Gatting aims to repeat family fortunes
Joe Gatting is determined to break into the Sussex first team after turning his back on a football career with Brighton & Hove Albion to play cricket.
In cricket circles the name Gatting is synonymous with Mike, the former England captain, who is Joe’s uncle.
His father Steve also played some Second XI cricket for Middlesex but is better known as a footballer; having represented Arsenal, made over 300 appearances for Brighton and played in an FA Cup final.
Of course, Gatting is not the first cricketer to have played professional football – some of the game’s greats, including Denis Compton and Ian Botham, played football, while CB Fry played professional cricket, football, rugby union and broke the long jump world record.
But in the modern era it is unthinkable for someone to play one sport in the winter and another in the summer as Compton did, so when Gatting excelled at both he was left with a difficult decision.
“When I was younger, I had to choose between football and cricket – when I was 17 I think. That was tough for me and I choose football because if you don’t make it you can always go back to cricket,” Gatting told ecb.co.uk.
“I lost interest and motivation for football. I felt I was wasting a bit of my time doing what I was doing. I thought ‘I need a new challenge’ really.
“I stopped enjoying it and I think you’ve got to do what you enjoy. I think you play better when you enjoy what you’re doing.
“The last year of football I just was not enjoying it at all.”
So will it be a help or a hindrance having an uncle who scored 10 Test centuries and racked up over 36,500 runs in first-class cricket and a father who ran out for a Wembley cup final?
Gatting is in no doubt that the family name will prove to be an advantage – not least because of the advice that will be on offer.
"It definitely helps because they’ve done it when they were younger and they can help me – give me some tips,” he continued. "They can see how I’m going and give me information.
"He’s [Mike] done quite well for himself and hopefully one day I can make him proud.”
Gatting should have nothing to fear in trying to emulate some of his uncle’s achievements if the start to his new career is anything to go by.
Having packed in the football after over 50 appearances for the Seagulls, Gatting joined Sussex for the pre-season Pro ARCH tournament in Abu Dhabi and made an instant impression by cracking a century against Surrey.
To prove that was no fluke he followed it up with 152 from just 156 balls on his first-class debut against Cambridge UCCE.
So just what can Gatting achieve this season?
“I just hope to break into the first team and play as much as I can,” he said modestly.
“My best chance is probably to play in the one-day stuff, and hopefully work my way into the four-day squad.
“I’m looking forward to playing Durham because they’ve got the best bowling attack.
“They’ve got some decent bowlers in there; it will be good to test yourself against that.
“It’s strange because in one-day I’ve been opening with Joycey and done quite well. But I really don’t mind – I’ll just do my best and be happy to be involved.”
Gatting is part of a youthful looking Sussex squad who are about to embark on a first season without stalwarts Chris Adams and Mushtaq Ahmed.
Last season’s NatWest Pro40 win added to an impressive recent history which includes three championship titles.
But having lost so much experience over the winter, can Sussex challenge for trophies again this season?
“I think we’re a very young, exciting squad really,” said the 21-year-old.
“But no-one actually knows what will happen. It’s a bit of a mystery.
“If we play well, we train hard... We’re a family club really and there’s no reason why we can’t do really well.”
MW Gatting was a regular name on England scorecards between 1978 and 1995 – if JS Gatting can continue his progress the surname might be in line for a return to international cricket.