There’ll be a bit of Twenty20 next year, but basically this is it. This is as close to a definitive goodbye as he’ll give us.
The very reason why Darren Gough didn’t go out in a blaze of glory is the very reason why he deserved to do so. He could have retired years ago when, through injury and age, he slipped out of the Test team. He could have gone when they eased him out of the one-day side. The problem is, Darren Gough loves cricket.
We remember him being asked what he’d do if he wasn’t selected for one particular series. He said he’d be in the stands cheering England on with a pint in his hand. If some players said that, it’d smack of media-trained crowd-pleasing, but Gough’s not really one to listen to other people. If he says that, you tend to believe him.
You could never, EVER question Darren Gough’s effort. If things weren’t going well on the pitch, it wouldn’t be through lack of trying on Gough’s part. In England’s recent Twenty20 match against New Zealand, Luke Wright twice floored himself with the effort of trying to bowl quickly. That was Darren Gough style fast bowling.
All effort, but not solely effort. He was fantastically skilful and had the nous to know when to do what as well. We still think he should have bowled more reverse-swinging yorkers though – but we think he should have bowled six an over, so maybe we aren’t the best judge. The frequency with which they shattered stumps says otherwise.
When Darren Gough started playing for England, they were basically crap. They lost half their games because they weren’t good enough and they lost the other half because they were defeatist. Darren Gough was extremely good, he was an actual fast bowler and most of all, he really thought he could do anything. His confidence was your hope.
He even thought he could bat. His early days in the England side – before they talked him down from the ledge of constant cross-batted aggression – were a halcyon period where he’d play the most outrageously full-blooded, textbook-defying shots to almost every ball. Our favourite was the back-foot drive-cum-cut which would end with the bat helicoptering around his head, taking multiple revolutions to fully decelerate.
As recently as 2006, Gough batted at three for Essex in some Twenty20 and Pro40 matches. In hundreds and hundreds of one-day innings, he’d only once passed 50. An almost unbearable weight of evidence was nothing to him. He hit 53 not out off 49 balls to win a match.
This is why we love Darren Gough. Even in middle-age, he’ll be straining for pace on some field somewhere in some insignificant match. It’s not sad. It’s what made him great.