Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Cricket Loopy

Neal Foulds was ranked at number 3 in the world in the halcyon days of snooker in the 1980's. A World Championship semi finalist and now a commentator on the game, Foulds spoke with us to discuss his love of cricket. We caught up with the West Londoner recently and discussed getting sledged by an Australian in a snooker match, the current England side and their chances in India as well as his regular trips to Lord's and the Oval. Read on in this interview with one of the household names from the 1980's and what cricket means to him...

Neal Foulds
TMS: Neal, ex World number 3, semi finalist at the World Championships - it must be up there in your sporting career to be interviewed by The Middle Stump?

NF: Haha. Definitely. Anything cricket related I love. I'm more likely to follow cricket than snooker to be honest.

TMS: You've followed the Stump for a while now?

NF: I have. I follow most cricket people on social media as I am hugely interested in the subject. I'm looser on social media about cricket than snooker as I don't work with the players in that sport. I got into trouble a few years ago when I commented on Nick Compton with a couple of people but I like social media and following cricket via that. I have unfollowed a couple of people but you're not one of them.

TMS: How did you get into cricket?

NF: I have always liked it. Snooker is a winter sport so I had a lot of spare time over the summer. My dad loved it and he loved Boycott. I remember that summer of 77 when he made his comeback and he scored a lot of runs and I was hooked. Then when England went to Australia I then would wake up in the middle of the night and listen to Ashes commentary on a little radio through the night. You've got to be a die hard, cricket nut to do that.

TMS: Who were your favourites from that era?

NF: I was a massive Botham fan. I saw him get a hundred at Lord's, maybe 78 or 79. He intrigues me as a human being and what he has achieved with his charity work etc is amazing. I liked Gooch and Gower too. A lot of people only like one or the other but I liked both. I met Botham and Gooch and I was star struck.


TMS: Any other snooker players into their cricket? I can't imagine Alex Higgins sitting down for the day back in the 80's.

NF: Tony Meo loved it. I played a couple of charity games with him and he was a decent player. The other one is Peter Ebdon who bowled a bit of leg spin.

TMS: What did you think of the recent Tests in Bangladesh?

NF: Not very good really. The rotation policy didn't work. It was a strange series as there were no warm up games so we used the second Test to blood players, which devalues Test cricket. Ansari will be a very good player but not sure we played our strongest side in Dhaka. Saying that they were good Tests to watch.

TMS: How do you think we will get on in India?

NF: The omens aren't great are they? The last two series over there they have prepared raging turners, in which case we're in trouble. Cook, Root and Stokes can play slow bowling, with Bairstow improving but we struggle against spin. I'm a huge England fan but the omens are not good. I'm not a fan of spinners opening up with the new ball - it's a bit like a benefit game. You want to see the quicks with the new ball.

TMS: Do you watch live cricket much?

NF: Yeah I go to Lord's regularly. I am a Middlesex member. I also go to the Oval to watch Surrey which is unusual as they say you either like one or the other. I go and watch both. I saw the last day when Middlesex won the Championship and it was one of the best days of cricket ever.

Neal is a Middlesex member

TMS: Ever had too many beers at a day at the cricket?

NF: Haha. Of course. Once at the Oval when I was 17 and got into the Pavilion. I thought it was really cool to get into the Pavilion there when in reality it is easy. It is the polar opposite of Lord's. Barbados in 2015 was another occasion. The combination of the local drinks and a blazing sun was a lethal mixture.

TMS: Favourite current player?

NF: Alastair Cook. Initially I wasn't overly keen on his captaincy but he has got better. He's only got 4 or 5 different shots but he has still got over 10,000 Test runs. I like him personally - he's not on social media and when he isn't playing he is down on the farm. He seems a level headed human being. Long may he continue.

TMS: You commentate on snooker now and you've also done some cricket stuff at Guerilla Cricket. Are there similarities with cricket and snooker?

NF: Yeah I enjoyed it. With cricket radio you have to let the game breathe, just observe and snooker is the same. One of my pet hates is people telling stories over deliveries when the bowler is about to bowl.

TMS: Any sledging in snooker?

NF: No. Actually I did get sledged once. The Australian Eddie Charlton was playing me at the Crucible and the chairs are close together. I fluked a shot and he called me a "Lucky Bastard". He said it with a big smile on his face and everyone thought he was having a laugh but it  put something in my mind. Saying that he was a lovely man and a great character but he definitely sledged me that day.

Charlton...Aussie sledger

TMS: If snooker players were cricketers then Jimmy White would be Gower - a left handed genius adored by the people. Botham would be Higgins - harassed by the tabloids in the eighties and Cliff Thorburn could grind it out like Geoff Boycott. Any others?

NF: Great question. Ronnie O'Sullivan and Kevin Pietersen for me. Both controversial but brilliant yet Ronnie loses to people he shouldn't and KP got out to bowlers that he shouldn't have done. KP would hit a six to get to his hundred and Ronnie has never won a tournament in a boring fashion.

TMS: Any cricketers you know who are into their snooker?

NF: Ali Brown the old Surrey player. I played him in an exhibition game once and he was useful. I played against Norman Cowans too and he was ok. I have been told Graeme Swann likes his snooker as well and is supposedly quite good.

TMS: Favourite Ground?

NF: Lord's. Boring answer I know but I am a big fan of the place. Also Kandy in Sri Lanka which I believe is no longer used. It was my first Test abroad and was a great experience.

TMS: Cricketers and Snooker players are both under pressure at times. How did you cope?

NF: It's difficult. Cricket might be a team sport but there is also individual pressure out there. Everyone has different ways of relaxing and in both sports you see them taking to FIFA on Playstations. You realise then that they are just kids that happen to play professional sport. I don't know how an opening batsman copes but I have just read Graeme Fowler's book, Absolutely Foxed which is excellent. He talks about failure and even the best batsmen scoring a hundred every five or six innings. Snooker is the same, you are not always going to win and if you have that attitude it gets easier. Steve Davis summed it up by saying once, "Play like it means nothing, when really it means everything". Cricket is the same.

TMS: We do a lot of work with the charity Melanoma UK who educate people such as cricketers about the danger of being exposed to the sun too often. Despite snooker being an indoor sport, what do you think of the work that they do?

NF: Hugely important. Anything on the subject is important. Cricket and Golf have similar issues so it is hugely important to educate them on the matter. I give them a lot of credit.

Vince...a cricketing Hoop

TMS: You're a big QPR fan. Ever see the cricketing QPR fans such as Ashley Giles or Alex Tudor down at Loftus Road?

NF: You can throw James Vince in too. He is a big QPR fan I believe. I've never understood why Giles is as I have always associated him with Warwickshire. I have played in a charity game with Tudor and I have seen him down at Loftus Road, although I don't get down there that often these days. You can name all the QPR fans on one hand though.

TMS: Finally best three youngsters coming through in your eyes?

NF: Duckett. I have a lot of time for him. Sam Curran will make it. I think he might be a better bat than a bowler. I saw him get a 96 last year and it was a dazzling innings. I'm going to go Matthew Parkinson, the young leggie at Lancashire. I saw him bowl last year and he was impressive and can I have a fourth? If so, Nick Gubbins at Middlesex who I am a big fan of.

TMS: Neal, you've been an absolute star and it has been a pleasure to talk cricket with a genuine fan of the game. I'll buy you a beer next year at Lord's.

NF: Cheers Dan. Been a pleasure.


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