(Paul Nixon reverse sweeping one of the best spinners of all time Muralitharan.)
Paul Nixon was born on the 21st October 1970 in the city of Carlisle in the north west of England but he grew up in a small village nearby called Langwathby. Like many other sporting stars, Paul was very good at a range of sports. In fact, Paul was so good that he captained his county football team in addition to representing teams in rugby and cricket at under 15 level. Like all young sportsmen Paul had to choose one sport to persevere with and he has never looked back since choosing cricket. However, like many sports stars, Paul never had it easy in the beginning. Unfortunately not every cricketer gets offered professional deals straight away. In 1987 his trials at Lancashire and Warwickshire were unsuccessful, that is, until the MCC Young Cricketers gave Paul the opportunity to shine and it wasn’t too long before he found himself spending some time with the Middlesex 2nd team. That wasn’t where Paul’s career would begin though. As fate would have it, Leicestershire needed a wicket keeper and Paul was the ideal man for the job. So, the contract was signed and Paul was living the dream of a professional cricketer.
With a brief two year stint at Kent, Paul spent the rest of his career with Leicestershire and won two championship titles in two years in 1996 and 1998. It was at Kent, however, where the nickname “badger” was creatively assigned to him. It was based upon his personality of course;
“Badger came from Kent CCC, Rob Key called me mad as a Badger plus I was nocturnal I enjoyed a night out!”
(Paul Nixon in his later years.)
Rob Key was probably right about Paul, he is as mad as a badger, not that I have ever met a badger, but he is certainly a character behind the stumps. Wicket keepers usually are quite lively and full of banter which is ideal when the opportunity to get underneath the opposition’s batsmen’s skin presents itself. Adam Gilchrist and the great Australia team with Langer, Ponting, Hayden, McGrath and Shane Warne were always very vocal towards opposition batsmen and I remember watching Paul being a very lively character too.
“I’ve been doing it for 19 years and no one ever noticed before! It’s not sledging mind. It’s banter – like playing golf with a mate. I’m just trying to get ’em away from their concentration really.”
One of Paul’s more memorable “sledges” involved former England captain and current Sky Sports cricket analyst Nasser Hussain;
“I once told Nasser that he was the most hated Cricketer in England but that was the truth not a sledge ; – )”
You could just feel the love for Nasser coming through your computer screen right now can’t you?
Paul was no different to any other cricketer. He looked up to and admired players he grew up watching at various cricket grounds or on the television. Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Ian Botham and David Gower were all batsmen Paul would look up to and watch regularly. He knew that he could learn a lot about batting from them but ultimately knew that he would have to practice what he had learned and bring his own style out onto the cricket pitch. Bob Taylor was another name Paul remembers looking up to as a young lad because of Taylor’s wicket keeping ability and technique. Paul would spend a lot of time watching Bob Taylor’s technique and then working on his own during training.
For some cricketers and their International cricket career, their inclusion can ultimately be down to luck. Paul was unlucky in that England had excellent wicket keepers in Jack Russell and Alec Stewart for prolonged periods of time. This meant that Paul was often overlooked for selection, but he kept working hard at county level and eventually got his reward. England eventually gave Paul his opportunity to shine on the world stage when they selected him for the Triangular Series involving Australia and New Zealand in 2007. He also represented England in the very same year at the World Cup. For England, the World Cup was a disaster and they underachieved, but for Paul, from a personal point of view, he had done exceptionally well. Lively behind the stumps, his keeping was effective and when given a bat to use in the middle, he averaged 38.60 which was better than the batting master himself, Brian Lara;
“It was magical playing for England. You feel 10 feet tall and your passion and hunger to go and win for the guys takes over.”
(Paul Nixon talking with the BBC about match fixing in cricket.)
Unfortunately his time in the side was coming to an end already. Despite some impressive performances with the bat and the gloves, the England selectors wanted to go with a young and upcoming wicket keeper batsman called Matt Prior. Matt Prior, to this very day, remains England’s number one test batsman.
However, the end of Paul’s rather short International career with England allowed him to concentrate on finishing off his career with Leicestershire in style and it gave him plenty of time to enjoy a new form of cricket, Twenty Twenty. Twenty Twenty cricket was a relatively new form of the game that was introduced to help improve cricket’s image and provide a more accessible and shorter platform of the game to those who worked long hours and had families to support. Since the inception of the Twenty Twenty competition Paul received a winner’s medal in 2004,2006 and 2011 but he also suffered from the disappointment of semi final defeats in 2003 and 2005. Soon after the Twenty Twenty explosion, the Indian Cricket League was formed but then collapsed after two years as the Indian Premier League (IPL) provided too much competition and financial backing in comparison to it. Paul would earn more money in five weeks of Indian Cricket League (ICL) cricket than he would playing an entire year of county cricket. Twenty Twenty was a form of the game Paul loved playing because it was something new and would provide a more testing environment for professional cricketers.
Many professional sports men and women often worry about what they will do with all their free time once they retire. For Paul, there was never any worry. Ever since he retired in 2011 Paul has been heavily involved with several different projects. To name a few Paul is involved with a large Property Development in the Bahamas (www.portstgeorge.com), a Sports Coaching Holiday Company (www.superskillstravel.com), working for Leicestershire CCC, the Professional Cricketers Association and is currently building a cricket coaching app for smart phones. He also dabbles in some Twenty Twenty cricket throughout the year as well as attending some fabulous dinners and posting delicious looking food on Twitter. Those of us who follow him on Twitter are often shown pictures of the fabulous food Paul gets to enjoy at all of the functions he attends.
(Paul Nixon’s book is an excellent read and something you should all consider buying.)
If you’d like to connect with Paul Nixon you can do so via his Twitter page:
Should you wish to purchase Paul Nixon’s book you can do so via Amazon.
(Copyright belongs to The Raging Potato and Paul Nixon. Any pictures and additional information are used with Paul Nixon’s permission.)