Who did the Sky Sports Cricket pundits idolise growing up? Every Monday, we will be asking one of our experts for their cricketing hero and this week Dominic Cork explains why he picked Sir Ian Botham…
I saw Sir Ian Botham before 1981 as I went on a school trip to watch Shropshire versus Somerset in a one-day competition, where Beefy was playing alongside Viv Richards and Joel Garner.
I was then getting on for 10 years old when he played that magnificent Headingley innings and still understanding what sport was all about, but when I saw it, I just wanted to be Ian Botham.
As I was on holiday with my family, I watched it on a small portable TV, not the 60-inch ones we have nowadays!
I was just struck by Beefy’s confidence. The way he strolled out, the way he entered an arena, the way he took the fight to the opposition. He had so much belief in his own ability, so much confidence.
He never saw a dire situation, he just wanted to go and turn a match on its head, and he did on that occasion in Leeds, before it was brilliantly finished off by Bob Willis with the ball.
Beefy really inspired me to want to go on and play cricket and for England.
Throughout that 1981 series he was magnificent but while it’s nice to pick certain games and performances, throughout his career he just produced.
What people sometimes forget about Botham was that he bowled quick, he was really sharp. He also swung the ball both ways and had the ability to get big wickets when he bowled, on flat wickets, too.
When you see people taking five-wicket hauls in India now, they forget that Ian Botham did that all those years ago, bowling with enormous strength, enormous energy, enormous skill.
Whenever I played against him, I wanted to get him out!
I remember a game playing for Derbyshire against Worcestershire when I was on a hat-trick – I’d got Tim Curtis and Graeme Hick out so Ian came in. I wanted to show him what I was all about.
Instead of bowling full, I bowled a bouncer. I remember him saying to me after the game: ‘Don’t worry about who the person is, just remember what you do well and aim for the stumps.’
My ODI debut, against Pakistan in 1992, turned out to be his last game. I didn’t realise I was going to make my debut, I only got picked because Chris Lewis had toothache!
When I was in the changing room with him, he was amazing, a real character.
I remember when we had a team meeting the day before the game and he got bored, feeling it had gone on too long, so he took the pen off Micky Stewart and said: ‘I’ll get him out, him out, him out. Phil DeFreitas will get a couple of wickets. Job done!’ Next day, we won the game.
He also made that second slip position his own. He would always want to be in front of the wicketkeeper. He was an unorthodox slip in that his hands were on his knees quite a lot but his reactions were superb.
He always wanted the ball to come to him – he wasn’t frightened to drop the ball every now and again, although that rarely happened. He always wanted to be in the game.
I was similar in that respect. When people thought of me, I wanted them to remember that whenever I was thrown the ball, whatever the temperature, whatever the surface, and with the bat, too, that I could make a difference. And if that meant getting under people’s noses, so be it.
That came from watching someone like Beefy, who believed he was the best all the time. Every time he was written off, every time things were written about him, he seemed to have an answer.
I struggled after getting seven wickets on my Test debut against West Indies, with the press building me up as the next Ian Botham. I went to play a game for Derbyshire at March Town Cricket Club in Cambridgeshire the next day and I had to leave the field!
So, for the media attention Beefy got – the circus he had to deal with, taking over the captaincy – and to still be able to produce what he did on the pitch shows the mental strength he had.
We also mustn’t forget what he has done for charity off the pitch and how he looks after people. He is a really exuberant person but a really caring person as well.
I remember he invited me up to his house when I was having a tough time and couldn’t play. I didn’t go as I didn’t feel it was the right time for me, although perhaps in hindsight I should have done.
In terms of other heroes, I would also have to say my late father. He played a bit of semi-professional football and a bit of cricket and was a real in-your face character. He always told me to go out there and give it my all.
On the field, other than Beefy, there was Viv, and I also loved the all-rounders like Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan. I wanted to be a genuine all-rounder, too, rather than the bowler who batted a bit, like I actually was.
Domestically, I can’t go any further than my old Derbyshire captain Kim Barnett.
He looked after me so well as I went from young YTS who travelled every day on the train from Stoke being paid £27.50 a week to going into professional cricket.
He kept me grounded and made me become a stronger person physically and mentally, so that I was the finished article when I hit first-class cricket, had the longevity to play until I was 40, and went on to play international cricket for England.
Kim, and my coaches Phil Russell and Alan Hill, gave me the platform to have a successful career. I have fond memories of them.
And, of course, watching Ian Botham.