Compton is hoping for long innings with England… just like his grandfather
21:07 GMT, 28 April 2012
If Nick Compton required an illustration of the way his grandfather could light up an empty room, it hit him almost the moment he walked through the Grace Gates at Lord's.
Nick was early in his professional career with Middlesex, the county for whom England legend Denis Compton entertained, enthralled and occasionally turned up on time, when he was not playing football for Arsenal or carousing the night away in black tie and Brylcreem.
Young Lion: Nick Compton hoping to emulate his grandfather
'It was amazing,' said Compton, then a young South African-born Harrow schoolboy fresh out of Durham University.
'This 80-year-old lady came over to me, started taking about Denis and she just lit up. She was 30 again.
'And it suddenly hit home. Such affection, people I'd never met eager and excited to talk to me, some not even caring whether I played cricket or not. That night, I went back to my room and lay on my bed staring at the ceiling and thought what a man he must have been.'
Like grandfather… like grandson
DENIS CHARLES SCOTT COMPTON
Born May 23, 1918, Hendon, Middx
Died April 23, 1997
England career 78 Tests, 5,807 at
50.06, 17 hundreds, 28 fifties
The original Brylcreem Boy, he
scored a record 18 tons in 1947
and hit the run that won back the
Ashes in 1953. Won an FA Cup
winners’ medal for Arsenal in 1950.
NICHOLAS RICHARD DENIS COMPTON
Born June 26, 1983, Durban, South Africa
First-class career 86 matches, 5,445
runs, at 41.56, 14 hundreds, 21 fifties
Born and raised in South Africa, he
played for Natal in tennis, football and
hockey at junior level. Moved to
Somerset for the 2010 season.
Now, more than 50 years after Denis finished his career with England, Nick is pushing hard to start his own international journey.
This season, he could be the first man to 1,000 runs before the end of May since Graeme Hick in 1988 and he will get his chance to impress the selectors for the England Lions against West Indies next week.
Just how much Denis meant to the British sporting and non-sporting public alike is hard to over-estimate.
It was not just the 17 Test centuries, the average of 50.06, the unique ability to create shots out of thin air or the speedy wing-play that helped take Arsenal to the League title in 1948 and the FA Cup final in 1950.
For those experiencing post-war austerity, 'Compo' was the cavalier antidote to ration books, egg powder and petrol vouchers; a splash of vibrant colour in a relentlessly grey world, whose exploits with bat and football were the stuff of Pathe newsreel dreams.
Fortunately for Nick, a generation that might have been tempted to compare the two as cricketers and men has come and gone.
While Nick is keen to maintain the family's sporting tradition – uncle Leslie also played football for Arsenal and father Richard represented Natal at cricket – he is also entirely comfortable with it.
'Andy Caddick tried to sledge me once, when I was playing for Middlesex against Somerset,' he said.
'It was years after Denis had died, in 1997. I'd played and missed a couple and he said: “******* 'ell, Compton, your grandad's still better than you now”. I just said: “Yeah, mate, and so is yours”.
The original Brylcreem Boy: Denis Compton sweeps to leg, watched by Surrey wicketkeeper Arthur McIntyre
'I've nothing but fond memories of Denis, of him taking me to Lord's when I was a kid. People do ask me if there was a flip side, whether I felt under extra pressure because of who my grandad was. But I'm hugely proud of that legacy. When I think back to my formative years and wonder to what extent subconsciously he had an impact on me, I just don't know.
'I do know I was a viciously ambitious sportsman from a very young age. I can't say my grandfather had anything to do with that because I was in South Africa and he was in England. But if Denis has had a direct influence, it has probably been as an example. I love the idea of achieving some of what he did and having a taste of it. That's where the motivation has been.'
And, being of an intensely analytic bent, Compton can see a way how. In fact, he has been working on it for more than five years.
'Over the past few years, when I have tried to see a way I can get into the England side, I think my best chance is as someone who can play long innings,' he said.
'I look at county cricket and there is a lot of attention on glamour, smashing the ball to all parts, maybe as a result of Twenty 20 cricket and there are some very talented players doing that.
'But there aren't millions of players doing what Strauss and Cook and Trott do, see off the new ball, bat for long periods then cash in. That is the job they wanted from me at Somerset, to be the man around whom the strokemakers bat, to grit out the tough moments, come out the other end and cash in. It's taken some work and time.
'Don't get me wrong. I practise every day to play as fluently as I can because that ultimately is what gives you the most enjoyment. Grinding out runs isn't always that much fun. What is fun, though, is to look at the figures.'
Fun Try these so far this season: 236, 99, 8, 5, 133, 204 not out and 30 not out: 715 runs at an average of 143.
'It is very early days and there is no point in getting carried away, but there is an inner hope and belief that one day I will emulate my grandfather by playing for England. It would be pretty special.'
He wouldn't be the only one saying that.