From hitting boundaries to recording singles! Former England batting star Mark Butcher has regrets over his Test career… but is now thriving as a superb singer-songwriter
- Mark Butcher was meant to be promoting his second solo album, Now Playing
- The result for now is a double A-side digital single he plans to release in June
- It includes vocals from eldest daughter Alita on a song called ‘Start Again’
- Butcher played one of the great Ashes innings during a career with England
- But he insists his career could have been much better, especially in Test cricket
Mark Butcher should have been touring now but it had nothing to do with his life as one of cricket’s most versatile all-round broadcasters.
The man who played one of the great Ashes innings during a career with England he insists ‘could have been much better’ was meant to be pursuing his other life as a singer-songwriter promoting his second solo album, Now Playing.
‘I’ve got a lot of new stuff in the bank to potentially make another album as a follow-up to Now Playing and I was supposed to be out touring,’ says Butcher.
Mark Butcher was meant to be promoting his second solo album, Now Playing, right now
The former England batsman, seen at Trent Bridge in 2002, swapped the bat for a microphone
‘That obviously got cancelled but we had a few tracks laid down anyway so I’ve been remote recording and putting live drums, guitars and vocals on them. I’ve got a home studio and I’ve been building songs that way.’
The result for now is a double A-side digital single Butcher plans to release early next month that not only showcases his considerable musical talent but also the vocals of his eldest daughter Alita on a song called, appropriately in lockdown world, Start Again.
It is music that helps make Butcher, at 47, one of cricket’s more multi-layered characters on top of his prowess behind the microphone both on television and, most recently, as the anchor of talkSPORT’s radio coverage in South Africa.
‘It’s just something I’ve loved since I was a kid,’ says Butcher. ‘I’ve always been interested in singing and got my first guitar in my early teens and taught myself how to play. It’s separate from my life in cricket. I’ve always kept it that way. There’s no correlation between one and the other. Hopefully I can play guitar until the day I die which is not something I could do as a cricketer.’
Clearly music is much more than a hobby for the Surrey stalwart who played 71 Tests and captained England against New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1999 when Nasser Hussain was injured.
‘If I was not able to continue doing what I do for a living, which is very much centred on the world of cricket and broadcasting, music would be the next thing for me,’ he adds. ‘Unfortunately, perhaps stupidly, I don’t have too many other things I could turn my hand to and make a decent living from. It’s what I know.’
There is not really a specific ‘Butcher sound’. ‘It’s difficult to describe your own music because different people will listen and have their own ideas,’ he says.
The result for now is a double A-side digital single Butcher plans to release early next month
‘But the first album was very much soul, R&B and blues-based and was sort of inspired by people like Al Green and Robert Cray, and Eric Clapton has been a hero of mine since I was very young.
‘The second has more of a British sound. It has an element of soul but it’s guitar-based — Small Faces, Paul Weller…’
Perhaps there was something of the musical free spirit in Butcher the cricketer. There was no questioning his talent as a top-order left-handed batsman, but he was also a non-conformist whose penchant for the odd night out did not always sit well with authority.
‘It could have been better, there’s no doubt about that,’ he says of his Test career.
‘Knowing what I knew from the age of about 32 onwards would have made me more productive in the Test arena. That’s why playing international sport is so tough. It’s not just the talent you have but it’s applying it on a regular basis and I wasn’t able to do that. That’s why I had my moments and at other times it was a struggle.
‘I loved every second of it but that’s not to say I wouldn’t want to do it all again and see what could be done. There are no second chances. For sure I’d do it differently. If I did have the chance to do it all again I’d have taken better care of myself and been as professional as I see these boys being now.
‘One thing was true, though — and Nasser knew this about me more than anybody — I couldn’t sleep at all during Tests, which was why quite often I was up late because otherwise I would have just been lying there looking up at the ceiling. So there was a bit of dispensation given for that.’
Whatever regrets Butcher has, he will always have the memory of the day he smashed the great Australian side of 2001 all over Headingley to make 173 not out and win an Ashes Test for England.
‘It was an incredible day but there’s where some of the regret comes from because I was capable of playing like that,’ he says. ‘I did it a lot for Surrey but those days were few as a Test player.
‘I hit thousands of balls in preparation for that summer, not thinking I was going to end up playing Test cricket but just wanting to get myself back to where I was in love with the game again. That led to me being in that kind of form.
‘It came and went during the 45 or so Tests I played from that Ashes onwards. But I averaged 39 I think (after Headingley), having averaged 24 for the first 20-odd Tests I played, so there was a huge improvement after Headingley.’
The innings of Butcher’s life, though, could easily not have happened. He was dropped for that Headingley Test by coach Duncan Fletcher after one night out too many but was handed a reprieve before he even knew about it by captain Hussain.
‘It was the previous Test at Trent Bridge,’ says Butcher. ‘The Friday night I’d already been dismissed twice in the game so I went out and had a few drinks. I had no idea until after the end of the series that Dave Fulton was supposed to be batting at three in that Test if Duncan had had his way.’
Butcher insisted his cricket career could have been much better, especially in the Test arena
That Sliding Doors moment set up the second half of Butcher’s Test career and perhaps his current one as an articulate pundit.
‘Circumstances have dictated I’ve been freelance ever since my retirement in 2009 which has been great because it’s allowed me to do a lot of different things,’ says Butcher. ‘I absolute love doing TV commentary and working with Sky.
‘But because I’m freelance and can do whatever I want, I’ve also hosted studio shows for millions of people in India working for Sony and I’ve been the lead ball-by-ball man for talkSPORT. I’ve been able to add a lot of wonderful experiences to my c.v..
‘I try to be as honest as possible but I don’t take myself or the game too seriously. There’s always a light side to these things. It’s not life or death. Cricket can be great entertainment and I absolutely love watching it. Of course there are times when it doesn’t go well for the players and you tell it like it is. But it’s never a case of it being the end of the world.
‘My aim has always been to be as good as I could be, regardless of the fact I played for England, and I think I’m getting better and better at it.’
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article