David Ironmonger speaks to Essex County Cricket Club coach Chris Silverwood about the planned retirement of Graham Napier, and the hole it will leave in the side.
Essex Country Cricket Club will say goodbye at the end of this forthcoming season to Graham Napier – one of its longest-serving players, and arguably one of the most popular figures around the County Ground.
Making his debut back in 1997, Napier has had a long and productive career with the Eagles, playing in 157 first-class, 213 List A and 97 T20 matches. After one of the most devastating innings in short-form history, Napier was called up for England’s squad ahead of the 2009 World T20 World Cup, but he never made an appearance.
Napier has somewhat of a cult following at Essex. He is an extremely fast bowler capable of reaching up to 92mph with various levels of swing, combined with a powerful physique allowing him to smash the bowler out the ground. Whenever he came to the crease, the crowd would wait with baited breath in anticipation of potential fireworks. There was only one way for him: go big or go home.
There is no doubt that injuries may have had a factor in his decision to retire. Napier is a man built like a rugby player, and he’s never afraid to put his team first and risk injury with some fancy fielding, including dives and slides.
Essex coach Chris Silverwood believes Napier is a consummate professional, telling Rising East: “First and foremost Naps is a solid guy and I’m going to miss having him around the place. He’s great because he does everything that a pro should, to be honest; he does all his recovery work after a day’s play, and pre-workouts before a day’s play.
“He leads from the front [in terms of] what a youngster should be doing. For me to give an example to people, you say look at what Naps is doing, look at how he prepares to bowl, and with the bat he’s equally destructive.
“He is one of those cricketers that can turn a game at any given point and they are few and far between so he’ll be missed.”
Colleagues and supporters will miss the energy that Napier can bring to the ground. Any time Graham Napier is announced as the next man to bowl, the crowd cheers louder than for any other player. The hope is that he can push the team to a trophy in his final year in Chelmsford.