There wil no doubt be a number of raised eyebrows in cricketing circles with former Zimbabwe and England batsman Graeme Hick unveiled as Cricket Australia’s high performance coach. Hick was dismissed by many a cricket writer and pundits as nothing more than a flat track bully who simply could not cut it at the highest level.
As a boy growing up in what was then Rhodesia Hick was actually more interested in hockey than cricket, and played for the national schools hockey team. When it came to cricket he was more of a bowler than a batsman, and it was only in 1979 he began to make big scores regularly, that year he averaged 185 for the school side.
Hick won a scholarship from the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and headed to England in 1984. He joined Worcestershire’s Second XI where he was impressive with the ball, twice taking five wickets in an innings. He then had a prolific sequence of scores, 195, 0, 170 and 186 which saw him promoted to make his first-team debut against Surrey in the last match of the 1984 County Championship. Worcestershire declared in their first innings, and he did not get in. In the second innings, coming in at number nine he made 82 not out. From that moment on he was being talked about as a future England star.
He had to wait however, to qualify for England under residency requirements. New Zealand also offered him residency. He waited seven years to play for England and as former England coach and now commentator David Lloyd subsequently wrote that he doubted “any cricketer [had] ever come into the international game burdened by such impossible expectations.” Hick’s much awaited Test debut came at Headingley on 6 June 1991, he was given a hero’s welcome by the knowledgable Yorkshire crowd but 51 minutes later he was back in the pavilion having made just six. He failed again in the second innings and then had scores of 0, 43, 0, 19 and 1 before he was dropped prior to the last match of the series.
He then had to suffer the ignominy of being stranded on 98 when captain Mike Atherton declared, the England captain saying he was scoring to slowly and therefore the best interests of the team had to come first. Hick’s average at one point in test cricket was as low as 18.06, which for a top order batsman was woeful. He did finish his career with one of 31.32 in 65 tests, still way below what many would have predicted. He scored six centuries and 18 fifties. Overall in first class cricket he averaged 52.23 and is a member of an exclusive club to have scored over 100 first class hundreds.
He may have disappointed at test level, but that may well be one of the things that makes him a great coach, he knows what it is like to fail, he also knows the weight of expectation better than most. There is no doubt he knew how to score runs, and suddenly Australia is finding that very difficult. We wish him all the best in the role and hope that finally he receives the respect his career and his knowledge warranted.