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Olympics2000

Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
White built for speed
The England players salute the contribution of Craig White
The England players salute the contribution of Craig White
BBC Sport Online's Thrasy Petropoulos speaks to Craig White on his status as one of England's front-line bowlers.

Four months ago, Craig White's world could not have been darker as he awoke to find himself in a Scarborough gutter, having suffered a mystery blackout that no amount of prodding by doctors, and even a brain scan, could explain.

"I honestly thought I wasn't going to play cricket again, let alone play for England again," he said.

But at the Oval last Saturday the only physical reminder of what White euphemistically refers to as his "little mishap" was a slight scar on his chin.

Not only was he playing for England again, but he had just delivered the spell that broke the back of the West Indies - 11.5-1-32-5 - which included the ball of the summer, a fast yorker which knocked back Brian Lara's leg stump first ball.

Golden duck

It was the first golden duck of Lara's Test career.


I know that all my team-mates rate me and it just nice to know that when they chuck me the ball they are expecting me to get wickets
  Craig White

When Ray Illingworth brought him in 1994, Mike Atherton, the captain, made no attempt to hide his reluctance to bowl him.

If the Scarborough incident had happened last year, White would have made no mention of never playing for England again for it seemed that his international career had come to an end after the ill-starred tour to Zimbabwe.

But like Zimbabwe, where he was a replacement for Ronnie Irani, White was called up for last winter's one-day tour to South Africa and Zimbabwe where he immediately impressed coach Duncan Fletcher with his extra pace and ability to reverse swing the ball, particularly away from left-handers.

Showing the same shrewdness with which he spotted Marcus Trescothick, Fletcher called White into his Johannesburg office and said that he saw in him not just a fine one-day player, but a Test cricketer too.

Ten-foot tall

"I walked out of that room feeling ten feet tall," said White.

He was not used to people paying him complements as a cricketer.

Now, in successive Test matches against the West Indies, White has taken back-to-back five-wicket hauls. More to the point, England won both matches comfortably.


Back at Headingley I hadn't really taken many Test wickets so I was a bit surprised when I took wickets
  Craig White

So why the difference?

"I just feel very comfortable in the team situation at the minute," said White.

"I know that all my team-mates rate me and it just nice to know that when they chuck me the ball they are expecting me to get wickets."

It is hardly surprising that White's confidence took a battering six years ago, and he was shunned by some of his colleagues in Zimbabwe who preferred the more extrovert Irani for company.

Self-esteem

So much was his self-esteem knocked that he has been criticised for looking surprised whenever he took wickets.

"Well, back at Headingley I hadn't really taken many Test wickets so I was a bit surprised when I took wickets," he explained.


I knew I could bowl as fast as anyone in the world. Now other people realise it. On my day I bowl maybe 1mph faster than Goughie
  Craig White

"I am always surprised when I take wickets."

What White's reincarnation as a Test-match bowler has confirmed is his knack of surprising batsmen with extra pace, despite coming off a short run-up.

"That Freeserve speed gun speaks for itself, doesn't it," he said.

"It keeps popping up at 88/90mph every time and it opens a lot of people's eyes. Now people realise that I am a fast bowler, not just someone who puts it there.

Realise

"I knew I could bowl as fast as anyone in the world. Now other people realise it. On my day I bowl maybe 1mph faster than Goughie."

On that Saturday, White's fastest was clocked at 88mph, in fact 0.7mph slower than Gough, but faster than Caddick, Cork, McLean, Ambrose and Walsh.

"Every time I bowl he (Gough) always looks at the speed gun and every time he bowls I look at the speed gun," said White. "There is a little bit of rivalry there.

Craig White in action
Craig White in action
"I still haven't felt as if I have bowled fast yet. I have just tried to bowl within myself and put it in the right areas.

I haven't just come in and tried to bowl fast. When I get a nice flat, fast wicket that is where I can clock up a little bit quicker."

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of White's story is that the Yorkshire-born but Aussie-bred allrounder, started life as a professional cricketer as an off-spinner.

"I only started bowling fast when I was about 22, 23, so it has taken me a number of years for the body to get used it," he said.

Seamers

"I used to be an offie. I kept bowling in the nets in Yorkshire and every now and then I would bowl a few seamers and kept getting people out in the nets.

"People were saying: 'You've got a naturally quick arm and you are surprising people for pace.'

"Every now and then, Martyn Moxon then would throw me the ball - two or three overs in the odd game - and I developed from that."

It is not just batsmen that White is surprising these days.

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See also:

18 Aug 00 |  Cricket
The Great White Hope?
02 Sep 00 |  Cricket
White thrilled at golden wicket
05 Sep 00 |  England v West Indies
Fletcher bowled over by success
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