Adam Hollioake: The Surrey and England captain who later became a cage-fighter

Adam Hollioake © Getty Images

Adam Hollioake, born on September 5, 1971, was an England One-Day International (ODI) captain, who also led Surrey to many successes during his time at the helm. A big figure in county cricket, he had his moments during his short international career. A quintessential fighter, he has surpassed many odds to emerge victorious. Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Hollioake on the eve of his birthday and looked back at his career.
Some players are driven by strong character and unshakable determination. Despite all the hurdles in their way, their guts and grit take them through to success. Adam Hollioake, the former England captain, was one such player who backed himself to come good in any situation. Be it captaining England early in his international career, or leading Surrey to a County Championship victory after the loss of his brother Ben, or trying his hand at Mixed Marital Arts, there has always been a sense of fight and fearlessness in him.

Born on September 5, 1971, in Australia, destiny was to take Hollioake to England for his cricketing dreams. As a child, he first played the game in his backyard in Australia before moving to Hong Kong, where he took it up more seriously. “My career had a proper start when we moved to England. Since junior cricket levels, I have always been at Surrey. For the first few years, I couldn’t play at The Oval and only got a chance later on,” he said.

Hollioake represented Surrey’s second XI as well and made his debut for them in 1989. Four years later i.e. in 1993, he was given a call-up to the senior side for the County Championship having made his List A debut the previous year. “I was mainly picked as a bowler who could bat,” Hollioake said. However, he was to unleash his batting talent in his very first match. On First-Class debut against Derbyshire, he scored a fighting ton to extend Surrey’s challenge. Coming in at 143 for five, he smashed 123 to take Surrey to 332. Unfortunately, that innings could not win the game. By the next season, he was a regular in the Surrey line-up.

Adam Hollioake: The Surrey and England captain who later became a cage-fighter

Adam Hollioake was picked into the Surrey team as a bowler who could bat © Getty Images

International days

Hollioake came into international reckoning in the year 1996 after establishing himself in the Surrey ranks. “I was performing well with the bat in First-Class cricket and did well as a bowler in the one-day game. That helped me win a call-up to the England side that year,” he said. In the 1995 county season, he scored 1,099 runs in First-Class cricket at an average of 36.63 with one ton and eight fifties. In the one-day season, he had taken 24 wickets in 21 matches at an average of 27.75. That bowling form spilled into his international career as he started off with two four-wicket hauls in ODIs during the series against Pakistan. Making his debut six days short of his 25th birthday, he finished the Pakistan run-chase to deny them a chance of getting close to the total.

The year 1996 was particularly successful. In the First-Class County season, he smashed 1,522 runs at an average of 66.17 with five tons and eight fifties. In 25 one-day games during the season, he took an amazing 56 wickets. That truly made him the all-rounder England were looking for.

The year 1997 proved to be a turning point for Hollioake. Picked for the three-match ODI series before The Ashes, he was the star in a 3-0 triumph. In the first game, England were wobbling at 40 for four while chasing 171. In walked Hollioake to score a well paced 66 not out to counter Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Shane Warne. England sailed through without further damage and he picked up the Man-of-the-Match award, as he had also delivered a spell of two for 22. In the second ODI as well, he remained unbeaten on 53 to ensure England chased 250.

The third ODI would also star a Hollioake. Not Adam, but Ben. The younger Hollioake was touted as a precocious talent and made it into the squad at the age of 19. England were chasing 270 when he was sent in at No 3. Ben Hollioake just flayed the Australian attack with an innings of 63 and won hearts with his display. “Ben was still very young when he came into the England side. He had done very well in domestic cricket and we knew he had talent. I was a bit nervous when he went out to bat, after all he was my little brother. Even after he hit a few good strokes, there were a few nerves. But, later, I settled down,” Adam Hollioake recalls that day at Lord’s as he also went on to win the man of the series award.

In August that year, the Hollioake brothers made their Test debuts together against Australia. During the game, they also bowled in tandem to the Waugh twins. “Getting a Test debut is a fantastic feeling and it was doubly great because I debuted alongside my brother. It didn’t strike us till later, but then we appreciated it,” Adam Hollioake said.

Adam Hollioake: The Surrey and England captain who later became a cage-fighter

Ben (left) and Adam Hollioake made their Test debuts together for England © Getty Images

Thus, Hollioake had grown in stature as a player and he was handed the reins of captaincy of the ODI side in late 1997. To his credit, England went on to win his first tournament in charge — a four nation affair in Sharjah. “I was doing quite well while leading Surrey. I had also captained England A, so that elevated me to the leadership for the ODI side. I thought I wasn’t quite ready as I had played only five ODIs and was still focusing on establishing myself as a player in the England side. However, we won the tournament against India, Pakistan and West Indies in Sharjah. It was great because we did not have our full strength team and yet we won. That remains one of the most cherished moments of my career.”

Although, Hollioake was leading the one-day side, opportunities in Test cricket were limited. There was a feeling that he was labelled a one-day player, “I think I was a better one-day player. However, I could do a lot more in the longer versions as well.”

Hollioake held the reins of captaincy in 1998 and also led England during the first Champions Trophy held in Dhaka, which was known as the Wills International Cup. England were knocked out by South Africa in the quarter-final, but Hollioake battled the heat to score 83 not out. It was an innings that sapped every bit of fluid from his body. As a result, he had five Mars bars, a few naans and a bowl of noodles to recuperate until the physio stopped him. Not only that, but during a press-conference, he famously said, “I haven’t actually done it, but I felt like I’d smoked ten joints.” Some sections of that press took it quite seriously. Nevertheless, he did win a life-time supply of Mars bars.

After touring Australia in 1998-99 and playing the 1999 World Cup, Hollioake was dropped from the side. Alec Stewart led England at the big event. With four Tests and 35 ODIs, Hollioake’s international days were behind him.

Post International days

Hollioake continued to remain a central figure at The Oval and was a captain who took them to many heights. In 1999, he led them to the County Championship title. “Winning the title in 1999 was the proudest moment of my cricketing career. Obviously, it was my dream to win it for Surrey and it happened that year.” Surrey won the title in 2000 as well.

In the early 2000s, Ben Hollioake came back into the England one-day setup and was gradually establishing himself. However, tragedy struck when he was killed in a car crash in March 2002. The elder Hollioake took a break from the game and only returned during the latter half of the season. Yet, he came back strongly and Surrey won another championship. In nine games that season, he scored 738 runs at an average of 67.09 with two tons and five fifties. He also scored his career best 208 that season. Of course, one may feel that this victory may be more dear to him considering the backdrop, but he maintains that the 1999 triumph is closer to his heart.

Adam Hollioake: The Surrey and England captain who later became a cage-fighter

A destructive batsman and strong one-day player, Adam Hollioake went on to lead the England ODI team © Getty Images

“I do get that a lot. But, that wouldn’t bring back my brother. That season, I wasn’t worried at all and there was no fear of failure. I was trying to hit fours and sixes throughout my innings’. The 1999 victory is of course more dear because Ben was there with me to celebrate it.”

That performance also put him back on the England radar as the selectors were considering him for the England one-day side. Was Hollioake still harbouring hopes of a comeback? “Not really and I didn’t expect it to happen. The management didn’t particularly favour me,” he said.

But, being the leader he is, Hollioake continued to show Surrey the way. In 2003, a new format hit cricket, Twenty20, which left the think tanks scratching their heads. Surrey were miles ahead and lifted the first championship in England. Hollioake was at the helm of affairs: “The format was tricky at first and we didn’t know what to expect. However, our strategies worked and we went on to lift the cup.”

Hollioake only played till the 2004 season and then bid goodbye to the game. He spent three years away, until he made a comeback in the T20 format, this time for Essex. “Graham Gooch watched me play and asked me to make a comeback for Essex.” The return only lasted six matches. In 2008, he played a few games for a Kolkata Knight Riders representative side in Queensland and there were talks of an Indian Premier League (IPL) stint. “John Buchanan had asked me to play then. I was going to turn up for Kolkata, but had a few injuries and had to stay away,” Hollioake said.

Currently living in Australia, Hollioake was declared bankrupt in 2012. In the face of this, he remained brave, “I will, however, fight back and those who know me will tell you I will never give up. If I feel any sadness about losing money it is not for me, but for my children whom are the only ones I feel sorry for in all this.”

But Hollioake made the news when he announced that he would get into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). “I always loved fighting and sometimes I feel I was more talented at it than cricket. I have been fighting since I was a young boy and I decided to take it up. Had my hobby been say golf, it would have been much easier wouldn’t it? The training for fighting isn’t more difficult when compared to cricket, but it is different.” He made his debut in May 2012 and drew his first bout.

Thus, one can say that Hollioake has seen everything. His grit is what keeps him going and he does have a few bouts scheduled for later in 2013. As far as cricket is concerned he said, “Currently, I am not too involved in cricket, but I would love to stay in it. Hopefully, one day I can take up coaching.” There is a lot one can learn from him.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)