St David’s Day special: a Welshman in England colours

Robert Croft reflects on a remarkable career representing two great nations.

This article is available in Welsh here:

As a Welsh boy growing up and making your way in cricket, did you always have an eye on playing for England? How did that relationship work? 

Other than Sunday league cricket, most of the TV coverage in those days was only ever international cricket. Growing up in the seventies, there was the odd occasion where Glamorgan would appear on television.  

The majority of my heroes were based around the England team because that’s what you saw the most. Those people become your inspiration to want to play, try your best, and go as far as you could go. So that link with England was always there. 

In some other sports, we see a fierce rivalry between Wales and England but in the England and Wales Cricket Board the two nations play together? 

Yes, that’s true. In cricketing terms I don’t think there’s any real rivalry. From my perspective, England was always part of the path for any cricketer to get into. There wasn’t a national Welsh team competing at that level that could draw your allegiance.  

I don’t know how people feel today, but in those days my heroes were largely English cricketers because unfortunately we never had many Welsh cricketers playing for England. 

What gave you more pride – making your Glamorgan debut or making your England debut? 

Playing international cricket is the highest level you can achieve. But given where I was at the age of 19, representing Glamorgan was such a proud day and it was probably as big a step for me back then as Test cricket was for me as a 26-year-old.  

The jump was huge. It was only when I started getting identified by Glamorgan at the age of 15 or 16 that I started to understand a bit more about the history of Glamorgan cricket. As a youngster, I never really went to watch them play. They maybe played at St Helen’s a few times a year, but it wasn’t regular. 

Luckily for me, though, as I grew up the legends from that era were still around, involved in the club, and able to give me great guidance. I talk in particular of Don Shepherd. I think he finished in 1974. I was four years old then, so I don’t remember him playing. But to call him a friend and a mentor as I went right the way through my career is something I hold so dear. 

What do you remember of two of your stand-out moments, winning the County Championship with Glamorgan in 1997 and making your England Test debut? 

If you talk to a lot of young cricketers these days, you may get a very different answer from them about what’s important in terms of winning one-day fixtures, Championship cricket, ODIs or Test cricket. With the rewards that are in the game, there are far more younger players getting attracted to different formats of the sport.  

But for me growing up, winning the County Championship was always the goal because four-day cricket is the hardest form of the county game. Then there’s Test cricket, too. Because that’s a game that ebbs and flows, and tests you in so many different ways. That’s the pinnacle.  

Did you take a particular pride when other Welsh players, like Tony Lewis and Simon Jones, made an impact for England? 

Oh, absolutely. When one of your own countrymen gets to that level and does so well, it puts them on the map and hopefully puts Welsh cricket on the map too.  

Unfortunately, that cupboard has been bare for quite a while now. We’ve tended to get a couple of players that reach the U19s but then fall away a little bit. It’s really important that somehow we find some way of producing better senior players that have the tools to go all the way. 

That would certainly have a positive effect on the future of cricket in Wales. I can remember seeing my heroes on the international stage. If the same happened now, then youngsters today would then be able to see their heroes playing too, and that would be hugely beneficial to cricket in Wales and also to the England cricket team. 

How important is it for England to play in Cardiff? 

When the opportunity arises, it’s always important for England to play there. But you can double that if England can play there with a Welsh player in the team. It would really raise the interest levels of the Welsh spectators. 

What does St David’s Day mean to you? 

It means a lot. It’s certainly not just another day in the calendar. I played a Test for England on St David’s Day back in the late 90s and there’s a picture of me batting with a daffodil in my pad. So it’s a special day. 

It’s really important to ensure that the younger generations are in touch with our past and know our history. It’s a day to make people proud.