An interview with Mr Napier – Tom Saunders

Last week I had the pleasure of asking Mr Napier, Director of he Graham Napier Cricket Academy, a few questions on his career and on controversial issues such as sledging and shortening test matches. For those who don’t know who Graham Napier is, he played cricket for over 19 years at first class level for Essex. As an all-rounder, Mr Napier contributed efficiently with both bat and ball. Stellar performances such as his 152 against Sussex in a 2007 Twenty20 broke numerous records including setting the highest individual T20 score in England. Such records made Graham Napier renowned as one of the best in the all formats of domestic cricket – and now he is here at RHS!

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So, Sir, we all know you for your cricketing but were you interested in any other sports when you were younger?

Up until the age of 16 I played football and cricket and when I was 16 I had the choice of football, with Ipswich as an apprenticeship, or with Essex cricket. With my sole love being cricket the decision was made easier, but also easier because I was a goalkeeper at 5 foot 10, and there aren’t many goalkeepers like that!

On to a much broader question, you’ve had many highs in your career but what would you say was one of your best moments, be it through batting or bowling?

Well I always look back to when we won titles as a team, so back in 2008 at the Lords final that’s, for a domestic cricketer, really the highest point you can get. It’s a day at Lords in front of a packed house it’s a fantastic experience – and all the one day titles and trophies we won. There’s about four or five trips in there with England to Hong Kong sixes, which we won a couple of times. Any time you actually achieve silverware or achieve the goals you set out is great.

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On his way to 152, and breaking legend, Brendan McCullum’s record for sixes in a single T20 innings.

Do you think there’s now an  increase demand for more versatile players?

I think the different formats of the game suit different people. The shorter the format the more you have to be an all rounder. For example Ben stokes right now, he’s becoming a batsmen who bowls as well as he bats. In a test match arena you probably want one all-rounder. But you’d probably go with more outright bowlers, however there is now an emphasis for the bowlers to be able to bat for long periods of time. The weight of runs between eight, nine, ten and eleven is huge now towards the outcome of the match.

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Taking wickets, smashing sixes, carving doner meat: Mr Napier was a VERY versatile player.

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On a controversial question, do you think there is a space for sledging in cricket?

It an interesting point. When I’ve played cricket is been more a bit of laugh or a bit of banter between opposition. I’ve been to club cricket and I wouldn’t call it sledging, I’d just call it noise. There is a difference between noise and something intelligent and witty which makes the game better. You just can’t cross this fine line, you must maintain the spirit of the game.

On another controversial question, do you think they should shorten test matches?

I think test cricket is played at a apace for a certain reason. It’s been around for along time and I hope it’s stays around pad for along time. It’s attest of your physical your mental skills and in the long run of the game it’s testing all your skill levels. An the fact it’s played over five days is the test in itself, hence the name test cricket. I know I wouldn’t want to see it shortened, I can see why the TV and everyone else wants to but it’s been around for a long time and I think it should stay that way.

Why did you choose RHS as your next move and not a coaching role or anything else?

Well about a year ago RHS came to speak to me about the existing role and to be honest the first time I walked down onto the school playing fields, saw the views, the new facilities and the plans for the new gym, I was sold straight away. I knew my career was coming to an end; you have to make a decision at some point and I wanted to end my career on a high. So I decided to come here.

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The Headmaster said “We are delighted that Graham has agreed to work with the School building upon the excellent reputation for cricket built up over the past 23 years by Don Topley and his team of coaches. With Graham’s extensive experience the Academy will take provision at the Royal Hospital School to the next stage, widening access to the sport for both girls and boys throughout the region”.

With Mr Napier’s great experience being brought to bear, we know the future of RHS cricket looks bright.

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