Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Favourite Cricketer: Ed Giddins by Nick Harrison

In Balanced Sports & World Cricket Watch's series "My Favourite Cricketer", Nick Harrison of Harris Sportsthoughts puts pen to paper to tell us about an unlikely addition to our Hall of Fame: England seamer Ed Giddins.

Ed Giddins first traipsed into my consciousness as he ambled back his station at fine leg at the County Ground in Northampton. Giddins was visiting with his Sussex team for a Benson & Hedges quarter-final tie. I was visiting with my dad and what was probably my best friend at the time, my scorebook. Whilst I busied myself logging the latest incident in the game in my pristine pad, I became aware of some playful chanting rising up from our section of the ground. Giddins was the subject of this warm abuse. It was his own supporters. They serenaded him with "Ed the Duck", a reference to his incomparably awful batting. Giddins soaked it up with a warm grin, a man comfortable his own inadequacy. I was smitten.

Edward Simon Hunter Giddins was born July 20 1971 in Eastbourne. I didn't need to that look up that information. I first memorised it from my 1993 county player's annual. I would recite it regularly to unsuspecting family members, imparting it with gravity like it was some aspirational life-affirming mantra. Back then cricket had gripped me by my tiny burgeoning balls. That annual was my Bible, and the statistics it contained were my Scriptures. The rows of figures bolstered Giddins' reputation as a bona fide bunny. He couldn't bat. But he could bowl a bit.

In many respects Giddins was a typical English bowler, plying his most effective trade on soggy mornings and on verdant pitches, moving the ball this way and that to the befuddlement of county batsman. From that Northampton afternoon onwards I began to scour the sports pages to divest myself of his latest performance. Other teenage boys preoccupied themselves with studying pictures of boobs, I was more concerned with bowling analyses.

In 1996 Giddins' name leapt up from the block of scorecards onto a article explaining that he had tested positive for cocaine and banned for 19 months. Three years earlier this revelation may have broken my innocent geeky heart, but by this stage I was listening to Oasis and watching Tarantino films and had begun to form the misapprehension that taking drugs was big and cool and clever. The story just added lacquer to the legend. And he wasn't a cheat. That would have been unforgivable. Cocaine did not improve his performance, although potentially it may have compelled him to dash out onto the field and urgently proclaim to his team-mates that he was going to take all the wickets.

Sussex saw things differently. Instead of offering a concerned arm around the shoulder of their wayward scion, they sacked him. And so Giddins set forth on the road to redemption via a now famous shift selling Christmas trees outside a South London pub to fill the coffers. The salvage operation on his career was picked up by Warwickshire, who perversely had just dispensed with their own serial snorter, the mercurial all-rounder Paul Smith. Perhaps it was the like-minded fun-loving proclivities of the captain, Dermot Reeve, but it appeared that the naughty scamp from the South Coast had found a home.

Giddins found some form at Edgbaston during the 1999 season and won an unlikely champion in the new England skipper Nasser Hussain, whose mode of hard terse cricket hardly seemed to complement Giddins' twinkly individualistic persona. By the the final test of a turgid series against New Zealand, England had sunk to the bottom of the test rankings and their bowling squad were crumbling away through injury. The Hussain hunch prevailed and Edward Simon Hunter Giddins was sent for.

I was so moved by my hero's selection I had to call my dad immediately. It was as if my own brother had been selected. I even managed to glean parallels between my own experience of representative sport. I had made my only appearance for the village under-10s football team during a flu epidemic.

Giddins' debut will be remembered perhaps less for his bowling, but for making up the weakest part of one of the least competent batting triumvirates to play the game as he followed Alan Mullally and Phil Tufnell out to the crease. England lost, and it was agreed that a tail so transparently unable to wag should never be assembled again.

Giddins lost out on the winter tour to South Africa, but was received another invite next summer into the fold on a swinging at Lords against the Zimbabwean tourists. The coach, the irrepressibly dour Duncan Fletcher was more reticent about Giddins' claims than Hussain, rejecting him as a wet-wicket bowler, rendered useless in anything but the most helpful conditions. As often, Fletcher was right and Giddins' international career was over after four test matches. But not before a man-of-the match Champagne bottle was presented to him in St Johns Wood.

And so he joined the rostrum of lost English seamers, the likes of Simon Brown, Mike Smith and the first Ryan Sidebottom, who came and went apologetically, a vast stable of 'horses for courses'. Except for a brief revival in the shape of Darren Pattinson, this particular policy has not been pursued since. Another example of Giddins' lasting and inadvertent influence on English selection. I look at England now, with their crack unit of experienced and confident bowlers and their frighteningly effective lower batting order and I think of Ed Giddins and give thanks to him and his crapness as an England cricketer that precipitated such a sea-change.

As for his own career, that was sort of the end of it. He drifted off to Surrey and then Hampshire and then quit through injury in 2003. After which he picked up the second pair of his bans, for an illegal bet placed on his Surrey team to lose a game againstNorthamptonshire. Giddins was not playing in the fixture and maintains that his misdemeanour was the result of nothing more sinister than his own idiocy. But the judge at the hearing meted out a five-year ban. Giddins petulantly threw a nearby table at the official as the punishment was read out. Which is amazing. I didn't know people actually did that.

"Giddins petulantly threw a nearby table at the official as the punishment was read out.  Which is amazing.  I didn't know people actually did that".

The fact that I only recently learnt of this second ban hints that my interest in Giddins' career diminished substantially after his England honours. Many sage commentators remark that it's a shame that he will be remembered for his antics off the field rather than those on it. But nothing will erase the black lettering of his name etched onto to the Lords honours board. As I said, he could bowl a bit.

Back to My Favourite Cricketer Home Page.

Nick Harrison writes at Harris Sportsthoughts.  You can also follow him on Twitter @harrisharrison

lead image: courtesy of the

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