Snappy Q&As with the players

Rikki Clarke

'I was a bit too young when I was picked for England'

Rikki Clarke talks about maturing as a cricketer, fielding at slip, and whether he'd fight ducks or horses

Interview by Jack Wilson

April 6, 2014

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Rikki Clarke throws himself skywards during England's training session under the lights, Jaipur, October 14, 2006
"The key to all fielding is just to enjoy it" © Getty Images
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Two Tests and 20 ODIs for England - is the hope still there that you can add to those numbers?
If I'm honest, last year I still had hope. I was part of the 30-man squad for the Champions Trophy, although I didn't make the final 15. I went on a Lions tour 12 months ago and always felt close - but that's pretty much gone now. You look at the likes of Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Carbs [Michael Carberry] playing international cricket and I still feel I've got something to offer. If the selectors did come calling, I'd be delighted, but Ben Stokes has come in and done brilliantly and Chris Woakes too is fighting for that position in the side.

How is the Rikki Clarke of now different to the Rikki Clarke of 2003?
I would probably say I've matured, believe it or not. When I got picked first time I was a bit too young. I had three bowling coaches, a load of batting coaches and I'd forgotten my own game. When you're young you're going to listen to people as they have got more experience and knowledge, but there were too many and it ended up hindering me. I was changing my stance and technique during the season. My bowling action and run-up had no stability or consistency. As I've got older I've gone to what I know and what's worked for me.

You were fast-tracked into the England side back then. Was it too much, too soon?
Probably, yes. I had played nine first-class games and I was suddenly on a Champions Trophy tour at the end of 2002. I was sharing a dressing room with the likes of Nick Knight, Andy Caddick, Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart, and these are all big, big names in the cricketing world. I was 20 and I was thinking, "What am I doing here?"

Was it overawing?
I felt a little bit out of place but I wasn't overawed, no. I'd gone quite well that season but it was all a bit sudden. Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting were walking around my hotel in Sri Lanka and I was there for the same reason, to play international cricket. In the end I can look back at it, and I've played 20 ODIs, which I'm proud of.

I'll give you a list of seven names: Paul Horton, Stephen Moore, Karl Brown, Mark Chilton, Steven Croft, Tom Smith and Sajid Mahmood. What do they have in common?
I don't know, they all play for Lancashire?

You caught them all out to set a first-class record of seven catches for an outfielder.
Of course! I remember it well, actually. Sky was there because we needed one more wicket the following day and if I'd have caught it, it would have been a world record. Instead I had to share it. The last catch went to Troughts [Jim Troughton] at mid-on and I did think about making a mad dash to try and take it.

What is the secret to slip catching?
The key to all fielding is just to enjoy it. Some people in the world game find fielding a hindrance. Batsmen are thinking about their next innings and bowlers are concentrating on their next spell. I just love fielding and always have. I used to get people to hit me catches as a kid and I'd throw the ball back over a set of stumps. I'd be diving around and making sure the ball didn't go past white flags. As for fielding at slip, just relax, that's the key. Although some reckon my big hands play a part too.

Who has had the best hands you have played with?
Other than myself? [Laughs] Varun Chopra. He's impressed me in the last couple of years and not just because I have to listen to his poor banter and him telling me how good he is in the slips.

Which of your team-mates would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Tim Ambrose, because he wouldn't say anything. He'd just be grumpy.

When you are not on the cricket field, what are you doing?
Watching Tottenham. I find that a massive relaxation - when we win, that is. I like to spend time with the family too.

Tell us something we don't know about you.
I was named after the ex-Spurs player Ricky Villa. I was born in 1981 and my dad wanted to name me after the whole team after the FA Cup win! My mum agreed to Ricky, but to spell it differently.

What is the worst thing about being a professional cricketer?
The travelling can be quite difficult. We're very privileged to do what we do but it's up and down the motorway quite a lot.

Who is the last at the bar to buy a round?
Stef Piolet. He's so tight he only cries out of one eye. When we went out for food he ordered the minimum, then would clean up people's leftovers.

Who is the laziest trainer?
I would have said myself three or four years ago! Tim Ambrose. He's quite relaxed and comes in and does the bare minimum. Then he'll rock up and get a big score on a bleep test and smash the ball out the middle.

Who is the best captain you've played under?
There are two. Ian Ward was outstanding when Adam Hollioake was away from Surrey. I found him unbelievable with the way he treated, managed and spoke to me. I probably played my best cricket while he was captain for a quarter of a season. The way he went about it made me want to do it a similar way. If I bowled a bad ball, he'd see it as: you're human and you're going to do it. He had a good way of making cricket sound like it wasn't important. Adam Hollioake is the other because of the sheer fact he was a natural leader. The whole squad believed and trusted everything about him and he had that presence everyone liked.

Do you have any strange superstitions?
I used to do my left pad first and make sure I walked on to the field with my right foot first. I had a healing necklace I got from Hong Kong and always felt I would get injured if I didn't wear it. But I've forgotten all that - it took a lot of energy to concentrate on them all!

Which fans give you the most stick?
The Derbyshire fans after I left. Every now and again I get a bit of stick off them. I'm called Judas, apparently.

Where is the best place in the world to play cricket?
England in a hot summer is perfect but for consistency, Australia. I went and played out in Melbourne and Sydney on the last Lions tour and I could see myself living out there one day.

Which would you rather fight: one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
I'll go 100 duck-sized horses. A horse-sized duck would have a massive beak and I wouldn't fancy that.

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