media scrutiny was a massive change. I'd been a consistent member of Nottinghamshire's first team for 14 months and I'd only played 18 first-class games. I was far from the complete cricketer. I was learning my trade.

It always seemed to be Chris Read v Geraint Jones. What were relations like between you two?
It was built up as a battle between us two but the underlying battle was probably between two of the selectors: Duncan Fletcher and Rod Marsh. I don't think there was any animosity between us. We worked hard together, as wicketkeepers do, and both wished each other luck when we went in and out. We just got on with it.

You will go down in Test history for taking six dismissals in an innings twice in a row. Are you one for stats like that?
I'm not a massive stats man but at the same time I will look back and be immensely proud of that. We lost both of the games I got six in, which made it even harder to do really, but any wicketkeeper will tell you it's about the bowling.

So if I asked how many catches you have taken in professional cricket, would you get anywhere close?
I'd be miles off.

Have a guess.
No idea - I think I'm close to 1000 in first-class cricket, though. Do I need something like 100 more?

In first-class cricket, you're on 863. In all forms, 1284.

I have to mention that Chris Cairns slower ball. It's got over 200,000 hits on Youtube. Do you ever watch it?
I couldn't avoid it. I used to love watching They Think It's All Over. Then they put me getting out on the title credits!

Talk us through what happened.
It's the first and only time I didn't see the ball at any stage. Chris Cairns realised he was on to something because the sightscreen at Lord's didn't have any additional screening above it. He'd done the same thing to Aftab Habib, and he ducked like I did and it just missed the leg stump. I didn't think anything of it.

When he ran up I assumed he hadn't let go off the ball. Then something in my subconscious thought I needed to protect myself and I ended up looking pretty stupid. The first thing I can remember is the soft thud before it hit the stumps. I was more shocked than anything.

You took over the Nottinghamshire captaincy from a man regarded as one of the best in the business, Stephen Fleming. What did you learn from him?
So much. The biggest thing was to keep a level head, to keep calm and to be able to step away from the heat of the battle. He always would have a plan A and would get everyone behind it and we'd love it. He was very methodical and calm.

Who is the best gloveman you have ever seen?
For consistency, Ian Healy. He was technically sound to all bowling and rarely put a foot wrong.

What about English keepers?
Jack Russell and Keith Piper were two of a bunch of experienced glovemen that I watched growing up. Warren Hegg and Steve Rhodes were very good too. This was at a time where batting wasn't of as much importance and you could work harder on keeping.

What is the worst thing about being a wicketkeeper?
The stinking hands and smelly inners.

Which of your team-mates has the worst dressing-room banter?
Too many of them. Samit Patel. Oh hang on, can I change? Riki Wessels. He's got far too many Zimbabwe stories.

And the worst fashion sense?
Now this one is Samit. He always wears a black polo shirt, jeans and some brown brogues. That's his standard going-out gear.

Who is the most likely to be the victim of a prank?
Steve Mullaney. He takes it the worst too.

Who hits the ball furthest in county cricket?
Alex Hales hits it a long way and so does Craig Kieswetter. I'll go with Halesey.

You need one player in the world to hit the last ball of a game for six. Who would you choose?
Kieron Pollard. He seems to block balls for six.

And if you needed a bowler to defend it?
Lasith Malinga.

Give us one name destined for a big future.
Jos Buttler. He gets me excited, there's a lot of talent there.

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Posted by bennybow on (April 24, 2014, 0:40 GMT)

I must echo steve48's sentiments. Tragic that England have been denied Read's services by the selection policy - runs win matches when we all know it's taking 20 wickets that gets you the win! The compensation is that we can go to county matches and watch the sublime skills of Read and Foster at a very reasonable entry fee too

Posted by Rowayton on (April 23, 2014, 23:38 GMT)

As an Aussie, I've always been perplexed by England's attitude to Read. I've thought that he is the best English keeper, just as a keeper, I have seen for quite a long time. Compared to Bairstow, he's Alan Knott. And yet they have never picked him with any consistency. Mysterious. Not the first time they've perplexed me though. With a memory going back to the 60s I still have no idea why England preferred Jim Parks to John Murray. One of the great mysteries of the universe, along with how electric cords in the cupboard manage to get so tangled.

Posted by   on (April 23, 2014, 20:20 GMT)

It seems strange to say that batting "wasn't of as much importance". I remember well the days when there was a Parks/Murray debate. Even though Murray was not a bad batsman (he got 100 on the first match he was preferred to Parks), for several years Parks got the nod because he was considered a "real" batsman who could bat in the top 6. It was unanimous that Parks was not the best wicketkeeper, but picking him made is so much easier to pick a full hand of 5 front-line bowlers. This was well before Read.

It does seem odd that he was picked so young, but ended up with few caps. The same is true of Foster (who also, incidentally, can bat).

Posted by DanGreen on (April 23, 2014, 20:15 GMT)

Some good points Steve48 - the 'art' of keeping is slowly eroding. Nowadays it seems to all be about how many runs you can score (and in Butler's case - how you score them). Keeping wicket is skill that takes hard work and dedication. Keith Piper was lovely to watch - the ball seemed to just melt into his gloves. I just don't get why a lot of people are raving about Butler - he seems pretty brainless with his batting, coupled with poor foot movement and poor judgement. And for the record - his keeping is atrocious.

Posted by Coastaltown on (April 23, 2014, 19:18 GMT)

I was always a Chris Read cheerleader, loved watching his glovework. He was badly treated by England; I do wonder how much that Cairns ball did for him, he did nothing wrong on his comeback but always seemed under threat. I find the idea of Geraint Jones being a superior bat deeply suspect.

@Seshachari Mohan, I suspect Michael Jones is right, and if you're talking keepers of that era then check out Bob Taylor's work.

Posted by CodandChips on (April 23, 2014, 17:20 GMT)

The keeper being batsmen issue is seen at Hampshire. Picking Wheater over Bates and Rouse, who are probably 2 of the best glovemen in the country.

Posted by   on (April 23, 2014, 16:06 GMT)

Seshachari - Read is presumably talking about keepers he's seen himself. At 35, he's too young to have seen Knott play.

Keeping wicket is an art, and it's wonderful to see the true greats in action. Unfortunately it's vastly under-appreciated nowadays, with pretty much anyone stuck behind the stumps as long as they can bat.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (April 23, 2014, 15:28 GMT)

Chris Read is very modest.I have watched a few games he played and he wad a much better keeper than Jones.I felt both were at the same level as far as batting went,with again Read being a few notches above.For some unknown reason,the selectors preferred Jones.I am sure Read would have lot to show and more than Jones if given the same opportunities.I am surprised that Read does not count Alan Knott as one of his favourite keepers.I do agree about Russell.He was one of the best.The present England team lacks a good keeper.I am not sure if Butler is all that good.Look at Australia.They have Haddon,Wade,Paine and to a lesser extent Manou.The past keepers of England should scout for a good keeper and nurture him.

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