Now, we’ve had several calls during the last few hours concerning the title of this article. Just to reassure you, Steve Harmison is not dead. It was a humorous title which seems to have been taken a bit too literally by one or two readers. And a newspaper. So, just to repeat, Steve Harmison is not dead. Unless he went in the night and is yet to be discovered by the maid.
We are, of course, referring to Harmison’s retirement, with him being the final member of England’s legendary 2005 Ashes pace attack to give up the game. Although technically Simon Jones will still be ambling in for four over spells next year and Harmison may as well have retired a year ago, bizarrely preferring to continue picking up his not insubstantial wages while bumbling around the Durham Second XI and complaining about how rubbish everything is in occasional appearances on Sky.
Anyway, that 2005 pace attack was pretty damn good, obviously. And therefore Harmison had to be good as well, right?
Er…no. Well yes, sometimes. Maybe.
There have been an awful lot of frustrating players over the years, but perhaps no-one more frustrating than Harmison. After 12 Tests he had 41 wickets, and throughout 2004 he was almost unplayable (67 wickets at 23.92). In 2005 things began to tail off slightly: 46 wickets in the year, but at an average of more than 34. By 2009 he was unbearable, a husk of a once great fast bowler trundling into the crease like a milk float trying to get up a particularly steep hill. His selection in the 2009 Ashes was particularly sad, one final failed attempt to turn back the clock, even though he was still only 30 years old. England may have won but Harmison contributed little with the ball, generally looking like a busted flush and stinking the place up.
This was a familiar story throughout the latter half of the noughties, as they’re so hideously known, with Harmison constantly being recalled because of what he’d done in the past, rather than what he could actually do in the present. It’s a story with parallels to Paul Gascoigne’s on/off England dramas of the mid to late 90s, if you can somehow equate Harmison’s homesickness with Gascoigne’s self-destructive addiction to low quality gin. Which, we’ll admit, is a bit of a stretch.
So perhaps we’re better off just thinking about Harmison when he was good. Despite having a very similar record at Test level, our Steve will never be anywhere near as popular around these parts as Matthew Hoggard, a man who seemed to cherish each day at the top table, striving to make the most of his (relatively) limited talent. Or Simon Jones, a man we’re dangerously obsessed with even now. And even Freddie Flintoff is more fondly remembered than Harmison, and he’s spent his entire retirement deliberately tarnishing his legacy by doing really stupid things.
Hence here are the things that we did like about Steve Harmison:
So as you can see, there are lots of good things to remember about Steve Harmison. You don’t get 226 Test wickets, or to the number one Test bowler ranking, by being a bit shit. But if you do so while giving the impression that you don’t really enjoy any of it and would rather be working in McDonalds, then don’t expect a glowing tribute from those of us who’d kill to play alongside the likes of Liam Plunkett, Saj Mahmood and Owais Shah, even if one of those three might kill us for suggesting that he looks like a well-known adorner of cereal packets.
So hopefully Harmison enjoys his retirement. We’d prefer he spends more time doing something he enjoys (such as playing darts in some backstreet boozer in a northeastern town) than he does doing something that he is naturally terrible at. Analysing New Zealand vs. West Indies alongside Charles Colville, for example. Unless of course his rotting corpse is currently entombed in his Newcastle United duvet, his rubbish beard being chewed by maggots. In which case, we’re truly sorry Steve.