By Nick Friend
Castle alumnus, Middlesex and Durham opening bowler, Channel 5’s ‘The Analyst’ and ITV4 IPL summariser Simon Hughes talks to Nick Friend
1. What impact – if any – can England make at the World Cup? Do they have enough firepower to compete with Cook, Bell, Balance and Root potentially making up the top four?
I don’t think they will get beyond the quarter finals. They haven’t got enough firepower at the top of the order and enough variety in the bowling. There is a stat that says that teams who get to world cup semis have played an average of 100 odis per man. England’s average is about 50.
2. Do you agree with Alastair Cook’s statement that Kevin Pietersen’s book ‘tarnishes a successful era of English cricket’?
Yes. It is an appalling book that is just one long moan and hardly features any of the brilliant cricket that England and Pietersen played. It is sad.
3. Where do you stand on the Pietersen debate?
Initially I think England got it wrong but I quickly changed my mind once I saw the way KP behaved. He cannot see his own faults and problems, he was disengaged in Australia (I saw it for myself) and his constant demands to be treated differently just became too hard to deal with. His batting was in decline and in the end, it all reached a tipping point. The things he has come out with in (and since) the book suggest to me it was remarkable that England got as much out of him as they did!
4. Who do you think has won the PR battle between KP and the ECB since the decision on 4th February?
His sacking was horribly mismanaged by the ECB’s media department who are absolutely clueless. No one comes out of the issue with any credit (apart possibly from Cook) but I think over time people will realise that most of KP’s excellently promoted claims are baseless.
5. Who should open alongside Alastair Cook on the West Indies tour in April – and then presumably, at Cardiff in the first Ashes Test?
I guess it’s time to try Adam Lyth but I haven’t seen him play much. Definitely not Robson, possibly Hales depending on how he goes in the World Cup.
6. What is the best individual innings that you have ever seen live?
Brian Lara’s 375. It had this extraordinary inevitability about it. You just couldn’t see how he was going to get out and he batted for two days! When we travelled to the ground on the third day he was 320 not out and we just knew he was going to break the world record. But the great thing about the innings was it was never boring. It was studded with brilliant attacking shots all round the wicket, blistering cuts and pulls, scorching drives and deft touches. And when he broke the record the place went mad!
7. Who is the best batsman you bowled at?
Viv Richards. Amazing aura when he came out to bat, you knew if it was his day you were powerless to do anything about it. I remember him coming in after I had just broken the finger of the previous batsman. I bowled the same fast lifter to him on a dodgy wicket and he pulled it nonchalantly for six! When you bowled to him your one-saving fielders were about 10 yards deeper than for any other batsman because he hit the ball so hard.
8. Who is the best player you played with?
Ian Botham was in serious decline when I played with him at Durham (still had occasional shafts of brilliance) so I would have to say Desmond Haynes. Dynamic batsman, supremely confident, capable of anything, and could bat in so many different ways. Could be destructive or selective, happy to take strike against the top bowlers if others were struggling.
9. What are your memories of Durham – where you both studied and played?
My time at Durham Uni were some of the best years of my life. Fantastic place and people, enjoyed every minute of it apart from the night after finals when I threw up on my bed. Playing for Durham was special too – it was the start of a new team with some great old players and it was party time wherever we went in the county. The response was amazing even though we didn’t win much.
10. Finally, what did you think of Klute?
Cramped, noisy and hilarious.
Photograph: Simon Hughes