Sunday Times profiles Durham alumnus Andrew Strauss: Bowled Over by Durham
The following appeared in the Sunday Times on 21 September 2014
Life lessons at the crease: how Durham set me on the path to sporting success, by former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss
Put simply, in the three years that I spent at Durham University I went from a talented amateur cricketer to a fully-fledged professional. I use those words not in the sense of whether I was being paid to play or not, but rather in my mindset to the game.
On arrival, I was blissfully unaware of what it took to play cricket at the highest level, seeing it merely as a game to be enjoyed as a recreation. Over the course of three years, my cricketing education, under the brilliant tutorship of Graeme Fowler, the former Lancashire and England opening batsman, was every bit as impressive as anything that was taking place in my economics lectures.
For the first time, cricket coaching was not about merely batting, bowling and fielding. We covered psychology, fitness and preparation to a standard that put many county teams of the time to shame. In true university style, though, it was left up to you, individually, to do the hard yards. No one was looking over you, there were few compulsory sessions, and hence possibly the most important trait of all for an aspiring sportsman, self-discipline, was nurtured.
The standard of many of the university fixtures (now augmented by first-class status) meant that our talented group of young players were both tested severely and given a precious insight into the skill required at the highest level. More importantly, it was the quality of the players at Durham, with eight out of the 11 going on to play first-class cricket regularly, that spurred us all on. It is often said that you become a product of your environment, and we all benefited enormously from those around us.
In international cricket, where every innings and match can feel like a life and death situation, I managed to cope largely due to the perspective I gained while studying at Durham. My time there was not just about cricket, as important as it was to me. It was three years of my life when I grew up, met people from all walks of life and began to appreciate my place within the world.
As C L R James once wrote: “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” Durham University broadened my horizons dramatically and, in doing so, provided me with the perfect grounding to become a better player.
Andrew Strauss studied economics (and played a lot of cricket) at Durham University between 1995 and 1998. He won 100 Test caps for England and scored more than 7,000 runs
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