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Matthew Hayden was my hero, says former Manchester United footballer Phil Neville

Phil Neville © Getty Images
Phil Neville was the guest during the lunch session at the BBC Test Match Special © Getty Images

By Sudatta Mukherjee

Aug 8, 2014

Former Manchester United footballer Phil Neville, who has been part of the club for 10 years, was the guest during the lunch session at the BBC Test Match Special, on Day Two of the fourth Test between India and England at Old Trafford.

Neville is the youngest cricketer to play in the Lancashire’s second XI, and has also captained England Under-15. During his conversation with Jonathan Agnew, Neville revealed that he played against Middlesex, where current ICC umpire Ian Gould was the opposition umpire.

Speaking about Andrew Flintoff, Neville said, “He is no different than what he is now. I was more of cultured type, Geoff Boycott or Alastair Cook type. Keeping the ball low. He used to stand at the corner, bored watching me play correct cricket. He used to go then and score a quick 50 off 30 and be so proud. He used to say I love entertaining the crowd, that’s my job and he was a great all-rounder at that time.”

“His dad used to demand Andrew to hit fours and sixes. He had that character. Whatever situation it may be, he used to come in and smash the ball. He was probably more of a bowler than a batter at that time. He was quick and he used to swing the ball both ways. He was massively talented and massively competitive.”

He also praised Paul Collingwood, Marcus Trescothick. He called Vikram Solanki as a stylish cricketer. Speaking about his Under-15 days, he said, “It was amazing. We played a Test match. We played a Test series against Barbados and we were away from home for four weeks. It was the best four weeks of my life. The social side of it was amazing. I played the first and third Test. I had to miss the second as I had to go for football trials.”

Neville shares the story of when he was asked to play for a club which was facing the fastest West Indian bowlers, and that he remembered facing Ottis Gibson. The Manchester United footballer was 11-year-old then. “Everyone was scared. I remember Gary [Neville] diving and saying am not going to play. The scores were 16 for six and I was padded away. The captain said you just have to go and protect yourself with every bit of arm guard you have got. I went in there and I never forgot Ottis Gibson looking at me and smiling. He came in and he could not get me out for two or three overs. He kept extending his run-ups and bowled almost eight overs. It was  vital part of toughening process.”

Matthew Hayden (left) and Phil Neville opened the batting for . Photo courtesy: Bury times
Phil Neville (right) and Matthew Hayden opened the batting in Greenmount. Photo courtesy: Bury Times

Neville said he gave up cricket because even though he loved cricket, his dedication for football more. He also spoke about his brother Gary Neville, saying, “He was more Freddy Flintoff and Ian Botham. I was more like David Gower. My hero was actually Matthew Hayden. I opened the batting with him in Greenmount. He was just sensational. Mark Taylor also taught me about cricket. Hayden was fearless, he just went out there and smashed everything.”

“There are certain periods when I sit and watch the series in Australia and feel like what could have happened if I had played cricket. It is a dream of mine and my brothers to go and watch the Boxing Day Test in Australia. Because we were brought up in a cricket envrionment, we almost fell in love with the Australian mentality.” Neville also praised Varun Aaron’s bowling.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)

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