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Page last updated at 06:22 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 07:22 UK

Hick bows out quietly

By Ged Scott

Graeme Hick has never been the sort to trumpet his achievements in the middle.

Interview: Graeme Hick talks to Midlands Today's Ian Winter

For a man who broke as many cricketing records as he did in his 25 seasons in the first-class game in England, he has always remained remarkably reluctant to talk about them.

For Hick, his flashing blade was the most eloquent way of doing his talking. And it was entirely in keeping with his approach to the game that he ended his long, illustrious career in such unassuming fashion.

Injury ruled him out of what should have been his grand farewell. And for his many fans outside Worcestershire, there was a sadness he did not take his leave of English cricket in more flamboyant fashion than sitting on the boundary at Chester Road, Kidderminster, nursing the sore elbow that had kept him out of Worcestershire's final Championship fixture of the summer.

But for Hick himself, especially given the emotion that got to him on 2 September, when he first announced his retirement at the venerable cricketing age of 42, it was a blessed relief.

The magnificent reception he got at Kidderminster 12 days later at a Pro40 match when he received a Bradman-style standing ovation all the way to the wicket, to then be greeted by a guard of honour of Middlesex players, has now proved to be an entirely fitting finale.

It was instilled in me to want to win but to show respect and play sport in the right way. Maybe, through no fault of my own, I just never had that little bit of edge you need to succeed at the highest level

Graeme Hick
It also meant that he hit his 136th and last first-class century in what turned out to be his final Championship game at his beloved New Road at the start of August. And, to this most modest and surprisingly shy of men, that's more the sort of understated way he wanted to finally bow out.

"If it had been up to me," he said with an ironic smile, "I'd have announced it at Christmas when everybody would have had other things on their minds and there might have not have been so much fuss.

"Or just said 'Oh by the way I won't be there next year' and then disappeared off on holiday. But I was told I could not do that. And, in the end, that last innings at Kidderminster actually finished things nicely for me.

"It was the first place I played when I first came over here in 1984 and played Birmingham League cricket at Chester Road. And it seemed to put closure on a few things. It certainly made my mind up that I wasn't 100%."

The end for Hick has been talked about for several seasons now. And, given the enjoyment he still clearly gets being out in the middle, quitting now has not been a decision he has taken lightly.

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Archive: Sportsnight profile of Hick in 1991

"I've had my lot and I'm content with that," he said. "It was always going to happen at some stage. And I was conscious of not wanting to outstay my welcome.

"I knew a couple of weeks before I made my announcement that I was definitely going to call it a day and not once since have I thought I'd made the wrong decision. A couple of years ago, I didn't have a very good year but I still felt I'd got a bit more to give.

"I know people were thinking 'Is he going to go now?' but it just didn't feel right. I came back and thought I had a good year last year. And this year, although I've been on and off with injuries, I still feel like I've made some good contributions and enjoyed the year.

"But I know now I've made the right decision, for me and for the club.

"My decision has not been made because I've got a problem with my elbow. I'm still pretty fit. In fact, I've been on the treadmill the last couple of days. I don't want to pitch up in five years' time five stones heavier.

"It's just that I'm 43 next year and a decision had to be made at some stage. The club need to move forward, there's some good young players like Moeen Ali trying to come through and their time has come."

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Archive: Hick's unbeaten 118 v West Indies in the Trent Bridge Test of 1995

Now, while young talents like Moeen, Daryl Mitchell and this summer's leading run scorer Stephen Moore dream of even getting close to some of the prodigious Hick's phenomenal run-scoring landmarks, the man himself has the chance to start reflecting on everything he did.

He freely admits there have been disappointments.

Hearing that he had been relieved of the Worcestershire captaincy via his mobile was not a great moment. Nor was that infamous decision by then England captain Michael Atherton to declare with Hick on 98 not out at Sydney in January 1995.

At a time when his Test career was still struggling to take off to the Bradmanesque heights almost impossibly expected of him, it was the lowest of blows - one even Athers now freely admits he got wrong.

And the feeling that he simply did not do it often enough on the big stage, perhaps best encapsulated by the graceless John Bracewell's description of him as a "flat track bully", is given further credence by his record in big one-day finals.

Quite apart from being on the losing side in the 1992 World Cup final, in seven trips to Lord's with Worcestershire, he only came off twice - the two occasions which proved to be the county's two wins.

But the welter of batting records he has broken since making his Worcestershire debut 24 years ago have more than made up for any let downs.

"If somebody had offered me all that when I first landed here almost 25 years ago I'd have said 'Thanks very much'," admits Hick.

"I just expected to play here for six months then go back and decide what to do.

"But I made a few runs for Kidderminster in the Birmingham League then did all right when I got my first chance in the county team at the end of that first season."

At first it was great fun being part of the glittering Botham era at New Road. Five trophies were garnered between 1987 and 1994, including two Championships.

There followed a lean period afterwards for Hick and Worcestershire, but his main achievement has perhaps been the way he has played the game.

"All the way though, right from my school days, I was told by my parents that sport was to be enjoyed and played in the right spirit.

41,112 first-class runs from 871 innings, 136 centuries, average 52.24
22,059 one-day runs from 651 innings, 40 centuries, average 41.23
3,883 runs in 65 Tests, six centuries, average 31.32
3,846 runs in 120 one-day internationals, five centuries, average 37.33
"It was instilled in me to want to win but to show respect and play sport in the right way. Maybe, through no fault of my own, I just never had that little bit of edge you need to succeed at the highest level.

"True champions have that edge. I know you've got the likes of Federer and Nadal now. You don't hear too many people saying bad things about them and they certainly play the right way.

"But you don't often people saying 'Great champion and a nice bloke too'.

"It has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It has been fine some days, then I bump into someone who says something and that sets me off again. I guess I must have inherited those genes from my mum, which make a little tearful on occasions.

"I've read I'm going to be taking a coaching job at Malvern School but that's not true.

"And I've heard my name mentioned for the Indian Premier League. In fact, I read this week that I'm going to earn US$500,000 this winter. But I've not had any phone call yet.

"All I'm going to do is go on holiday at the end of October when the kids are on half- term."

It might take a bit of time to cut through that defensive guard and get to know the real Hicky. But he too is a genuinely nice bloke. He is also, for now, just a simple family man who is as proud of his two kids as they are of him.

Interviews conducted by Trevor Owens and Dave Bradley of BBC Hereford and Worcester

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see also
Injured Hick misses farewell game
17 Sep 08 |  Worcestershire
Hick to retire at end of season
02 Sep 08 |  Worcestershire
Hick to break appearance record
18 Jun 08 |  Worcestershire
Hick not planning retirement yet
09 Apr 08 |  Worcestershire
Hick secures new county contract
31 Jul 07 |  Worcestershire
Hick reaches run-scoring landmark
17 Jun 07 |  Counties
Hick not ready for swansong year
16 Apr 07 |  Worcestershire
Hick agrees Worcestershire deal
14 Aug 06 |  Worcestershire
Hungry Hick
24 Jun 06 |  Worcestershire
Hick hits 100th ton in Worcs romp
22 Jun 06 |  Counties
Birthday boy Hick refuses to quit
22 May 06 |  Worcestershire
Veteran Hick still eager to play
20 Sep 05 |  Worcestershire
Hick growing old gracefully
29 Apr 05 |  Worcestershire
Worcs smash New Road record
19 May 04 |  Counties
Hick extends contract
21 Dec 02 |  Worcestershire
Hick loses Worcs captaincy
05 Nov 02 |  Worcestershire
Hick destroys Durham bowlers
27 Jun 02 |  Counties
Frustration from afar
17 Feb 02 |  England
Hick's place in history
08 Sep 01 |  Worcestershire
Hick retains Test ambition
20 Apr 01 |  Worcestershire
Hick retained as captain
04 Apr 01 |  Counties
Hick out in the cold
29 Mar 01 |  Cricket
Hick's case of deja vu
15 Mar 01 |  England on Tour

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