Darren Gough: Painting a picture of life on tour with England

EVERYONE thinks that touring around the world as a cricketer is a glamorous lifestyle. At times, you feel very lucky '“ but sometimes it can be very difficult.

Not the ideal room-mate: Former England wicketkeeper turned professional artist Jack Russell.

I had so many great things happen while I was on tour. But I also had some horrible things occur.

On the night before the first Ashes Test in Brisbane in 1994, my eldest son was born. I was playing in the Test the next day and did not see him until he was eight weeks old and that was only because I got injured.

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To become a father was a great moment in my life, but I was not there for the birth of my eldest.

Then, on the night ahead of the first Test of the next Ashes series Down Under in 1998, again in Brisbane, my grandad died. So after playing Brisbane twice, I was dreading playing there again.

After both instances, I carried on to play in those two Tests.

The first was easy to play in as my first child’s birth lifted me, but thinking about it, I really should not have played in the second. I should have gone home and was not in the right mind to play.

The best tour I have ever had for team spirit was Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2001; it was fantastic.

Artist and former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell at West Bretton Cricket Club.

The security in Pakistan brought us together. We had members of the SAS with us and guards outside our rooms – it could be quite off-putting with guys holding Kalashnikovs.

I remember in Sri Lanka when the England physio was a guy called Dean Conway and, in Colombo, he organised a little game on a day off where the police shut the roads down and we got in pairs and rode Tuk-Tuk’s (rickshaws). It was hilarious and stuff like that was vital within a team environment.

I am out in Sri Lanka for England’s one-day current series and in every overseas tour, you get some people who do miss home. Some have kids and it can be difficult at times and it is about keeping everyone together and busy on their days off.

Some chose to play golf, some go sightseeing and some just sit by the pool. You soon work out who likes what. But at least once a week, you need to get the whole squad together to have a team meal and be together.

Because after your cricket commitments, that is it. There are single rooms now and you keep yourself to yourself; watching movies and stuff.

Here in Sri Lanka, it is really hot and there is not much to do in Dambulla and you have to keep yourself busy. The players must also remember they are here for work and to represent their country, which is a fantastic honour.

The support network is better now. In my day, we had nothing really and had to get on with it. Now, there is always someone there if someone needs to talk.

People talk about mental health and, as a cricketer, you are never going to talk to your mate who you play with. They are your team-mates, but also your ‘enemy’ as you could be playing against them in the next summer.

When I played, we used to ‘lock’ things away but now there’s always someone on hand to talk to. It makes a massive difference.

Now, you get your privacy. When I first started touring, you shared a room.

It is not so bad if you are away just for one or two nights, like a footballer. But when you are away for a few months, you like your own privacy and to have your private conversations with your family rather than have someone being in the next bed.

I remember when it all changed in Zimbabwe in 1997. Me and Robert Croft were rooming together and Lord MacLaurin (former ECB chairman) came into our room and it was the smallest room ever – and we were going to be away from our families for three to four months.

They had made a decision to have no families on tour for the tours to Zimbabwe and New Zealand. It was a stupid rule; it was made by ‘Bumble’ (David Lloyd) and Mike Atherton, who were both single at the time.

We had all our suitcases and cricket stuff together and Lord MacLaurin said: ‘I never knew you stayed in conditions like this.’ He said it would never happen again and, fair play to him, from that moment on, we had single rooms. He kept his promise.

I remember the days when I used to room with Jack Russell too. He always used to have the bed next to the window and put a washing line across the middle of the room and you were not allowed to pass it.

It was because he used to sit there late at night painting – in his string vest and pants. He put the washing line up as you were not allowed to go near his paintings, which were quite expensive as he was a good artist. He was the oddest person I ever roomed with.

While you were trying to sleep, he was painting. In the morning, he would have three alarm calls and three separate bits of room service for three cups of tea before he would even move!

Then he would have his boiled eggs cooked for exactly two minutes and his two Weetabix every morning..

I also roomed with Devon Malcolm in Australia in 1994 when we had the ‘Honeymoon Suite’ once in a boutique hotel. The beds were basically together, with just a gap in middle.

I remember once when he was having a nightmare and woke up in the middle of the night and punched the light and you can imagine the fright on my face! I will never forget that.

In terms of touring, South Africa was great as you could go on safaris and Galle in Sri Lanka was also a lovely place as was Australia and New Zealand, where the boys tended to enjoy the wineries on the days off. The hardest tours, due to the safety aspect, are probably India and Pakistan.

You do find on those tours that team spirit tends to be better as there are no distractions and you are around each other more. You are in the hotel with a team room with darts, videos, table tennis and Playstations etcetera.

There are lots more distractions Down Under with good restaurants and bars and you don’t tend to be around the team as much.