Graeme Hick’s cricket career came to an abrupt end Wednesday as his final season before retirement was cut short by injury.
The Worcestershire faithful will miss the chance to say one last goodbye to their favourite adopted son after the 42-year-old Zimbabwe-born Hick confirmed he would not appear in the Midlands county’s final two matches this season after the recurrence of an elbow injury during a one-day match against Middlesex last weekend.
The former England batsman, missing from the team team for the four-day County Championship clash, also against Middlesex, which started on Wednesday, said he would not be fit either for Sunday’s Pro40 play-off away to Glamorgan.
“Unfortunately with my elbow not being right, I didn’t really enjoy the fielding side of it,” Hick told Setanta Sports News. “I don’t feel like I did my job properly on Sunday.
“I’m not 100 percent. I made my decision as if it were mid-season and whether or not I felt I would do myself, and the rest of the guys, justice on the field,” he added.
“The decision was made without the added emotion of it being my last game.” A prolific performer at county level, Hick’s tally of 136 first-class centuries puts him eighth on the all-time list and is unlikely to be exceeded by any current player. Only former England captain Graham Gooch has scored more than Hick’s 64,372 runs in all senior cricket.
Born in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), Hick had to serve a seven-year qualification period before making his England debut in 1991, during which time he was repeatedly touted as the saviour of the team.
Had he gone into the side in his early 20s, when expectations were not so high, he might have been treated more kindly by selectors and supporters alike.
Hick, who endured a stop-start 65 Test career which yielded 3,383 runs at a modest average of 31.32 – compared to a first-class figure of 52.23 -with six hundreds, admitted: “If I have anything that I’d like to change, it would to have been more consistent for England and to actually have a period in the side when I wasn’t dropped.
“In the end I was in and out of the side every year.” However, something Hick said he wouldn’t miss was modern warm-up routines. “They need to be done but they’re an absolute bind.
“Damian D’Oliveira and I used to walk out, he’d have a ***, and we’d have a few throw downs, have a few slip catches and walk back in. That was it.
“Nowadays it’s all laps and cones.” Hick, who 20 years ago compiled Worcestershire’s first-class record score of 405 not out, against Somerset at Taunton, was witheringly branded a “flat-track bully” by former New Zealand coach John Bracewell.
His placid nature led to one of celebrated umpire Dickie Bird’s more famous rebukes when the batsman was on the receiving end of a volley of verbal abuse from Merv Hughes.
“What’s that nice Mr Hick ever done to you?”, a bemused Bird asked the Australia quick.
Perhaps the truth about Hick was that rather than being unfulfilled, his career went as far as his talent and mentality allowed, only the distance wasn’t as far as both his supporters and detractors would have liked.
“My kids watched my retirement being announced on the news and my son just said, ‘That’s my dad!'” Hick told Tuesday’s Guardian newspaper. “And he came over and sat next to me and he held me.
“I sat there thinking, ‘Of course I would have liked to have scored 30 Test hundreds but I might not be the person I am if I’d done that.’ And, looking down at my boy, I just felt very proud and very happy.” jdg/nr08