By David Kuzio: Being asked to write about your favourite cricketer is not as easy as the title suggests, many people will select a fair player or one with the most wickets or runs, well I have plumped for a hard worker who never got the full recognition he so richly deserved.
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Sports writer David Kuzio tells in his words how a cheeky little left hander opened his eyes to the majestic art of batting and still to this day believes he should have been given more of a chance with England. He is talking about Neil Harvey Fairbrother.
Growing up in the North West of England it is difficult not to be grabbed by the sporting world that surrounds the area. Whether it was cricket, rugby league or football there was always a sport team in a short distance that you could lend your support to.
I was brought up on a diet of Wigan rugby league and Manchester United football as a youngster and eventually Lancashire cricket club – it was at the latter that I found a true sporting hero that I still get goosebumps every time I see him.
Neil Fairbrother at the crease in my eyes was a sight to behold, he commanded every area of that crease and never let bowlers settle – From ball one he was up and at them with a frantic style that would probably be criticised in today’s game.
From the moment I saw him stride out at Old Trafford and take his stance as a left hander I was hooked – I never paid that much attention before whether they were left or right handed but for some reason this little man made me sit up an take notice.
For most of Neil’s Lancashire’s career I was a young boy growing up and I could not understand why my hero who hit the ball so clean and true was not getting called up regularly for England.
Fairbrother was bowled for a duck on his Test debut and after that made only nine more appearances and as a kid that was hard to understand – Now many years later I now understand the different forms of the game it made sense that he wasn’t included because he was seen as more of a one-day specialist, but surely he deserved more than just 10 Test appearances.
It was not like he was abysmal at the longer format of the game, he once made a staggering 366 for Lancashire against Surrey at the Oval in 1990 with 311 of that score coming in a single days play – Now if he couldn’t handle those sought of games how did he score that many?
That score obviously means a lot to Fairbrother as it today forms the latter part of his Twitter name – it could be a dig at the critics who said he could only bat in the one-day game or it could an accolade he is extremely proud of. For me it would be a bit of both.
I know I will never convince everyone that Fairbrother should have more Test caps for England, but lets talk about his talent in the one-day game – surely that is undeniable.
His stage was the big games and he always seemed to shine when wearing the Red Rose of Lancashire and in 1998 he made cricket history by becoming the first man to play in 10 domestic cup finals at Lords.
One match stands out in my memory and that was his maiden one-day century against West Indies at Lords where he had to face the likes of Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose and Malcolm Marshall and he showed no fear whatsoever.
Yes, there was an element of luck in some of his shots early one, but once he got into the rhythm he was making three of the greatest bowlers in the world look like Sunday park buffet bowlers. Some of his shots that day were unbelievable.
There are not many cricketers who I have idolised like I have Fairbrother, he epitomises everything that being a Lancashire lad means and his pride in the badge of his county and country were applaudable.
I don’t think there have been many players like Fairbrother since, the closest being Eoin Morgan and he is now seen mainly as a one-day player rather than a Test player. My advice would be to leave him alone and just let him play cricket.
You would think that as the years have rolled by I would have gotten over my slight obsession of Neil Harvey Fairbrother and being in the sports business through my writing I would be comfortable in anyone’s presence – Wrong.
In 2012 I was covering a Challenge Cup rugby league semi-final in Salford, where Fairbrother’s beloved Warrington Wolves were playing the Huddersfield Giants. Well before the game he approached the press box to speak to a colleague and I was just sat there staring saying to myself “Oh my god that’s Neil Harvey Fairbrother, oh my god”
I was 34, surely I should have passed that phase now, in my line of work I have interviewed some of the greatest players to ever play the game and not once have I stared open mouthed at one of them.
David Kuzio writes for Livestreamingsport.com, an award winning sports site which provides live streaming fans with match previews, team news, updates and streaming schedules for a vast array of sports.