Rikki Clarke February 23, 2014

'I didn't even know there was a chairman of selectors'

Rikki Clarke relives his surprise on receiving his England call-up, and talks about his agonising start in Test cricket

First cricket bat
I had a little plastic bat when I was three. It popped out six small plastic balls, a bit like a kiddy bowling machine, that I used to hit around in the living room. My dad used to put it on for me to play with. My first proper bat had a shaved-down blade and a shaved-down handle that I got when I was seven. It was a full-sized Gunn & Moore that they made smaller for me.

First England call-up
I was at home in Guildford chilling one afternoon when the call came through. I couldn't believe it. It was a bit of a whirlwind. David Graveney rang me and I didn't even know who he was or that he ever played cricket. I apologise for that now! I was a young lad with a bit of a carefree attitude back then. I didn't even know there was a chairman of selectors. Next thing I knew my call-up was being announced all over Sky News and I had my phone ringing left, right and centre for interviews. The paparazzi were around taking photos of me with the kit, and I was just thinking: "Crikey, what's going on here?" I'd only played nine first-class games before that.

First ball in international cricket
We were playing Pakistan at Old Trafford in a one-day international and I was brought on just after a drinks break. Imran Nazir was batting and he took his helmet off and put a cap on - he must have seen me before! My first ball was nervous and a bit of a drag down really, but I think he got done for lack of pace. He wafted it up in the air and Vikram Solanki came round to cover-point to catch it. It was a nice wicket-taking start, anyway.

First Test innings
I made 14 but it came off something like 100 balls. It was down to nerves really, again. We were playing Bangladesh in Dhaka and I just didn't want to take any risks. I was batting with a view that I just didn't want to get out, I wanted to be boring. I went in thinking, "This is okay, Test cricket is meant to be boring" and I stopped playing my natural game. I left one that I should have played at and got bowled in the end. The second Test I made a fifty and was much more like myself.

First autograph
The first autographs I got were of footballers, not cricketers. It was back in 1993 and I was a mascot for Tottenham. I got a book signed by the likes of Gary Lineker, Nayim, Gary Mabbutt and Gordon Durie.