Nick Easter, England’s rugby union No.8, will captain his country in their Grand Slam showdown with Ireland on Saturday. He talks about why he loves putting batsmen under pressure with his erratic bowling and why his dad was a cricketing hero.
When I was very young cricket was my No.1 sport at Dulwich College Prep School. If we had any spare time we headed down to the nets.
Rugby took over at university and the last time I played cricket was more than 18 months ago in a match for the Harlequins against the media.
My earliest memories of watching cricket were the West Indies pace attack of the late 1980s – they destroyed us. I loved the characters they had, quick bowlers like Marshall and Ambrose scaring the life out of England.
My dad John had a good career getting a Blue for Oxford and playing for Surrey 2nds. He got a hat-trick against Northamptonshire and managed to capture some great wickets including Garry Sobers when they played the West Indies, and Barry Richards when they played the South Africans.
My dad was once described by John Arlott as the slowest fast bowler in cricket. An opening bowler, he was very accurate and still claims to this day he never bowled a wide. That certainly wasn’t the style I adopted with my bowling. I try to get it down there as fast as I can and then come in as a pinch-hitter.
Whenever I was a bit erratic, pitching a few in short, he wasn’t happy. I used to remind him I put effort into my bowling! He was much more a stick it on a line and length bowler.
My younger brother, Mark, who now plays at Northampton Saints, was far more applied than me and achieved more in the game, scoring a few hundreds at Dulwich College.
Mark was a No. 3 batsman and got the runs he deserved in a number of different teams. Perhaps it was due to the hurry-ups I used to give him in the nets?
Being a bowler and looking up to guys like Wasim and Waqar and the West Indian quartet I regret the end of uncovered pitches and that you are now restricted to the number of bouncers you can bowl.
I like nothing more than when the batsmen are put under real pressure like the Atherton-Donald battle in 1998. That is the sort of gripping Test match cricket I love. You can still get it now but less than you used to.
I think the laws of the game are stacked against the bowler today – the sport has become a little too batsman friendly.
I still try and watch whenever I can and was at Lord’s for a couple of days of the 2009 Ashes series. When the England matches clash with the rugby you will always get a fair few of the boys watching the cricket.
I had a taste of touring with England a few years ago when I was on a gap year and I watched them at Cape Town in 1999-2000, which was tremendous.
One of my ambitions is to go on tour with the Barmy Army. It is on my checklist of things to do before I die! A lot of them have been waiting a long time for what they experienced in the recent Ashes series and it would be great to join them for a tour.
Interview by Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World magazine.
This article first appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Wisden Cricketer