Alan Mullally

'My autobiography won't be boring, because I'm not boring'

Alan Mullally tells it like it is about why England were rubbish in his time, and talks about playing the Australians

Interview by Crispin Andrews  |  

Mullally against New Zealand at Lord's in 1999

Mullally against New Zealand at Lord's in 1999 © PA Photos

Why did I leave Australia to play cricket in England, in 1990? Simple. Because I'm English.

I became good mates with Brian Lara because I was the first person to hit him on the head - in an Under-19 Test Match, playing for Australia.

In Australia, Test cricket has always come before first-class cricket, but when I first came over, in England, it was all about county cricket and the England team second.

I didn't take myself seriously with the bat. Of course I was shit. But I loved it. I hooked Wasim Akram for a six once.

The plan was always to play for England. Some politics kept me out of the side for a while.

I made my first-class debut for Western Australia in the 1987-88 Sheffield Shield final. I wasn't even in the state squad, but Bruce Reid and Peter Capes got injured and the back-up bowlers weren't thought to be good enough to play against Queensland. One of the senior players, Wayne Andrews, said, "I know a young bloke who'll walk into the team and do a bloody good job." And that was me.

I played my last three years with a broken rib that wouldn't heal.

"I didn't take myself seriously with the bat. Of course I was shit. But I loved it"

Rodney Marsh thought I should have been in the 1989 Australian Ashes squad. Shane Warne thought I should have had 80 Tests for England.

In my first year I came to Hampshire and played for the second team. They said I couldn't play for the first team because of the politics, they said I wasn't English. Graham Gooch tried to get me to play for Essex, and I said no. So for the next five or six years, all Graham Gooch had to say was, "How's this guy playing county cricket? He's not even English." That's why I wasn't picked for England.

It took a few years and a lot of wickets to prove that I was English and good enough to play for England. There were no Kolpak players back then. These days if you can pick out where England is on the map, you can qualify and get a game for England.

In 1990 I had 27 days straight on the road, up and down the country, playing county cricket.

They invited me down to practice [before the 1987-88 Shield final] and about two seconds after I arrived, I had a camera shoved in my face and I was asked what it was like to be playing in the Shield final. I'd been following the West Indies and didn't even realise there was a Shield game on. I remember bowling to Kim Hughes and Graeme Wood in the nets, so I bowled pretty quick, put a few round their heads a few times, and then Graeme Wood said, "You're playing in the final."

I bought a one-way airline ticket when I left Australia, aged 18.

With his old mucker Darren Gough in the Perth Test of 1998

With his old mucker Darren Gough in the Perth Test of 1998 © Getty Images

I hooked Allan Donald for a six once, and before the next ball, Darren Gough, who was batting with me, says, "He's going to kill you now." Next ball, Donald bounced me and it hit me on the side of the neck.

The only time I ever saw Warne lose 100% focus was when he was bowling round the wicket, against Surrey, with two men on the leg side, trying to bowl the batsmen round their legs. The ECB had this stupid rule back then, where they told umpires to call wide if a spinner bowled one down the leg side. To stop negative bowling. So Warney bowled it there, it missed the batsman's leg by a whisker and then turned so much that the wicketkeeper took it outside the off stump. And the umpire wided him. Ridiculous.

In Australia, when you get picked for your country it's a huge deal and everyone knows about it. When I got picked for England, I found out through a phone call, down in the office at Leicestershire, from Sky Television, saying, "We want to interview you about playing cricket for England on Sunday." "Oh, brilliant. I'm playing, am I? No one's told me."

I'm writing my autobiography. It'll be out next summer. It won't be boring because I'm not boring.

How they ran the show back then was a bit of a joke. Jon Agnew tells a story of how he was picked to play for England. He's turned up in the dressing room. David Gower, the England captain, was his team-mate at Leicestershire. And he said to Aggers: "What are you doing here?" And he said, "You should bloody know, you picked me."

Playing club cricket, I hit a guy called Jason Constable in the head and nearly killed him. He didn't wear a helmet.

"The way England did things was not the best, and that's why we weren't the best"

In my first Test, I guided Nasser Hussain through to his first England hundred. The first ball Javagal Srinath bowled to me, I tried to give it the old Gordon Greenidge - off the back foot on the up through the covers. Played and missed. Hussain came down the wicket. He didn't know what to say. He was close to a hundred. "Just watch the ball and stick around." I said, "Yeah, no problem man." A few balls later I hooked one for four. Hussain made his hundred, and then soon after, he got out, hooking, caught fine leg. We were walking off and I said, "Jesus Christ, Hussain. You've cost me another fifty."

My batting went from bad to incredibly worse over the next few years.

Mark Nicholas once said on commentary that Mullally brings a relaxed and calm aura to the England team.

Steve Waugh tried to give me his mental disintegration. I bowled round the wicket and he blocked it. And he said, "What do you follow-through so far for, Mullally? Anyone would think you're a fast bowler." And I said, "Look, Mr Stephen Waugh, the reason I follow through so far is because I'm a very poor athlete and it takes a long time to put the brakes on." He didn't know what to say then.

The way England did things was not the best, and that's why we weren't the best.

We were crap in the 1999 World Cup. Against Zimbabwe we should have knocked off the 170 we needed to win in 30 overs. Then we'd have been through on run rate, whether we beat India or not. The lads out there were having a net session. In the dressing room, me and Goughie were tearing our hair out, thinking, "Any chance of playing some shots?" Then we lost against India and were out.

When you bowled a bouncer to a batsman and they pulled it in front of square for four rather than jumping out the way, you knew it was time to give up.

We were playing a one-dayer at Lord's, and on the big screen up came a list of the top ten one-day bowlers in the world. I was No. 2 and Goughie was No. 7. He was at mid-on and he said, "How are you in front of me? You're no better than me." And I said, "Well, Goughie, obviously I am." Next ball, I said to him, "Joking aside, there's you at No. 7 in the world and me at No. 2, and that doesn't guarantee we'll get picked next game."

"I'm not interested in your gobshite. If you want to have a full go, I'll meet you round the back after the game" © Getty Images

I may have been technically rubbish with the bat, but I wasn't scared of the ball.

Curtly Ambrose once said that he doesn't try to get the batsmen out. The batsmen need to score, so they get themselves out, so his job was to keep it tight. That's about right for me too. Especially with the right-handers - you'd just put it across them and they'd nick it. So that was my theory in one-day cricket. With a few slower balls and yorkers.

I was a team player, wanted to win games first. Performances and records came second.

In Test cricket I prided myself on dragging it back. Goughie would come on, Dominic Cork would come on, or Chris Lewis. And if you look at the record, they'd be going for five or six runs an over in a Test match. They were very selfish and wanted their own glory. When people say fast bowlers should hunt in pairs, or bowl in partnerships, they never did that, they were too selfish. So whenever I came on, I felt I had to go into one-day mode and try and tidy things up, rather than have three slips, a gully and short leg. Do what I did for Leicestershire.

I signed for Hampshire on the back of a receipt in a pub, after dinner with Rod Bransgrove.

There were so many things that were wrong with the England team when I played. They expected instant results. So they'd pick a team and if they didn't win the match or the series with flying colours, they'd change the side. I don't recall whether I played a Test or one-day match with the same XI twice. Graeme Hick was dropped and recalled something like 11 or 12 times in his Test career. You just can't do that. One of the best batsmen I'd ever seen bat, or bowled against, and he was treated shockingly.

Andy Roberts once said, "Every day's fishing day but you don't always catch fish."

[Glenn] McGrath was getting stuck into me with his mouth once. And I said, "I'm not interested in your gobshite. If you want to have a full go, I'll meet you round the back after the game." He got fined three and a half grand and he bought me a beer afterwards, and he goes, "Al, that beer just cost me three and a half grand." And we laughed about it.

"I had an eye test and my vision came back perfect. I told the doctor, 'It can't be perfect. Have you seen me bat?' And he said, 'Have you ever thought that you're just rubbish at batting?'"

If you bowl three maidens in a row, you'll create wicket-taking chances.

In the Melbourne Test, 1998-99, Justin Langer said to me it was one of the best spells of bowling he'd seen me bowl. We won the game, against one of the best sides there's ever been, and for the Sydney Test, Alec Stewart, the captain, comes over with Gooch, the manager, and says, "You're not playing in this Test match, we're picking Alex Tudor for the extra pace." I was bowling 88mph in the Melbourne Test. He came in at Sydney and bowled 80mph. Go figure.

It wasn't hard to give up playing. A lot of people retire bitter, think that they can do it forever. You can't. I always realised that. There was nothing particularly hard to give up.

I faced Ian Botham in my first Shield game, and before that I thought he was the quickest bowler going. He turned out to be just medium-fast. Not like the guys I faced a few years later - Patrick Patterson, Wasim Akram, Malcolm Marshall and the rest.

Whenever Alec Stewart didn't get any runs, he'd pull out his gloves and start practising his keeping next to Jack Russell.

In my last Test, Brett Lee was bowling seriously quick and Warney from slip said, "At least you've got the guts to get behind it. The rest of them have been shitting themselves."

I had an eye test and my vision came back 20-20 perfect. I couldn't understand it. I told the doctor, "It can't be perfect. Have you seen me bat? I can't see the ball." And the doctor said, "Have you ever thought that you're just rubbish at batting?"

David Lloyd, when he was England coach, said that he'd buy me 30 pints of Guinness if I could score 30 against Pakistan. I got to 24, gave the dressing room the signal to get them in, and then Wasim Akram bowled me with a slower ball. Walking off, I told him that he was an idiot because he could have shared the Guinness with me. Wasim said that if I'd told him about Bumble's promise, he would have bowled half-volleys to get me to 30.

If you look back in 20 years' time and can say that you played cricket with Shane Warne, that's something to be proud of. It would have been the same had Don Bradman played county cricket.

Follow Alan Mullally on Facebook and @alanspidermulla