Thursday, 11 April 2013

Banter with Blackie

Ian Blackwell has been one of the characters of cricket over the last sixteen years. A destructive batsman and a decent left arm spinner, his first career wicket was none other than Steve Waugh. With 11,000 first class runs and nearly 400 wickets, Blackie has made his mark on the game, both on and off the pitch. We caught up with the recently retired ex Derbyshire, Somerset, Durham and then Warwickshire man and discussed everything from his planned move into umpiring, the high fashion apparel of South Africans and that famous double hundred he scored. Read on for more...


TMS: Firstly, as a man who made his England debut alongside Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar at Nagpur in 2006, someone who has been a mainstay in the county game over the last decade or so, and one of the biggest hitters in the game, it must be a huge privilege for you to be interviewed by the Middle Stump?

IB: Of course it's a great privilege to get this interview, an honour and a chance for me to remind people that I actually did play cricket. As I am now today's fish and chip paper at least I can say I debuted for England with two proper legends of the game in Monty and 'Chef'. Nobody can take away that, even if I was rubbish during that match!

TMS: What are the plans now that you have announced your retirement from cricket? We hear a rumour you will train to be an umpire?

IB: At the moment I feel like a ship with no sail as currently I am, 'between jobs'. My master plan is to become a first class umpire. I completed my level 1 and 2 for this over the last three years. To start this journey I need to be invited onto the Reserve List by Chris Kelly. I hope to go onto the reserve list next summer. 

Monty and Chef...Ian's fellow debutees in Nagpur

TMS: Is this a case of poacher turned gamekeeper?

IB: I guess a little bit. I'm sure only a handful of people would have guessed I would head into umpiring. It was commonly known I disliked fielding (that's what playing for nine years on flat pitches at Taunton does to the mind!). So there's some irony in the fact as umpire I'll be out in the field all game. 
TMS: Will you miss playing?

IB: There are definitely things from the game I'll miss. Emotions and buzzes you can't recreate in normal everyday life. Things like scoring a hundred at Lord's (or any hundred to be fair), walking out at the MCG to 70,000 people that actively dislike you. The feelings and emotions that wash over you having won the Championship are incredible, a whole seasons work abruptly ending with champagne and a battered body begging for the end of September!  Also being able to entertain people with a skill and ability that people would give their left arm to do.  
TMS: You had a great career at Derbyshire, Somerset, Durham and then helped Warwickshire to the title last year? Where serves the best beer?

IB: I have been fortunate to have played for nearly 25% of the first class counties and I've had varying success at all, and plenty of beers. Although I grew up in Derbyshire where I started my career, my heart is in Somerset. I consider it home and the supporters here are incredible. Thatchers Gold Cider is my choice tipple. Hard to beat after a long day in the field.

Beautiful Taunton with the inviting boundaries!

TMS: You liked a six at Taunton. Did the cider help your hitting?

IB: The short boundaries at Taunton were immensely inviting and it was far too difficult for me to resist. I can't say the cider helped me hit the sixes but it was a welcome refreshment at the end of the day. 

TMS: How long did your famous 247 take? Ten mins?

IB: Haha. It felt like ten minutes. That day was very surreal and very much an out of body experience. I remember being 43* at lunch with the score on 103-7. The next session was ridiculous. We were bowled out for 409 eight overs before tea. We scored 300 in a 30 over session, of which I scored 204 of them. One thing that stays with me in that innings and that was me being on 123* when Nixon McLean came to the crease as number eleven. He was dropped first ball in the slips by Dominic Cork. I then went on to double my own score and add 163 for the 10th wicket of which Nico got 39. I'm not sure of the minutes but it was less than two sessions.  
TMS: Has the game changed since you came into it with more money around?

IB: Certainly with the introduction of twelve month contracts the game is certainly more professional. The demand for training in the winter has gone up. But the biggest change would be the multiple opportunities in T20 to travel and earn good money in various countries.  
TMS: Who was the worst dressed of anyone you ever played with?

IB: Without wanting to name and shame various people, there is a certain nation (now a lot play in the UK under the Kolpak ruling) that dress in the main with trainers, jeans and sports polo tops (generally club issue) which is not a great look if your heading to a restaurant. Fashion has changed a lot over the years and there are plenty of odd looks around.  
TMS: Who could drink a few and who would fall over after a couple?

IB: My good mates Plunkett, Stokes, Mustard and  Claydon were always able to handle themselves. Unfortunately Mr Borthwick had a tendency to have one beer and be all over the place!

Scott Borthwick has had a beer!

TMS: Who was the quickest that you ever faced?

IB: There were definitely two stand outs for me. Shoaib Akhtar and Brett Lee. Both unpleasant to face and in very different ways.  
TMS: Who would throw the worst strops when out for a low score?

IB: Without a shadow of a doubt Justin Langer. I love watching players blow up after they get out, I find it hilarious. Ben Stokes comes a good second. I've got into a fair amount of trouble not being able to control the odd giggle. I blame Peter Trego as we changed next to each other and batted six and seven so we usually got our kit on together. I used to look at him and he would be trying to contain a laugh and I couldn't cope with that. We would be end up falling about.  
TMS: Best sledge received/heard?

IB: I can't recall too many good sledges whilst playing. But you have to love the Flintoff to Tino Best "mind the windows" chat.  
TMS: Who had good banter on the circuit?

IB: There are plenty of nice guys out there but I think the real banter is between team mates. Things you can shout out that only your own team knows about. Some of the real characters have now retired. Two that spring to mind are Michael Burns and Graeme Welch. Hilarious both of them. The modern cricketer now tends to be a clone, all moulded by a set of Level 4 criteria. I just hope the game retains its character with plenty of chat and banter.  
TMS: What was Hoggy like when you took him for 28 off one over which got you noticed by the England selectors? Any words had?

IB: The red mist definitely got the better of Hoggy on that day. It just so happened that there was a short boundary one side (leg, obviously!!!) Hoggy bounced me first ball. I'm a partial to a flap, I split the field luckily and it went for 4. Then Hoggy tried to bump me every ball. Cricket is a bit easier if you know where the bowler is going to bowl. You can set yourself and I got lucky. I didn't even know Duncan Fletcher was there which was probably a good thing. mist

TMS: We hear you are a man with a few stories up his sleeve? Funniest story in the game?

IB: I have numerous stories to share but unfortunately if I did share them I would definitely be incriminating myself. Sorry.  
TMS: In the VB series in Australia we hear a rumour you went 0,0,0 and then 1. Before you got the 1 were you crapping it you’d get christened Audi with four 0’s in a row?

IB: To be honest at the time I hadn't realised, I was managing to do okay with the ball so I was contributing. But any one that can bat wouldn't be happy with those stats. Not a good thing to achieve the Audi or Olympic Rings!!! I can also proudly say that I never "bagged em" in my career. I tried a lot having been on them on what seemed like 100's of occasions!! 
TMS: What were you taught about over exposure to the sun earlier in your career?

IB: It's no secret that I have a purple pip or that I got in the Kevin Dean red face XI. From a very early age I have always used sun block or factor 50!!! I'm that bad I even get burnt when it's cloudy! So get your cream on and re-apply as often as you can. You can't see the damage being caused.  
TMS: What do you think of Factor 50 and the work they do educating younger players?

IB: It's definitely essential. Being exposed all day to harmful UV rays whether the sun is out or not needs to be taken seriously and protected against.  
TMS: Best grub on the circuit? 

IB: Well currently for me it's still Lord's. But a few years back a lot of players will remember a chef at Derby called John. He created the most amazing feasts ranging from Roasts, tacos, Duck Rolls, Chilli, Chicken Kebabs and all the cold things you could wish for. Normally 4/5 choices of main course. He was a legend and everyone hoped they were batting at lunch.

Ben Stokes...a success story

TMS: Best three youngsters coming through in England?

IB: To be honest I haven't really seen too many youngsters from other counties, I'm sure there are plenty that will follow in the footsteps of the likes of Stokes, Borthwick and Buttler who are the latest success stories for me.  
TMS: Finally, Ashes prediction for this summer and then over there?

IB: I think England will be too strong for Australia and if we have a good summer in England the score will be 3-1. Australia pose a different challenge in their own country but again I think England will sneak it 2-1.  
TMS: Ian, you have been a star and we wish you all the best in your new career.

IB: Hope I haven't bored you to death? Thanks for the well wishes. 

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