LIFE BEGAN AT THIRTY Profile of England off-spinner EDDIE HEMMINGS by Nottingham journalists John Lawson and Terry Bowles 1983.
This time last year Eddie Hemmings was jogging around the snow-packed streets of Nottingham, following instructions to keep him in good shape. He was on standby in case England suddenly found them in need of an off-spinner in India. But although Hemmings disciplined himself to follow a daily fitness routine, he refused to believe that a call to action would ever materialize.
By adopting that approach he reduced the chances of being disappointed, and experience had taught him the pitfalls of taking things for granted. For two years, many notable cricketing figures had described him as the best off-spinner in the country, and Notts captain Clive Rice publicly criticized the England selectors for not taking him to India. Said Eddie Hemmings: ‘Obviously I wasn’t blind to that and I was disappointed not to go on the tour, but there was no point in getting depressed about things.
I took 90 first-class wickets when we won the Championship in 1981 and it was hard to envisage the possibility of doing better the following season. ‘As far as I was concerned, I had stated my case in the best possible way and if that wasn’t good enough to earn me England recognition, there was nothing more I could do.’ Now, of course, Hemmings is part of the international scene and his call-up against Pakistan last summer was the culmination of a remarkable transformation in his career.
Leamington Spa-born, he joined Warwickshire in 1966 and despite helping them win the Championship, much of the time he remained in the shadow of Lance Gibbs. After 12 years at Edgbaston, he moved across the Midlands to Nottinghamshire — and it’s true to say there were some at Trent Bridge who doubted the wisdom of the signing.
Hemmings’s outspoken manner meant he wasn’t always the most popular of characters at Edgbaston — not that he could ever be accused of being anything less than a thorough professional. But he fitted in well at Trent Bridge and both player and county have prospered as a result of the ‘transfer’.
Eddie Hemmings was 30 when he switched counties in 1979, a vastly experienced cricketer yet still young enough to confirm the beliefs of those who many years earlier had proclaimed him the most promising teenager in the country. In his first season at Trent Bridge, he claimed 62 first-class wickets and improved that total to 77 the following year.
Then came the super haul of 90 wickets as Notts won the Championship for the first time in 52 years — most of them on the Trent Bridge pitch allegedly prepared to suit the seamers. Regular match-winning performances demanded recognition but Hemmings had doubts whether that would ever come his way. ‘I set standards in 1981 that would be hard to follow,’ he said. ‘I was disappointed about not going to India but had to force myself to knuckle down and start again.
Eddie Hemmings realized that I would be starting from scratch again last summer and that every wicket I took would have to be earned.’ Ironically, Hemmings wasn’t in the best of form when the elusive call to represent England finally came in July — selected to play in the Prudential Trophy game against Pakistan at Trent Bridge. ‘Shocked,’ he said. ‘That’s the only way I can describe my reaction when I heard the news.
I can only imagine that anyone would be shocked to know they’ve been picked for their country for the first time but it was especially true in my case. ‘To start with, I never think of myself as a one-day bowler, and compared to the same stage in 1981, I had done very little bowling with not too much success. ‘But life is like that, isn’t it?
When you think you are in with a chance nothing materializes and when you begin to wonder if it has passed you by bingo! ‘What with playing for England and scoring my first Championship century against Yorkshire after 16 years in the game, July was quite a month. ‘It seems that life began again at 30 for me when I moved to Trent Bridge. I know it’s hard to imagine that things can continue to get better but I just hope my luck holds good long enough for me to help England retain the Ashes.’