Thursday, 19 May 2016
A chat as part of my "long-running", "highly respected" series for All Out Cricket magazine with the long-serving Sussex opening batsman and occasional off-spinner, Chris Nash, not long after the death of his teammate, Matt Hobden.
Shire Brigade: Chris Nash
It started with a chat about Gloucestershire's loss to Minor Counties in the 1980 Benson & Hedges Cup, the first such giantkilling in that tournament. At the end of the chat, reasoning I had someone on the line whose reflections and opinions on the game would be saleable (romantic, I know), I asked if he'd do a longform interview for cricinfo, with the theme being selection.
He would, he said, but could I send the questions through in advance?
I could, I said.
So, having first asked cricinfo if they would commission such an idea, I devised a load of questions, trawling through his eleven-year stint picking the England side, and emailing my go-to guy for cricketing insights. And then I emailed them to him. Tis was February 2015.
Still in the employ of the ECB, Grav perhaps needed to ensure there would be no hidden traps, no ambushes. That wasn't my aim. It's not 2008.
He gave the questions his assent, but we couldn't seem to fix a time. The interview was eventually carried out in June. He gave very little away. Admirable, in a way. Confidences should be kept. But he had that curious facility for appearing to say a lot while saying very little that is the hallmark of politicians. Not even talking about Duncan Fletcher could get through his forward defensive. I put it down to him being indecisive, overly collegiate, a weathervane who blew this way and that. We made some polite small-talk and he asked if he could see the transcript before I filed it with cricinfo. I said that would be fine (while secretly thinking it was a bit much given he'd barely suggested there might be any cats in bags, let alone let them out –to get among the pigeons or otherwise).
I then told cricinfo I had done the interview. This was eight months after it had been commissioned. After the 2015 World Cup, when ESPN had spent a huge amount of money building a studio overlooking Sydney Harbour, not to mention manning it with expensive pundits. They told me they were cutting back on freelance contributions and now no longer wanted it.
I contemplated trying to flog it elsewhere, but thought I'd wait and see if the lie of the land in Bangalore might change. By the new year, it had. So, I transcribed the interview – always, always a tedious task –and then emailed David to let him know. I told him to get back in touch and "I will do the amends (within reason)".
He said he'd be in touch, because "there were several changes". I sighed, then told him he needed to do this before the end of the week. He didn't reply.
Three days later I emailed again, by now starting to feel a bit irritated at all the hoops I was having to jump through. It may have shown in my tone, too. I told him I'd agreed to make amends "within reason" but didn't want to "bleed the interview of all colour", especially since "there was nothing controversial in there".
The email I received back was an unequivocal baring-of-teeth, definitively refuting the notion that he was a pussy cat (which I may have based entirely on the fact that he smoked a lot). Afterwards, I posted this status on Facebook, which sort of completes the story.
Here is the interview. It's interesting, without being incendiary. I think we parted on good terms. But boy, it makes you realise how the jousting between a ravenous news media eager to fasten on to a poorly chosen phrase and officials keen to protect themselves thereform starts to pollute the air in which even these fairly harmless conversations take place.
Oh well. Glad I'm not doing this particularly seriously.
Talking Cricket: David Graveney