Wednesday 3 September 2008

Goodbye, my love

It should have been a fanfare, a tearful, emotionally-charged mass media farewell to one of the greatest batsmen to grace the game. But then, that was never his way. The quiet man could never quite turn up the volume. And so it is that after 25 years dominating the English game, Graeme Ashley Hick has announced his retirement.

For decades, the six-and-half-foot giant plundered county attacks with a brutality that could never betray his fundamental gentleness. Instead it took the Test game - as it always does – to ruthlessly reveal his inner character.

He was and remains an unnervingly popular figure. Hick never commanded adoration as, say, Flintoff does now. Instead Hick drew obsessive fans. That he could never quite understand his own failings at the highest level made him all the more interesting. Perhaps in today’s era where masculinity is more ready to embrace humanity he would have faired better. The thought of Pietersen fussing, caressing and cajoling him through the early days of his Test career can only make you wonder what could have been. Now though is not the time to dissect his Test career (again). Instead this is a personal moment for Hick and his fans.

My most recent memory of Hick was a couple of years ago, when I got the chance to see him play at my club in a charity match*. Having practiced my lines and delivered them perfectly to everyone around me, I finally drew up the courage to walk up to my childhood God and tell him how much he meant to me. I tapped him on the shoulder… and absolutely panicked. My legs disappeared under me, I stuttered and stumbled and barely said a word.

The great man looked at me bemused, but surely he could see a hint of what I did – a faint reflection.

*In that charity game, Hick was faced with the prospect of a young girl bowling at him. As always, debilitated by his kindness he ended up lobbing a gentle catch to cover. And once again I’d seen the player I loved most fail.

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