Eddie Hemmings January 29, 2014

'I never ever worried about getting hit for six'

Former England spinner Eddie Hemmings recalls how he began to bowl offies, Kapil's sixes at Lord's, bowling on green wickets, and rooming with another snorer
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It didn't matter to me who I was bowling at. They were a batsman, I'd got six balls, and it only took one ball to get whoever it was out. Viv Richards, Graham Gooch, Geoff Boycott - it didn't matter. One day it would work out for me, the next it would be the batter's day, and that's the way I saw it.

Shakoor Rana wanted to stop the game because we were doing too well, I think. There was nothing untoward going on in the game. The batsman was aware that the field was moving. I was bowling and I made sure the batsman was aware of it. Gatting did. It was only deep square coming up to save the one - I can't remember who it was, but they were dawdling - but Shakoor Rana decided to stop the game and call Gatting "a cheat". And something else. Gatt did well. If someone had called me that, in the manner that he did, I'd have probably risked breaking my hand on his nose.

Kapil Dev at Lord's? Two good shots and two slogs! People forget that they were quite short boundaries, because they were building the media centre at the time - although one did disappear straight over the top of the lot, to be fair.

My first club was Lockheed, the Works team in Leamington. They made brakes, clutches and stuff. My dad used to skipper the Sunday team and I'd carry kit around. They were short one week - I was about nine - and that was it. I was started. My first adult game of cricket. I think it was in my genes a bit.

As a spinner, I'd rather bowl on a hard green wicket than a turner, because you got that extra bounce.

I started as a seamer-batsman. I'd been on the staff since 1965 and by 1971, after I'd played a reasonable amount of first-class cricket, I got to the stage where I realised I wasn't going to be quick enough. A change had to be made.

I don't think it's possible to legally "bowl" a doosra. You have to throw it.

After Kapil had hit three sixes, I turned to Goochie and said, "What's the follow-on?", because I don't look at scoreboards. He said, "One more of them and they've done it." I don't think we'd have won if we'd made them follow on. And Goochie wouldn't have got his second hundred. A lot went on in that game, more than just four balls that I bowled! And anyway, he tried to do it again second innings and was caught at deep midwicket.

There was always plenty of grass on at Trent Bridge. When you got there you would literally see the white lines at each end and that was the only thing that determined where you were playing. I used to love it. It was very, very exciting cricket.

Facing quick bowling wasn't my idea of fun.

Lance Gibbs, who was our spinner, announced he was going to retire at the end of the 1972 season, and I thought I used to bowl offcutters, so it wouldn't be as big a change as people thought. But it took me a good four or five years to get things like the run-up right. Then it was a case of learning how to get people out.

There were a lot of good overseas players around, but I wouldn't have swapped [Richard] Hadlee for anyone else.

In the first innings at Lord's [in 1990] I bowled the best ball I bowled in my life to get rid of Azharuddin: bowled through the gate, driving, on 120-odd.

"When I started, basically your fitness was up to you. I was always a bit rotund, but I always trained harder than anybody else. And I was never ever short of energy to bowl"

The 1987 World Cup final - we lobbed it, totally lobbed it. The reverse sweep that Gatting played really well, he didn't play really well because he'd preempted it. He should have swept it, but back-flapped it on to his shoulder and got caught. It was Allan Border bowling, and that was a last resort. We were walking it, totally walking it. A sad day.

It was a bit of a blow when I got given out on 95, yeah, mainly because I didn't hit it! Bruce Yardley bowling around the wicket, it flicked both my pads and went over off stump. I was disappointed, but I was also pleased I'd done what I'd done, because I'd never done nightwatchman before.

I was taken over to Warwickshire by our club coach, Ray Carter, for an Under-12s trial. Derief Taylor - Lord Taylor's father - and Tiger Smith were in charge, and Derief immediately moved me out of one net into another. I thought, "What's going on here? I'm obviously failing." I didn't find out till many years later, when he told me that it was because I was hitting the ball too hard.

I didn't get as many runs as I should have done. I was a little too aggressive at times.

They always say if you bowl legspin you're a wristspinner and if you bowl offspin you're a fingerspinner. Well, my view was that if I didn't use my wrist, I wasn't getting anything on the ball.

The biggest help to me from my Warwickshire days was John Jameson, without question. During those stages when I managed to get into the team, he'd pick me up, take me to the different grounds, and say, "Right, you're rooming with me." I didn't even have to look around for a roomie. He took me under his wing. He was brilliant.

I dropped Sachin [Tendulkar] when he got his first Test hundred, at Old Trafford. Caught and bowled.

Warwickshire offered me a one-year deal, which I declined, and I was sat around at home when Ken Taylor called from Notts. It was the only call I got. I liked the club, the ground, I knew the city, so it was an easy decision, really. It wasn't until later that I found out that the Warwickshire chairman, Cyril Goodway, who actually played cricket for Warwickshire with Ken Taylor, had tipped him off that I was leaving: "We'll just let you know before we let everyone else know…" kinda thing. The old insider trading.

I was quite happy when I retired. I knew it was coming. I'd got knackered knees and it was becoming uncomfortable to get out there and play, even to train how I wanted.

I was very disappointed not to get picked for India for the 1981-82 tour. I was probably the leading spin bowler in the country as far as wickets went, and I thought, "Well, that's it. If I don't get picked now, having got 80-odd wickets, I'm never going to get picked." It was a funny era for selection. There was no continuity in it. You had to listen to the radio to find out whether you were playing.

I made my England debut against Pakistan at Edgbaston, which was a bit of a finger up to the committee room for only offering me a one-year deal. I was incredibly nervous because I wasn't actually bowling as well as I'd been bowling the year before. I wasn't flowing. Then I got a call-up, which was a bit of a shock. I got a wicket first over and it went downhill from there, really.

I got a six-for against New Zealand at Edgbaston, including Hadlee caught at slip, and the only reason was because the seamers didn't want to bowl with the ball, so I said "Yeah, give it here". If the ball had been in better shape, I wouldn't have been bowling.

I didn't get much sleep when I roomed with Derek Randall. He used to snore, I used to snore. We got stuck together because of it, but it didn't work out too well because neither of us slept. We ended up in single rooms.

The 1989 Benson & Hedges final is a bit of a blur. I got in there at the end when we'd all but cocked it up. I had a little meeting with Bruce French while they were moving the field all over the place for about five minutes. I said, "I'd better hit it for four, hadn't I?" He said, "No choice." Then all of a sudden Goochie moved deep cover over to the leg side, and one of my favourite shots was to back away and hit it through the off side, so that's what I did.

Clive Rice was a very good captain, very attacking. He'd rather lose a game trying to win than draw. We always gambled. Some of the targets we set were very generous, but Ricey would say, "If we don't bowl them out it's our fault". It suited me, having a South African captain.

I started in 1979 at Notts and played till '92, and there was only one wicket that was made for me to bowl on. And we almost lost the game, because we nearly got bowled out by the opposition's spinner, Rodney Ontong. I said, "If you doctor the wicket, you're going to bring in their spinner". I was quite used to bowling on green tracks, with Rice and Hadlee. In fact, I used to like it.

I'm groundsman at Caythorpe CC, my son is chairman. Not only do we do son-dad stuff, we do boss-worker stuff as well. And both my sons are seamers, so of course I prepare the odd wicket to help them out.

When I started, we played the 2nd XI games and in the Minor Counties Championship. I played Monday, Tuesday - two-day games, they were - Wednesday, Thursday. On Friday you'd play Club and Ground, and on the weekend you'd go off and play for your club. My first season, the only time I didn't play was when it was pouring with rain.

It was a strange era to grow up in. You didn't really ask people for advice. I made the mistake of doing that with Tom Cartwright - who I got along with well later on - when I asked him how he bowled his inswinger. I couldn't get anything going the other way. He sort of said, "Well, you'll just have to find out." And that was typical of the era. They looked after their place in the side and didn't help anyone outside of it.

The most dramatic change I saw over my career was fitness levels. When I started it was an individual thing and basically your fitness was up to you. I was always a bit rotund, but I always trained harder than anybody else. And I was never ever short of energy to bowl.

When I got on the staff at Warwickshire, there were loads and loads of high-quality players to sit and watch. You didn't get a lot of coaching as such. You just sat and watched. And listened. If they were talking, you listened. And you picked it up that way.

I never ever worried about getting hit for six. I never ever panicked for the next ball and thought, "Oh my god, what's he going to do?" And I would never ever turn round and say, "I'm sorry, lads, I've just cost us the match, because they've saved the follow-on."

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Comments have now been closed for this article

  • george204 on January 29, 2014, 10:56 GMT

    I don't think he sounds bitter at all, nor is he belittling Kapil. If anything he seems pleased to be remembered for his part in a very memorable test match! I found his comment about fitness interesting - like Glenn Turner has said for many years, there's a difference between being gym-fit & cricket-fit. Eddie was always a trier & can look back on a decent career with pride.

  • InsideHedge on January 29, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    I'll have to watch that footage again to see if I agree with Eddie about the two slogs.

    But I'll tell you what, I'm surprised he didn't mention the 1987 World Cup Semi Final at Mumbai. From an Indian perspective that match was far more important than the 1990 Lord's Test, a final awaited the winners at Eden Gardens. The expectation was that it would be an India-Pak Final but Pak had already lost their semi a day earlier.

    At a critical moment in India's run chase, Gatting posted himself at the midwicket boundary and Hemmings tossed one up. Kapil who had been batting well with Azharuddin took the bait and promptly holed out. Azhar and the rest of the mugs then fell in a heap. It's a nightmare that I relive frequently.

    Forget the 4 consecutive sixes in a test we lost by 247 runs, I'd trade those for Kapil to either not take the Mumbai bait or clear Gatting at midwicket. Now there's a match that India were walking! Well Played, Eddie!

  • ultrasnow on January 30, 2014, 20:01 GMT

    Sir Hemmings there's no shame in being hit (slog as you call it) by one of the most gifted of cricketers and more importantly on one of the most humble of human beings (Kapil)

  • nursery_ender on January 30, 2014, 9:19 GMT

    Posted by syedk on (January 30, 2014, 2:42 GMT) He does sound a disgruntled here. I saw a lot of him bowling, but there was no memorable performances by him, other than the 95 he scored . Doosra is legal! What does he mean you can't bowl it legally?

    He means that every doosra bowler has a flexing of the elbow which in his day would have been called a throw but is now, supposedly, within the degree of tolerance allowed. I agree with him. I haven't seen anyone bowl a doosra without a visible straightening at the elbow and I find it hard to believe that they are all legal.

  • on January 30, 2014, 5:53 GMT

    Whoa! I really am surprised that he is bitter about those four sixes.. I know he dismissed Kapil in the next innings and next match as well, but those sixes are eternal even if he thinks they were wild slogs...

  • syedk on January 30, 2014, 2:42 GMT

    He does sound a disgruntled here. I saw a lot of him bowling, but there was no memorable performances by him, other than the 95 he scored . Doosra is legal! What does he mean you can't bowl it legally?

  • nursery_ender on January 29, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    Having just watched the footage again I'd say Eddie's being a bit unfair. Three lovely lofted on drives - albeit one with a slightly crooked bat - but the final one was definitely an out-and-out slog.

  • itsthewayuplay on January 29, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Talks a good talk and bears no relation whatsoever to his level, his stats or his legacy. Spin it any way you want, Eddie - you will always be remembered for Kapil Dev and those 4 sixes.

  • on January 29, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    I was there at Lords in 1990 and I saw Hemmings' over to Kapil Dev and Eddie's right: Kapil had a good old slog at two of those balls and used the shortened boundary to his advantage. Sure, he is credited with avoiding the follow on but I thought Azharuddin did more to do that; his was a lovely century to watch. Also, Eddie could run fast in pursuit of a ball. Some of the India fans were mocking his size but they shut up when he saved a couple of boundaries.

  • on January 29, 2014, 10:43 GMT

    Typical Pom,glorifying one's achievements while belittling other's & never mind if the other is one of the greats of the game.So whats new?It sounded very much like the Sky Commentary team (with due apologies to Naseer/Atherton/Stewie)

  • george204 on January 29, 2014, 10:56 GMT

    I don't think he sounds bitter at all, nor is he belittling Kapil. If anything he seems pleased to be remembered for his part in a very memorable test match! I found his comment about fitness interesting - like Glenn Turner has said for many years, there's a difference between being gym-fit & cricket-fit. Eddie was always a trier & can look back on a decent career with pride.

  • InsideHedge on January 29, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    I'll have to watch that footage again to see if I agree with Eddie about the two slogs.

    But I'll tell you what, I'm surprised he didn't mention the 1987 World Cup Semi Final at Mumbai. From an Indian perspective that match was far more important than the 1990 Lord's Test, a final awaited the winners at Eden Gardens. The expectation was that it would be an India-Pak Final but Pak had already lost their semi a day earlier.

    At a critical moment in India's run chase, Gatting posted himself at the midwicket boundary and Hemmings tossed one up. Kapil who had been batting well with Azharuddin took the bait and promptly holed out. Azhar and the rest of the mugs then fell in a heap. It's a nightmare that I relive frequently.

    Forget the 4 consecutive sixes in a test we lost by 247 runs, I'd trade those for Kapil to either not take the Mumbai bait or clear Gatting at midwicket. Now there's a match that India were walking! Well Played, Eddie!

  • ultrasnow on January 30, 2014, 20:01 GMT

    Sir Hemmings there's no shame in being hit (slog as you call it) by one of the most gifted of cricketers and more importantly on one of the most humble of human beings (Kapil)

  • nursery_ender on January 30, 2014, 9:19 GMT

    Posted by syedk on (January 30, 2014, 2:42 GMT) He does sound a disgruntled here. I saw a lot of him bowling, but there was no memorable performances by him, other than the 95 he scored . Doosra is legal! What does he mean you can't bowl it legally?

    He means that every doosra bowler has a flexing of the elbow which in his day would have been called a throw but is now, supposedly, within the degree of tolerance allowed. I agree with him. I haven't seen anyone bowl a doosra without a visible straightening at the elbow and I find it hard to believe that they are all legal.

  • on January 30, 2014, 5:53 GMT

    Whoa! I really am surprised that he is bitter about those four sixes.. I know he dismissed Kapil in the next innings and next match as well, but those sixes are eternal even if he thinks they were wild slogs...

  • syedk on January 30, 2014, 2:42 GMT

    He does sound a disgruntled here. I saw a lot of him bowling, but there was no memorable performances by him, other than the 95 he scored . Doosra is legal! What does he mean you can't bowl it legally?

  • nursery_ender on January 29, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    Having just watched the footage again I'd say Eddie's being a bit unfair. Three lovely lofted on drives - albeit one with a slightly crooked bat - but the final one was definitely an out-and-out slog.

  • itsthewayuplay on January 29, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Talks a good talk and bears no relation whatsoever to his level, his stats or his legacy. Spin it any way you want, Eddie - you will always be remembered for Kapil Dev and those 4 sixes.

  • on January 29, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    I was there at Lords in 1990 and I saw Hemmings' over to Kapil Dev and Eddie's right: Kapil had a good old slog at two of those balls and used the shortened boundary to his advantage. Sure, he is credited with avoiding the follow on but I thought Azharuddin did more to do that; his was a lovely century to watch. Also, Eddie could run fast in pursuit of a ball. Some of the India fans were mocking his size but they shut up when he saved a couple of boundaries.

  • on January 29, 2014, 10:43 GMT

    Typical Pom,glorifying one's achievements while belittling other's & never mind if the other is one of the greats of the game.So whats new?It sounded very much like the Sky Commentary team (with due apologies to Naseer/Atherton/Stewie)

  • on January 29, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    Read it carefully. He isn't belittling Kapil Dev's entire career, he is talking about four balls from his perspective alone. Hemmings was part of an international class bowling attack with Notts which was far better than the England attack at the time (Hadlee, Rice, Cooper et al). In fact they demolished the Australian tourists including Lillee in a county match that I had the privilege of watching. He also played the game with a smile on his face which is more than can be said for the current generation.

  • Vindaliew on January 29, 2014, 8:38 GMT

    I'm frankly quite surprised that he sounds so bitter over Kapil's 4 sixes. He had a long distinguished career, and Kapil wrote himself into the record books (together with Eddie) over those 4 balls. Can't he just appreciate the beauty of the game of cricket, and how magical it is to be part of such a wonderful test?

  • EdwinD on January 29, 2014, 7:55 GMT

    I remember the '89 B&H Final well as I was waiting for it to end (it looked like going to the last ball and did) to go on a date....

    My other thoughts are that this was the era was the only English spinner who actually spun it was Underwood - the rest (Marks, Miller, Hemmings, etc) just bowled slow......

  • on January 29, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    If someone had called me that, in the manner that Eddie Hemmings explained "doosra", I'd have probably risked breaking my hand on his nose.

  • on January 29, 2014, 5:42 GMT

    There is hell of a difference between his confidence nd his actual figures,people to hav good figures along with their confidence seem quite reasonable,but guys like him potray more of a foolishness.............

  • on January 29, 2014, 3:10 GMT

    Two good shots and two slogs! Mr Eddie Hemmings Go & watch the Video again. That was 4 Good shots. All Shots were landed over the original Boundary.

  • on January 29, 2014, 3:10 GMT

    Two good shots and two slogs! Mr Eddie Hemmings Go & watch the Video again. That was 4 Good shots. All Shots were landed over the original Boundary.

  • on January 29, 2014, 5:42 GMT

    There is hell of a difference between his confidence nd his actual figures,people to hav good figures along with their confidence seem quite reasonable,but guys like him potray more of a foolishness.............

  • on January 29, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    If someone had called me that, in the manner that Eddie Hemmings explained "doosra", I'd have probably risked breaking my hand on his nose.

  • EdwinD on January 29, 2014, 7:55 GMT

    I remember the '89 B&H Final well as I was waiting for it to end (it looked like going to the last ball and did) to go on a date....

    My other thoughts are that this was the era was the only English spinner who actually spun it was Underwood - the rest (Marks, Miller, Hemmings, etc) just bowled slow......

  • Vindaliew on January 29, 2014, 8:38 GMT

    I'm frankly quite surprised that he sounds so bitter over Kapil's 4 sixes. He had a long distinguished career, and Kapil wrote himself into the record books (together with Eddie) over those 4 balls. Can't he just appreciate the beauty of the game of cricket, and how magical it is to be part of such a wonderful test?

  • on January 29, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    Read it carefully. He isn't belittling Kapil Dev's entire career, he is talking about four balls from his perspective alone. Hemmings was part of an international class bowling attack with Notts which was far better than the England attack at the time (Hadlee, Rice, Cooper et al). In fact they demolished the Australian tourists including Lillee in a county match that I had the privilege of watching. He also played the game with a smile on his face which is more than can be said for the current generation.

  • on January 29, 2014, 10:43 GMT

    Typical Pom,glorifying one's achievements while belittling other's & never mind if the other is one of the greats of the game.So whats new?It sounded very much like the Sky Commentary team (with due apologies to Naseer/Atherton/Stewie)

  • on January 29, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    I was there at Lords in 1990 and I saw Hemmings' over to Kapil Dev and Eddie's right: Kapil had a good old slog at two of those balls and used the shortened boundary to his advantage. Sure, he is credited with avoiding the follow on but I thought Azharuddin did more to do that; his was a lovely century to watch. Also, Eddie could run fast in pursuit of a ball. Some of the India fans were mocking his size but they shut up when he saved a couple of boundaries.

  • itsthewayuplay on January 29, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Talks a good talk and bears no relation whatsoever to his level, his stats or his legacy. Spin it any way you want, Eddie - you will always be remembered for Kapil Dev and those 4 sixes.

  • nursery_ender on January 29, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    Having just watched the footage again I'd say Eddie's being a bit unfair. Three lovely lofted on drives - albeit one with a slightly crooked bat - but the final one was definitely an out-and-out slog.