Mike Atherton: The Lucky F.E.C.er

February 20, 2009

I’m a man prone to jealousy, not in a nasty way I hasten to add. It’s just that some peoples lives fall in such a way to make my own seem rather dull. I have my health, I have a roof and I have a family that I love therefore I really can’t complain. However Michael Atherton, proffesional cricketer, ex England Captain, Sky Sports commentator and Times cricket correspondant is one of those men that makes a man like me feel wholly inadequate. Yes Mr Atherton I am quite jealous of you.

A brief precis of Athertons life includes a solid family background, Grammar School, Cambridge University, Lancashire CC, England, Sky Sports and The Times.  A more expanded and beautifully written autobiography (by Atherton NOT a ghost writer), fills in the gaps better than I can. I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

As a student he was exceptional, as a cricketer from an early age he was obviously something special. By the time he reached Cambridge the nickname “FEC” (Future England Captain) had taken hold and the inevitable happened in 1993. It was his time as England Captain that Atherton suddenly found life hard there were no great England players, just a stream of uninterested, average club cricketers and older players counting down their days. The exception being Alec Stewart who probably resented being overlooked for the captaincy at the time. Australia were at the beginning of the exceptional period in their history when the Ashes were never to be won by England until 2006, by which time Athertons back had ensured he took early retirement from the game he loved. It is a reflection of Athertons England career that his finest innings was 185 against Alan Donald and Co. in 1998 against South Africa to save a game.

For me two questions hang over Athertons career:

1/ How good would he have been as an opening bat in a strong England team? Too many times he was batting after 2 days in the field trying to control Devon Malcolm and Phil Tuffnell. Then wickets of lesser players continually fell around him.

2/ What would he have achieved as captain under Duncan Fletcher and with the bowling attack of Harmison, Flintoff, Hoggard and Jones? His time as Captain was blighted by a bowling attack that changed every test and never gave hime the control so essential in test cricket.

I only mention the “dirt in the pocket” incident because it was probably the low point. It was really nothing and no different to watching a bowler rub his hands in the dust of his run up and then apply it to the ball. Atherton just put dirt in his pocket, it was a load of nonsense and blown completely out of proportion.

So in essence Athertons career has seen some lows but in context of a man doing what he loved playing more than 100 test matches I’m sure he has coped. He is now a commentator  tailor made to replace Richie Benaud and a genuine journalist worthy of his place on The Times. His report on the Allen Stanford affair is exceptional and well worth a read.

I have enjoyed every aspect of his career so far and look forward to listening to him and reading his thoughts for as long as I am able. Cricket without Atherton now seems unthinkable. Maybe his Lancastrian roots, my father was from Bury, allows me to see a kindred spirit. He (along with Bumble) have convinced my wife that cricket is a game worth watching. So yes he has a dream job, has played for and captained England and I hate him for it out of pure green eyed jealousy he has had the life I was supposed to have! The dicotomy is that he is the type of man I would like my sons to aspire to be.


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