The Cricket Tier


Spectators return this Thursday to Old Trafford

Spectators return this Thursday to Old Trafford for the first county championship game since 2019. On Friday evening, the club has its AGM and we hope that many of you will stay to attend.

Thanks to having a hotel on site, the club were able to host international matches last year and reduce the devastating impact the pandemic had on the club’s finances. The club lost over £17m in revenue compared to the bumper 2019 year yet still produced an operating profit of over £2m.  The club’s long term debts are £46.7m, slightly down from 2019 at  £48.7m.

Conference events and hotel revenues were down by almost £5m and cricket tickets and hospitality down by £13m.

The reduction in activity has been accompanied by significant cost reductions, which means job losses for many people.  It’s been a tough year for sure and credit must go to everyone involved who have made sacrifices and worked hard to make the best of it.

If there has been one thing the last year has shown us, it is that we can’t take anything for granted. 

The focus for the Action Group this year is to have members elected to the board.  We will continue to highlight member concerns that are raised with us.  We have submitted the following questions to the AGM.  We want more members involved with the running of the club because constructive participation helps the club to improve, grow and succeed which is surely an aim everyone can support.

We will publicise the campaign on social media but also in person through leaflets at matches and through press releases.

1. Does the club agree in principle with Lancashire vice-president Michael Atherton when he writes:

“I believe supporters should have a presence on the ECB board and on their county clubs. There are obvious practical problems on how such a person should be elected and how easy it would be to represent a group that often has disparate aims and views, but a voice is better than no voice at all”?

If so, will the club take positive steps to encourage members to put themselves forward so that at the next AGM there are candidates for the members to choose from in elections?

2. My name is Alan Higham. I am also a board member of the national Cricket Supporters Association. I’m sad that the Lancashire Action Group thrives whilst the club’s membership falls and issues of contention remain unresolved.  My question is for James Sheridan. The senior independent director has a special responsibility to be accessible to members when issues of member concern persist and fail to be resolved through the club’s normal channels.  What steps have you taken to consider these concerns with colleagues at the club and are you willing to meet with members who feel it is time to bring this schism to an end?

3. Will the club commit to reform the Member Representation Group (MRG) so that it is entirely elected by the membership instead being chosen privately by club officials and commit to total transparency in the minutes of its meetings with the club? That would make a significant difference to those members who feel the group has failed to resolve the real issues of concern for members.

4. Does the club have evidence that the Member Representation Group is well known amongst the membership and how does the club assess its effectiveness in the absence of any validation from the membership by electing the people who sit on it?  

5.  Last year LCCC had to navigate very difficult circumstances and full credit must be given to the club’s management and staff for the results from 2020. Can I remind the club though that It published the following statement about Platinum membership:

"What if I can’t afford to become a ‘Platinum Member’ as money is tight? Will I be treated any differently because I couldn’t afford to enter the ‘Platinum Member’ category?  

Absolutely not. You are valuable to the Club and we understand that needs must in these circumstances. The only difference will be those that have opted in will receive the extra benefits as outlined in the letter."
(The benefits in the letter being a name on a wall, a reduction on shop merchandise, a free meal and a reduced fee for 2021 membership.)

There are though very important differences that have since come to light given recent decisions by the club.  Platinum members have priority access to tickets for the Yorkshire game over even Life Members. Members who asked for a refund last year have not been allowed to attend or ask questions at the AGM.

Did LCCC forget its pledge to members in taking these recent decisions and what does it propose to do to put this right in future? 

6. In recent years the club has successfully transformed its business model but lost a lot of members in the process whilst other major counties have grown theirs.  Has the club surveyed former members who have left to understand their reasons and what plans does the club have to improve member facilities and promote membership? 

7. Members really enjoy watching games at the Lancashire out-grounds. Given no spectators were allowed at Liverpool last year, why is the only first team match outside Old Trafford being played at Sedbergh School, Cumbria instead of a ground within Lancashire’s traditional boundaries? 

YOUR VOICE COUNTS - To show your support for this campaign please either -

1. Email -
2. Text or phone the Action Group on 07974 936046
3. Contact one of our leaflet distributors
4. Visit our website at -

We are also on Twitter at @lancscccaction and Facebook at - lancashirecricketactiongroup

Dickie Bird OBE hosts private talk for isolated blind veterans during lockdown

Dickie Bird OBE has hosted a private talk for a group of 20 blind veterans with an interest in cricket, providing some much-needed entertainment as this period of self-isolation continues.

Streamed on Microsoft Teams, the blind veterans from the South East with an average age of 85 were able to join the call via telephone.

Dickie vividly described his time playing first-class cricket for Yorkshire and Leicestershire before moving onto his umpiring career at various World Cups and Test matches through the years. Recalling some of his most treasured memories, he emotionally described his lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, listing it among his proudest moments.

Dickie then moved onto a series of questions from the blind veterans on the call, giving his opinion on the current state of the game as well as the impact technology has had on umpiring decisions.

Dickie says: “At the age of 75 I had a sight loss scare myself when I woke up one morning and couldn’t see a thing. It was only by the power of God and the amazing doctors at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital that I managed to get 90% of my sight back.

“So I had a brief insight into the challenges that blind veterans face everyday and I have the world of respect for them. Blind Veterans UK are a wonderful charity who do a brilliant job supporting them through those challenges. It was a fantastic afternoon and I look forward to speaking with them again.”

83-year-old Graham Forshaw from Worthing was one of the blind veterans on the call. He says: “I think I speak on behalf of all the blind veterans on the call in saying that it was an amazing experience to hear from Dickie in the comfort of our living rooms. He not only regaled some amazing stories from the world of cricket but was also highly entertaining as you would expect.

“It broke up the social isolation that so many of us have experienced in the last year or so. It was a wonderful feeling to hear the voices of friends and discuss our shared love of cricket.”

The presentation with Dickie Bird was just one of the many virtual activities that the charity now offers the veterans it supports. Blind Veterans UK launched ‘Operation Entertain’ last year to maintain the beneficiaries’ morale and prevent social isolation.

So far over 1,000 veterans have taken part in virtual social activities including online photography, woodwork, and art clubs. There are now 75 national groups of blind veterans and 102 local groups meeting regularly and supporting each other.

Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90% of whom are over 70 and at an increased risk from Covid-19. The National Support Service has and will continue to help blind veterans through this period of social isolation.

Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK Director of Operations said: “Living in isolation, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.

“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”

You can keep updated on Blind Veterans UK’s response to Covid-19 at where you can also find out more about supporting the charity to make this new service possible.

Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2021


Five Cricketers of the Year:


In his Editor’s Notes, Lawrence Booth:

· Remembers cricketers lost to Covid-19

· Praises the “swift measures” taken by the ECB to ensure the game could continue during the pandemic

· Says the England team were wrong to stop taking a knee in the struggle against racism

· Criticises the continued financial inequalities in the international game

· Welcomes the return of live Test cricket to terrestrial TV, and suggests Channel 4 should cover one Test a season

· Argues that Bristol should erect a statue of W. G. Grace


The Leading Cricketer in the World:  Ben Stokes

Booth says: “Ben Stokes becomes the first England player to be named Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World more than once, retaining the title he claimed in 2020. His haul of 641 Test runs at 58 in the calendar year was more than anyone else, while his 19 wickets cost just 18 apiece. He did it all against a backdrop of personal tragedy: his father, Ged, died in December at the age of 65.”

Darren Stevens named a Cricketer of the Year at 44, the fourth-oldest on record

“Darren Stevens is Wisden’s oldest Cricketer of the Year since Leicestershire’s Ewart Astill in 1933. His 29 Bob Willis Trophy wickets for Kent at an average of 15 confirmed his status as one of the domestic game’s most unsung heroes.”

Oldest Wisden Cricketers of the Year (Age at April 15th in the year of Wisden selection)

48 years 242 days – Lord Hawke (1909)

47 years 272 days – W. G. Grace (1896)

45 years 45 days – Ewart Astill (1933)

44 years 350 days – Darren Stevens (2021)

44 years 90 days – Levi Wright (1906)

44 years 18 days – Jack Simmons (1985)

43 years 71 days – Bill Alley (1962)

42 years 322 days – Misbah-ul-Haq (2017)


Steve Waugh wins the Cricket Photograph of the Year award

Former Australian Test captain Steve Waugh has won the Cricket Photograph of the Year award, with his image of children playing cricket among sand dunes near Osian, India. The award is judged by an independent panel, led by former Sunday Times chief sports photographer, Chris Smith, and the award-winning cricket photographer, Patrick Eagar. A keen amateur photographer during his career, Waugh took the image as he travelled around India making a TV documentary, “Capturing Cricket”.

Winner of Wisden Cricket Photograph of the Year 2020 - Steve Waugh

Extracts from the Notes

“Cricket, like everything else, had its heart ripped out… It lost family and friends.”

Booth writes: “Cricket has never been less important than in 2020 – and never more. As coronavirus spread, it seemed frivolous to wonder when the season might start, or whether anyone would be there to watch; months later, with the UK’s death toll into six figures, even writing about runs and wickets felt wrong.

“The pace of events was dizzying, shocking. David Hodgkiss was the Lancashire chairman when Wisden 2020 was printing; by publication, he had died. And the obituaries this year include at least 15 others linked to Covid-19. They were all ages, and from every corner of the game. Lee Nurse was just 43, and had played for Berkshire. Riaz Sheikh, a former leg-spinner who was 51, once dismissed Inzamam-ul-Haq. Phil Wright, aged 60, was Leicestershire’s popular dressing-room attendant. The 73-year-old Chetan Chauhan will always be four decades younger, dragged by Sunil Gavaskar towards the pavilion after an lbw decision in a Test at Melbourne. Ken Merchant, a member of The Cricket Society, died at the age of 81, on the same day as his wife, in the same Southend hospital ward. Peter Edrich, cousin of Bill and John, was 93.

“How did cricket go on? The trite answer is it had to; those above would have had it no other way.”

Inequality street

“At the end of West Indies’ tour of England, Jason Holder spoke passionately about inequality in the game, and demolished one of the early platitudes about the virus’s spread – that it was indiscriminate, affecting pauper and prince alike. The figures proved this was not the case, and so did cricket.

“A predictable theme emerged. England had been grateful for the visits of others, then left South Africa in a hurry, even after two positive Covid-19 tests in their own camp proved false. Australia snubbed Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, West Indies and Afghanistan – but travelled to England, and moved heaven and earth to accommodate India (who had already cancelled series against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka). At the last minute, the Australians then called off a Test tour of South Africa, who had bowed to numerous demands. The Sri Lankans – who did visit South Africa – insisted on strict quarantine rules for Bangladesh, who stayed at home, but relaxed them for England.”

Runner-up of Wisden Cricket Photograph of the Year 2020 - Darrian Traynor

Enough of the excuses

“On July 8, at a near-deserted Rose Bowl, the West Indian and England teams took a knee. They were paying tribute to George Floyd, who had died at the hands of Minneapolis police a few weeks earlier, and to the Black Lives Matter message… It was quiet, dignified and powerful – and one of the images of the year.

“Also that morning, Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent gave moving accounts on Sky Sports of their own experiences of racism. It was a moment to pause, and reflect. Players past and present had already begun telling stories of prejudice; the trickle became a torrent. The rule of thumb was simple, and brutal: if you weren’t white, you had suffered…

“For a while, cricket said and did the right things. The ECB admitted they had let things slip, and promised action… But cricket isn’t fond of radicalism (unless there is money to be made). Predictably, it lost its nerve. By the time Pakistan arrived, taking a knee had been quietly dropped, amid supposed concerns about the politicisation of BLM.

“Cricket has been here before: a sympathetic ear, a pat on the shoulder, a promise that things will change. They never do, but this time they must… By not taking a knee, cricket raised a finger.”

“If cricket’s response to racism is one of expedience rather than repudiation, everyone loses.”

“When Indian Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara revealed in 2018 that his Yorkshire team-mates had christened him “Steve”, the news came and went. Apparently, they found his first name hard to pronounce; Pujara was too polite to complain. Then it turned out he hadn’t been the only Steve at Headingley. As Yorkshire investigated allegations of racism from their former all-rounder Azeem Rafiq, one ex-employee – Taj Butt – said the name was routinely given to “every person of colour”…

“But the Rafiq case has confirmed that self-examination does not always come easily to cricket… If cricket’s response to racism is one of expedience rather than repudiation, everyone loses.”

“Cricket is our national summer sport… In Channel 4’s heyday, Sky would exclusively broadcast one of the home Tests. Why not return the favour?”

“When Ian Bell signed off from first-class cricket with 50 and 90 for Warwickshire at Cardiff in September, it meant every player from the 2005 Ashes had retired… Among current England cricketers, only James Anderson – who has been an international cricketer since 2002-03, but missed that series – had played a Test on free-to-air television.

“The gods of TV scheduling woke up: in February 2021, Channel 4 – for ever linked with the summer of ’05 – acquired the rights to England’s Test series in India. Providing punditry from a hurriedly assembled studio in London was Alastair Cook, whose entire Test career – 161 games and 12,472 runs – had taken place behind the paywall.

“The station’s last-minute re-entry into the big time was low on frills, but high on significance. Despite little time to plan their broadcast or spread the word to fans who had almost forgotten watching an England Test on free-to-air telly, they secured a peak first-day audience of 1.1m – more than twice what Sky managed during England’s tour of Sri Lanka. By day three, the figure had risen to 1.7m. In all, nearly 6m tuned in. Meanwhile, 44% of viewers were said to come from homes without a Sky subscription… Live Test cricket was now more accessible…

“Cricket is our national summer sport… In Channel 4’s heyday, Sky would exclusively broadcast one of the home Tests. Why not return the favour?”

Runner-up of Wisden Cricket Photograph of the Year 2020 - Jed Leicester 

The one-day greats

To mark 50 years of ODIs, Wisden names its greatest player for each decade:

The 1970s: Viv Richards

The 1980s: Kapil Dev

The 1990s: Sachin Tendulkar

The 2000s: Muttiah Muralitharan

The 2010s: Virat Kohli



Five Cricketers of the Year

Zak Crawley, Jason Holder, Mohammad Rizwan, Dominic Sibley, and Darren Stevens 

Booth says: Zak Crawley’s 267 against Pakistan in the Third Test at the Rose Bowl has been bettered only once by an England No. 3, when Walter Hammond made 336 not out at Auckland in 1932-33. It confirmed Crawley as a high-class strokemaker, which he underlined with centuries against Hampshire in both the Bob Willis Trophy and the T20 Blast.”

Jason Holder was a giant both on and off the field last summer. After agreeing to lead his West Indies side on a tour of Covid-hit Britain, he inspired his team to victory over England at the Rose Bowl with first-innings figures of six for 42. Holder also led a dignified West Indian response to Black Lives Matter, taking a knee with his team-mates before each Test and wearing a black glove, a gesture that recalled American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.”

Mohammad Rizwan was an electric presence behind the stumps for Pakistan, pulling off arguably the take of the summer when he caught Ben Stokes high to his left during the First Test at Old Trafford. He also averaged 40 with the bat, and was later confirmed as his country’s new captain.”

Dominic Sibley regularly provided the glue England needed at the top of their Test order, not least when he made 120 in more than nine hours to help square the series against West Indies. In a difficult summer for openers, he batted for at least two and a half hours on five occasions, making life easier for those who followed.”

“At 44, Darren Stevens is Wisden’s oldest Cricketer of the Year since Leicestershire’s Ewart Astill in 1933. His 29 Bob Willis Trophy wickets for Kent at an average of 15 confirmed his status as one of the domestic game’s most enduring heroes.”

The Five Cricketers of the Year are chosen by the editor of Wisden, and represent a tradition that dates back to 1889, making this the oldest individual award in cricket. Excellence in, or influence on, the previous English summer are the major criteria for inclusion as a Cricketer of the Year. No one can be chosen more than once.

The Leading Twenty20 Cricketer in the World

“Kieron Pollard took T20 hitting to new heights in 2020, launching 59 sixes in the format’s various competitions at a rate of one every 5.5 balls. His strike-rate of 199 rewrote the rules – and all the while he averaged 53. Unsurprisingly, his teams prospered: Trinbago Knight Riders won the Caribbean Premier League, and Mumbai Indians the IPL. He has now won a record 16 T20 titles.”

The Leading Woman Cricketer in the World

“Beth Mooney was the Player of the Tournament at the women’s T20 World Cup, clinching the award with 78 not out in 54 balls to help Australia see off India in front of more than 86,000 spectators at the MCG. She was also the leading run-scorer at the Women’s Big Bash League in 2020-21, with 551.”

Other Wisden awards

Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year: Although there is no Schools Cricketer of the Year for 2020, Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2021 contains a list of notional past winners backdated to 1900.

Wisden Book of the Year: This is Cricket by Daniel Melamud

Wisden’s Writing Competition: Philip Hardman


Front-of-book pieces

·         Duncan Hamilton considers the effect of coronavirus on cricket

·         In a year when racism was rarely out of the headlines, Ebony Rainford-Brent writes powerfully about the need for greater diversity in cricket

·         England spinner Jack Leach reflects on life in the England bubble

·         James Anderson salutes Stuart Broad, who reached 500 Test wickets last year

·         Tom Holland considers the sport’s uneasy relationship with slavery

·         Following the death of Everton Weekes, Sir Garry Sobers remembers the Three Ws

·         Jon Hotten explores the history of the bat

·         Patrick Kidd browses the war-time Wisdens, the last time cricket ground to a halt

·         Derek Pringle bids farewell to first-class university cricket


And finally, from the index of unusual occurrences


·         Belgian batsman tops global averages

·         Burglars stop play

·         Captain blames wedded bliss

·         Groundstaff use hairdryers

·         International team drop two catches off one ball

·         IPL cricketer scuppered by double first cousin

·         Monkey sends home World Cup batsman

·         Snake stops play

·         Test batsman gives himself out

·         World’s most famous cricketer mangled by President Trump

Wisden 2021 is made up of 1,248 pages and nine parts, including Comment and Review sections which are the longest in Almanack history. The obituaries alone run to 85 pages. It has 129 contributors. Also within its pages are reviews of books, podcasts, blogs, television, print and social media, technology and the weather, as well as articles on cricket and the environment, and cricket in the courts. 


The RRP of both the standard hardback and softcover editions of the 2021 Almanack is £55; the large format is priced at £75, and the leatherbound limited edition at £295. Wisden 2021 is also available as an abridged eBook, The Shorter Wisden, containing the best writing from the Almanack, at £15.00.

Not the Spin - issue 8

Not the Spin's new fanzine is now available to order and will be sent out in early April. It's packed full of articles from illustrious writers including Roy Cavanagh MBE, Stuart Brodkin (ex Daily Express), Paul Fitzpatrick (ex Guardian) & Mark Giles (ex Times). 

There is an article on the new Chairman Andy Anson and hopefully, any updates on how he intends to back up his pledge to "build up a stronger membership base". The season is nearly upon us so he needs to hurry up! We also cover the zoomed AGM debacle, Graham Onions' new position as bowling coach and much, much more.

To order a copy please visit their website at -

Not the Spin will be keeping an eye on what Lancashire intends to do regarding refunds or reduced membership fees for the upcoming season with the first three Championship fixtures being behind closed doors. At the moment the Club is still to make a decision.

Despite having planning permission granted the Club has announced that they are canceling the new stand to replace the old Red Rose suite. They state that the new proposal will increase the capacity of the hotel by an additional 100 bedrooms but that the stand will hold only 1,000 seats. The original plans were for a stand to have a capacity of 4,850 so this is a huge reduction.

Don't forget you can follow them on twitter at - @lancscccaction and their ever-growing private Facebook group has now over 700 members.


Somerset County Cricket Club and Trade Nation Build Upon Groundbreaking Partnership

Somerset County Cricket Club is delighted to announce that our groundbreaking partnership with Trade Nation will continue for at least another 12 months. After an incredibly rewarding 2020, Trade Nation has increased its investment further and is coming on board as Somerset County Cricket Club’s Principal Partner for Vitality Blast.

The two organisations launched a first-of-its-kind collaboration in 2020 to bring cheer to Somerset’s thousands of members and supporters, while also raising awareness of Trade Nation’s uniquely transparent approach to trading the markets. With cricket being played behind closed stadium doors, it was more important than ever to provide fans with the best matchday experience from the comfort of their own homes.

That’s why, in partnership with Trade Nation, Somerset County Cricket Club launched the brand new Vitality Blast experience including dedicated matchday commentary, huge prize giveaways, and innovative new content otherwise unseen on the county circuit. Trade Nation also donated thousands of pounds to a number of local charities (Children’s Hospice South West, Portishead RNLI, Somerset Disability: VI & Super 1s Cricket, St Margaret’s Hospice Care, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and Devon Air Ambulance) through matchday activations.

“Last year’s innovative and ground-breaking partnership was extremely successful and both parties are looking forward to building on those accomplishments in a way which will benefit everyone involved,” said Somerset CCC Commercial Director Caroline Herbert. “We are all really excited to see how this partnership will evolve and grow in 2021.”

“Trade Nation’s partnership with Somerset CCC has been hugely rewarding and we’re very excited to build upon the success of Vitality Blast in 2021,” said Trade Nation CEO Stuart Lane. “As a company, we pride ourselves on offering market-leading experiences, so it’s been fantastic to partner with Somerset while they’ve recreated the joy of cricket matches with their innovative live streaming technology. This partnership has been a perfect fit for Trade Nation and the trading platform we offer, and we can’t wait to see what else we can achieve together.”

Trade Nation will continue to be the club’s Official Vitality Blast Live Stream Partner and Official Digital Highlights Press Conference Partner. The Trade Nation logo will also once again appear on the club’s LV= Insurance county championship shirt.

Silverwood Sticking with Rotation Policy

It might come as a surprise to some, but England head coach Chris Silverwood claims he will continue his rotation policy leading into the next Ashes series.

After a 3-1 series defeat in India, the rotation policy is under the spotlight, and it’s a call that could make or break the coach depending on the outcome of the winter’s showdown with the Aussies.

Managing the Workload

There are plenty of reasons why Silverwood would look to rotate his talented squad, especially considering the schedule in place for the year. England, who are 11/4 with bet365 in the cricket betting to win the Ashes, are set to feature in up to 17 Tests in 2021. Add into that the preparations and participation in the Twenty20 World Cup in India later this year, and it’s clear Silverwood must look to avoid burnout ahead of the Ashes series Down Under.

During the winter series in Sri Lanka and India, Silverwood rested some key figures, with the likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer all having spells on the sidelines at some stage. Not only does this keep the players fit and help reduce the chances of injury, but also gives opportunities to players who are perhaps on the fringes to get time out in the field.

There is no doubt some of England’s old guard will also benefit from the selective selection policy Silverwood has adopted in recent months. The likes of bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad continue to prove effective at the highest level, but their workload has to be managed to get those levels of performances.

Concerns over Consistency in Selection

On the flip side of keeping players fresh and providing chances to others, England could see a dip in results because of this rotation policy. Having secured a 2-0 series win in Sri Lanka, England were ultimately well beaten in the Test series in India, and at times a soft underbelly was exposed by the Indian bowling attack.

Some might suggest getting continuity in the side and giving key players more time in the middle would be the way to improve on the performances in India. Of course, this contradicts the rotation policy, and hence why this debate might well rumble on until the first ball of the Ashes series and beyond.

Silverwood Placing Priority in Ashes

Amongst the home summer series and T20 World Cup, Silverwood says he and his team are "prioritising" the tour Down Under at the end of the year. Australia themselves ran into difficulties against India in their series this year, with the Baggy Greens losing out 2-1 on home soil. That result will give England hope, and provides Silverwood and his coaching team examples of how to go after Australia in their own backyard.

There will be those who sit on both sides of the fence when it comes to the rotating selection policy, and we won’t really know until the highly-anticipated Ashes series is concluded, whether it was a success or not.

India Cricket Captain, Virat Kohli chats exclusively

Kohli was speaking in an open, honest and revealing podcast episode with Mark Nicholas in the first episode of his new podcast Not Just Cricket, which launches today.

Kohli opened up about his depression and described the period as feeling like ’the loneliest guy in the world’, when his mental health suffered massively on the tour of England in 2014. Kohli described the position he was in as 'finding it hard to even go to sleep, I feel like I don’t even want to wake up in the morning, I have no confidence in myself, what do I do?’

Kohli went on to suggest that things need to change in cricket, with a full-time professional available to touring test teams to talk to. Kohli also spoke about the tragic loss of his father at age 18, and the determination this gave him to succeed and that the loss of his father gave him ’the strength to overcome any situation’.

Kohli, speaking exclusively to the Not Just Cricket Podcast said…

Kohli: On suffering with Depression (England - 2014) - 'The Loneliest Guy In The World'

I did. It’s not a great feeling when you wake up knowing that you won’t be able to score any runs, and I think all batsmen have felt that at some stage or the other, where you’re not in control of anything at all. And I just couldn’t understand at all how to get over it. I think that when you look back at a very difficult phase, you realise that you had to go through that phase fully to be able to understand what’s wrong and rectify it and move forward, and just open yourself up for change, accept that there are things that are going wrong. But that was a phase where I literally couldn’t do anything to overturn what I was going through and it was tough.

I felt like I was the loneliest guy in the world. And that’s what happens, you can really push yourself into a downward spiral, where you feel like you’re going further down with each day that passes. But when things turn around, you feel that maybe I was being too harsh on myself, I was putting myself down way more than what was required for me to change. So now I understand with years passing by, that there’s a line that needs to be drawn and beyond that line, if you’re going downwards, it’s absolutely not required.

Kohli: On coming out of Depression

For me, it was a revelation personally, that you could feel that lonely, even though you’re a part of a big group. I wouldn’t say I didn’t have people that I could speak to but not having a professional to speak to who could understand what I was going through completely, I think is a huge factor. And I think I would like to see a change, someone that you can go to at any stage, have a conversation around ‘Listen, this is what I’m feeling, I’m finding it hard to even go to sleep, I feel like I don’t even want to wake up in the morning, I have no confidence in myself, what do I do?’

A lot of people suffered with that feeling for longer periods of time, having seen a lot of people through the sport that we play. In the team environment, day after day on tour, maybe it carries on for month, maybe it carries on for a whole cricket season where people are not able to get out of it. The only alternative left after then is ’the guy didn’t do well, if he doesn’t do well for six more months, okay fine he’s out of the team, get a new guy’. But that doesn’t solve the issue. I think that’s a very serious condition that should be dealt with absolute detail and very carefully, and I strongly feel the need for professional help there to be very honest. Otherwise, you’re just left to figure things out on your own and more-so you’re expected to toughen up and just get over it. Sometimes people are not able to.

Kohli: On his childhood

Well, my childhood was like any other kid in India growing up, watching cricket, no-one really played any professional cricket, it was just more fun and games, playing with my friends in the park. But then, somewhere down the line I figured out that I have a strong passion for something and a passion that needs to be followed.

I was quite young. I used to play with the senior guys in my neighbourhood – tennis ball cricket on Sundays. I was able to copy most of the shots that I saw cricketers play on tv, and there was a friend of mine who used to watch cricket and understand cricket properly – he was a keen follower of the game – and he went ahead and told my father; 'Look, I think you need to enrol him into an academy. He can be very good at this sport, and he can learn it properly’. My father happened to see this academy in a certain part of Delhi and that’s where I first (at the age of 8) started practicing the basics of cricket, and I’ve been working with the same coach ever since!

Obviously the Indian team of the 90s really opened up my imagination as to what could be done in the sport, because it was so much different to anything I had seen before. Anything that anyone had seen at the time. And it just installed a lot of faith, a lot of belief in me that magical things can be done, that if an individual decides of believes that something can be done; it can be achieved.

So that’s where the spark started and from then on, this dream of mine, of wanting to play for the country, really started.

Kohli: On the feeling of unravelling cricket

I felt like I was just having the time of my life. Because you know there’s one thing that you can like something when you’re passionate about something, but when you actually start realising ‘listen, I actually can do this’, and that excitement just unfolds in your whole being and you almost have butterflies in your stomach every time that you play and something magical happens, your body becomes warm with absolute happiness and the pure joy of being able to do something that you always wanted to do.

I remember when I started learning the sport and the first few professional games that I played, and when I was able to play the most basic cricket shots and get boundaries off them, I felt like ‘Wow!’. This was something that I didn’t feel like I could do until about 10-12months ago and now I’m in this moment, living it, doing it, and it’s a reality right now. So every day, just the pure joy of wanting to learn, the excitement of things unfolding one after the other, just kept giving me more belief that this is the path I want to go in, and this is absolutely what I want to do in life and nothing else.

Kohli: On losing his father at 18

Quote from Virat’s mother: “Virat changed a bit that day. He matured. Cricket became very serious in his life and in our lives. It was as if he was chasing his father’s dream”

Yeh, when I look back at that particular time now, it’s probably the most impactful thing that happened to me at the time. You obviously go along in your cricket journey but after a stage, you figure out is this something I really want, and that incident really put things in a proper perspective for me. Because my father did work very hard in my initial days to make sure I would get the best cricket gear, or I continue with my cricket practice, there’s no problems in the enrolment in the academy, taking me to games here and there as well. So there was a lot of effort that went into it, and from there on it made my belief even stronger that, come what may, I’m definitely going to realise my dream to play at the highest level, and to represent my country.

I was always someone that took a lot of pride, and wanted to be the guy that wins the game for my team. And that incident really solidified that part of me even further where I felt like, if the situation is difficult, I believe that I can find the strength to overcome that situation, purely because of what I had faced from a personal point of view, with the loss of my father.

Kohli: On the toughness within him

I don’t think that I picked it up from my parents as such, I think it’s circumstantial as such, because I’m the third child in the house so I always had to show my participation in a way, announce that I want to be part of a group. I used to play with people who were 7/8/10 years elder to me, so to make a mark I had to be competitive, and that’s where I think this part of my personality started building up.

I was always the guy who everyone always understood had a lot of passion, and I loved the sport. A lot of the times, I was made to field all day, and then when it was my turn to bat, everyone went home, and I was the guy picking up the stumps and the bat and the cricket balls and going back home and keeping the stuff safe. And then I would come back on Sunday and hope that this time around it won’t happen.

So it was more to do with fighting your way through these small little things, and then even at age group level playing in Delhi, it’s very competitive. I was not a part of a very big club, not a very renowned club, so I had to fight my way through the system through my performances, through sheer number of runs that I scored to be able to be seen and to be able to be heard, and really announce myself that I’m there for selection.

Kohli: On needing to win, not wanting to win

It is in many ways. I would say the disconnect for many years now that people can’t seem to understand or can’t seem to process a lot of the time is that I’ve never worked towards creating a perception for myself that’s perfect from a world’s point of view. For me, what matters is what I can do as an individual and how much I can provide on the cricket field as an individual. I cannot fabricate things to look good in front of a certain set of people, that’s just not who I am. Because those things to me are not relevant when thee top priority is to try and win every situation, in every moment, in every ball for your team. And it’s not only down to that when I bat, I’m like that in the field as well. I sometimes, not sometimes, most of the time(!) celebrate more than my bowlers. And that’s just how I’m built. I believe that I need to give everything that I have on the field and then I can accept the result afterwards, but I need to sit down and think ‘have I given everything that I had on the field?’, and if the answer is yes, then I will accept that result thereafter and move ahead.

Kohli: On watching his animation in celebration

I think at the end of the day, what we all need to realise is that we all need to be our organic selves, and as long as we are being that are being to true to who we really are, then we are living life. Obviously there are things that you can’t cross the line and things that you feel ‘yeh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that’, there are mistakes along the way all the time, and characters are different – if you look at Pujara, his true self is how you see him on the field. So to expect him to come out of that zone and become really, really passionate in a way that I do it; it won’t happen. Similarly for me to go into his mould completely, would not be possible, so I think we all try and balance things out some way or another, understanding with maturity that the more you play, what are the things that cross the line, what are the things that don’t, but still have the ability to keep being true to yourself. Because if you stop doing that, then you’re really not doing something that comes naturally to you, and I don’t think there’s any satisfaction in that.

Kohli: On what it means to play for India, and his ambition for Indian Cricket

Playing for India is the absolute top priority for me. It’s a chance for me to represent 1.4 billion people. It’s a chance for me to inspire people, with what we do on the field, what I can do on the field as an individual, and that’s my driving force today. If you look back at how this team of ours has gone through a transition and come to where we are in world cricket, there’s a good reason behind that, that we are absolutely passionate to represent our country and represent in a way that it teaches competitiveness to people watching, that it teaches people that you can compete, you can beat anyone anywhere in the world, and when you’re getting on a plane to go and play in foreign conditions, you’re excited and not intimidated. And as long as we can instil that competitiveness and that believe in generations to come, then we have left this place much better than what we came into.

Kohli: On representing India as a dominating force

Firstly, I think that all humans are equal at every level. There’s no reason why you can’t be equal to someone else, or you can’t stand up to someone else in any environment. You know that on the field of play there are many things that happen when people are not watching, and those are the moments that really bring you together as a team and say ‘Okay, the world doesn’t know what’s going on but we do, and this is the direction that we are going to go now, and we are going to stand together as a team’. I think at the end of the day when you’re playing competitive sport, that’s the mindset that you have to be in. If you’re going to go to a place and just accept defeat, I don’t think that’s an option at all, and you’d rather not play at the highest level if the mindset is that.

Kohli: On copying Djokovic’s desire to fulfil his 'golden years’, and not go off the rails

Absolutely true. I think the beginning of it was purely down to realising myself that I’m going to end up wasting the best phase of my career if I don’t get my system right, if I don’t have a proper routine, if I don’t become professional, I’m going to do injustice to my talent and the opportunity that God has given me. And that realisation was so strong that from the next day onwards I changed everything about my routine completely, from diet to working in the gym, to resting properly; everything changed from the next day onwards. And no-one else could have pushed me in that direction, and I strongly believe that anything that you need to change, needs to come from within you. No-one else can push you or force you to change, and you have to have the awareness to understand and make that change at the right time.

And thankfully that change happened to me in 2012 and from there on when I saw the results on the field, I told myself I’m never going back to my old self, because this is exactly who I want to be and this is exactly what I should have done from day one.

Kohli: On Physical Changes reaping Mental Rewards

It did. It made me mentally way stronger, it made me feel more comfortable about my own game, because I felt like I don’t really need to take risks at stages of the innings when it’s not really required. If the team needs quick runs, I can run six doubles an over, and I can do it for many overs in a row, without taking any risks. So I was happy, I was relaxed, I was comfortable with my game. The boundaries and the sixes and all that followed, but I was never in a rush, I never felt like I was in a rush at all. And that was purely down to the physical work that I put in. I think it gave me a more overall dimension to my game, which might not have been the case back in the day, probably compromised by taking too many risks and probably wasn’t consistent at all.

Kohli: Speaking to Sachin to overcome England 2014 woes

I did have a chat to Sachin (Tendulkar) about the mental side off things as well, and the thing he told me was in cricket what he experiences was, if you’re going through a strong negative feeling, if that’s coming into your system regularly, it’s best to let it pass. If you start fighting that feeling, it grows stronger. So that’s the advice that I took on board, and my mindset really opened up from then on.

Kohli: On knowing he is ‘floating’ at the crease

Yes, I’ve experienced those kind of innings quite a few times in my career, but I truly believe that you can get into that frame of mind every innings that you play. What I’ve started to realise now is that sometimes we start to get too far ahead of ourselves and once we are in that floating zone, or in the zone, we start somewhere forgetting how we ended up getting into that zone. And for me, consistency is all about that. Consistency is all about remembering every innings that you play. If I don’t remember the 30/35 balls that I play in T20 cricket and what I did in different phases during that innings, I will not be able to repeat it at all – then for me, it’s just a fluke.

But if I’m learning from every innings that I play, there’s no good reason why I can’t get into that frame of mind or into that zone, if I’m being absolute honest and non-egoist about going through the hard yards again and again. And that’s something that I try to repeat every time that I play. I try to set up in a very similar manner, and invariably I do end up feeling in pockets of every innings that I play that ‘Yeh, this is my zone’. I almost feel like you can hit every ball.

For me to play with the intensity that I play with, comes from the acceptance or the understanding that there’s no limit what you can do. I think somewhere, sometimes we end up thinking about too many norms when it comes to cricket – the law of averages, the averages take care of themselves, impactful performances – how many can you have. It doesn’t make sense when someone has ten impactful performances in a row, but I never feel like there’s a limit to how much I can provide on the field, how much effort I can put in on the field every game that I play.

If my life is designed in a way that I can afford to give 120% in every game that I play, even if I play four games a week, I can do it. If I sit back and accept that it’s not possible to do it four times out of four, then I’ve already surrendered before I can realise my own abilities.

Kohli: On baring the expectation levels of Michael Jordan to the Indian people

Expectation is honestly a burden when you start thinking about it too much. In the past, I have thought of things that are not necessary. Because at the end of the day, the expectations are connected to what I can do on the field, so I need to be in the best frame of mind to be able to do my part on the field, in the best way that I can, and I will do everything that I can to prepare accordingly and not think of the expectations. If the expectations are met afterwards, great. If they’re not, I still continue on my journey and try and do it one more time. And that’s basically what you play for at the end of the day, you want to be in the challenge. I step onto the field every time now thinking, or knowing, that everyone is expecting me to do well. The opposition knows. They want to get me out, I want to stay in because I know I can make a difference, and that’s the fun of it, that’s the challenge. It’s whoever cracks first. And why would you not want to be in such an exciting position? To be in a position to test yourself every time that you play cricket, and that to me is an honour. It’s actually a privilege to be in that position, and you actually feel grateful that you are part of these moments where stakes are so high, and you have an opportunity as an individual to overcome your fears every time that you go out there to play, and then you become a better human being I presume after every game.

Kohli: On Mind v Technique and Preparation when batting

I think for me it is 70% technical. I know that a lot of people say that it is 80% mental and from a pressure point yes it is. When you’re preparing for a game, you’re not really thinking whether my bat is coming straight down or not, you’ve already done 70% of that work by the time you start playing cricket. And from there on 30% is left, and yes I believe I have a good technique and whatever is thrown my way, I’m good enough to tackle it. If you don’t have strong foundations in place, I don’t think you can be mentally as strong, because you still have doubts over your own game firstly, and then you’re really fighting against yourself at all times rather than thinking of ‘what can I do in this situation?’.

And then the rest is taken care of by your mind, because your mind knows that you’re ready and that you’ve put in the work before you step on to the field. But from a mental point of view, I have a lot of conversations with my wife, Anushka and me have such great, detailed conversations about the complexity of the mind and how it can pull you into negativity, what are the things that matter, to put things into perspective. She has been a pillar of strength for me in that regard, because she herself is at the level where she has had to deal with a lot of that negativity, and that mental strength herself. So she understands my situation, I understand her situation. To be able to have a life partner who understands exactly what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you’re going through, I don’t quite know if I would have had that clarity if she wasn’t in my life.

Kohli: On his legacy

This is one of the conversations that Anushka and myself have regularly. It’s her that actually put things very clearly for me to understand the position that I am in, and what I can provide to society in general, or to people through the position that I am in. I don’t know what my legacy is going to be, if I can keep standing up for something that is right, and keep standing up for things that should be done to improve whatever system I am part of; I would like to be that guy. Helping a lot more people together, both of us want to move forward in that direction. We both couldn’t imagine that we would be blessed with such a healthy life, privileges that we couldn’t have imagined, our goal in life will be to help others to make a difference in society wherever we can, to reach out to people in a very organic way and to improve lives as much as we can. This is exactly the path that we want to take. It’s beyond you after a stage, and you should be able to give and give, and give.

Former England Cricketer on key ingredients to win this World Test Championship

Jeremy Snape is a former England cricketer with an MSc in sport psychology. He has worked with and interviewed some of the biggest names in world sport as well as being a sought after keynote speaker and corporate coach.

His top 3 podcast ‘Inside the Mind of Champions’ shares more interviews with top stars and his membership platform offers over 600 x two-minute video interview insights is available free for 30 day’s using the code ‘INSPIRE21’

These insights and strategies can be used for personal use and by managers looking to inspire their remote workforce via Zoom and MS teams.

The Coaching Mindset

Shane Warne once said that “The only time a team needs a coach is to drive it to the stadium”. Elite sport coaching is ruthless territory and judgemental. For the majority, the rarefied atmosphere of coaching at the top level either seems inaccessible or frightening.

Following my own 19 year cricketing career and an MSc in sport psychology, I’m now a performance coach working in sport and business and I have had the privilege of watching and working with some of the best coaches in the world. I’ve interviewed many of them and now share their insights through my podcast and Members Club at Sporting Edge.

We all generally prefer safety and routine. This is where the coach makes the difference, being the catalyst for improvement and guiding people to achieve things they never thought were possible. Working alongside England Rugby coach Eddie Jones he said ‘We’re coaches because we support and challenge the players to do the things they don’t want to do.’ Coaches by definition are change agents.

Let’s consider what coaching isn’t. Coaching isn’t mentoring as mentoring calls for the lead person to have reached the heights of performance themselves. Coaching isn’t teaching which relies too heavily on one way transfer of information. Coaching is different. The first fundamental of coaching is in the mindset.

Coaches place the athlete at the centre of the model rather than the coach being the ‘expert’. The hugely experienced GB Athletics coach Malcolm Arnold stated, “The athlete is the expert, they can talk in great depth for 40 minutes about how their emotions, muscles and techniques felt during a 40 second race. My job is to understand that and give them objective feedback.”

The ability to listen intently is a key element of the coaching mindset. It is far better to spend 10 minutes being 100% ‘present’ with someone than two hours being distracted by phones, emails or other issues. Boris Becker explained this for our coaching research ‘I look in my players eyes a lot, sometimes they are open to learning and other times they are defensive and I need to decide when to encourage or disrupt them.’ As Sir Matthew Pinsent also says, “The best coaches listen, simplify and don’t speak too much.”

The second great element is the ability to ask open questions to explore the beliefs and fears which may be holding athletes back. A player may approach you for advice after a net session and say “What do you think?” A good coach may return the exact same question to them first in order to hear their self reflection. Holding up this mirror creates deeper self awareness and can also create faster learning for the player. Greg Shipperd the legendary Aussies coach of the Sydney Sixers told me that ‘questions get the player to explore things from different angles, you can check their views, they tell you so much more than just telling players what to do.’

Science has created a new era of professionalism but it has also come with a side effect. With more information and video, coaches feel the need to show what they know. The best coaches build trusted relationships and empower their athletes to understand their own games. Kumar Sangakkara told me that the coaching set up in Sri Lanka allows individual genius to thrive, ‘Lasith Malinga is a great example, he had a different style which he learnt in beach cricket but that was nurtured rather than making a carbon copy with everyone having the same action.’

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