Friday, October 23, 2020

Mark Cosgrove: Ex-Leicestershire batsmen recalls ‘fantastic’ times at Grace Road

Mark Cosgrove: Ex-Leicestershire batsmen recalls 'fantastic' times at Grace Road

Mark Cosgrove has scored almost 15,000 first-class runs, at an average of 40.36, including 36 centuries and 87 fifties

“Fun” and “awesome” pretty much sum up Mark Cosgrove’s take on his time as a Leicestershire player, and his approach to the sport he adores.

Enjoyment was, and remains, key. It comes way before obsessing about weight, calorie-controlled diets, 10-mile runs and punishing fitness regimes.

The adopted Aussie left-hander is not your typical cricketer.

But ‘Cozzie’ scored runs. Lots of them. In all forms of the game.

A respected and popular captain, batsman and team-mate, he was a big personality and an equally hefty and imposing presence at the crease.

The one regret, Cosgrove told BBC Radio Leicester, is that his final season was ruined by the coronavirus pandemic, meaning he didn’t play a game and “get the chance to fight for another contract”.

It did not, however, mar a “fantastic” five years of simply doing what he loves for the club.

“We have the best job in the world,” said the 36-year-old, who is now back playing in Australia for Northern Districts, but hopes to return to England next season.

“I love playing cricket; if that means me playing down the road with a couple of kids that live in the street then I will enjoy it. That doesn’t change when I walk out at Grace Road or the MCG; it has to be fun and that is what I try to get across to the lads.

“You see so many young lads in the changing room who are nervous and tense and they nearly forget what they are doing. You are out there having fun. You’re a 10-year-old kid running around, diving around, smacking the ball everywhere; it’s awesome.

“I know you get paid. But it is a game and you need to enjoy yourself. Like any job, if you enjoy it, you do it better.

“No doubt, if I had come over (this summer) and made a heap of runs as I normally do I would have been able to stay at Leicestershire. That is the most disappointing part, that I didn’t get the chance to fight for my contract.”

‘I have a couple of good years left’

It’s a frustration he hopes to be able to put right next season, as an opposition player.

“I’ll try to get back over next year somewhere,” Cosgrove added. “I am still keen to play. I still think have a couple of good years left.

“I will get through my season in Australia and then do some coaching and then get back to England. Hopefully I will be back scoring more county runs.”

The stats suggest he will be an attractive proposition when counties go looking for experienced batsmen well versed in English conditions.

Cosgrove, who also played for Glamorgan in two spells in 2006 and from 2009-2011, scored a total of 7,348 runs in all three formats for Leicestershire. He is also the club’s leading T20 run-scorer.

His international career did not go beyond three three one-day internationals for Australia in 2006, but his spell in Leicester has been fulfilling.

“I am really pleased with what I have left at Grace Road,” Cosgrove said. “My time has been a real positive. I think I performed really well. I had some fantastic players with me and I made some lifelong friends.

“It’s a family club and they really made me and my family welcome from day one. It was a fantastic place to be. I really grew as a person. It’s become a second home for me.”

Beers in the ice bath

Mark Cosgrove in action for Leicestershire
Cosgrove was born in Adelaide in South Australia

Leicester became a second home to such an extent that his son Oliver was born in the city and Cosgrove holds a UK passport, so has been not classed as an overseas player.

Should he return, the fun factor will still be uppermost in his mind, although he can’t help but hanker after some of the old school, off-field training methods from when he was starting out.

“You spend so much together as a team and you travel so much, you don’t see your family, your girlfriend, your kids so you have to have fun,” he added.

“You can’t be cricket, bed, cricket, bed. You need that release, just to bring the enjoyment back. Otherwise it becomes a hard slog.

“You do see it now and again with young kids who get overawed and struggle to have some fun and loosen up.

“The best players play with freedom and a carefree attitude but when the game is on the line you need to switch back on and do the right thing, the best players can.”

But the chances of Cosgrove changing his recovery regime after a game in his twilight years seem slim.

“When I first started; we put beers in the ice instead of bodies in the ice,” he explained.


BBC Radio Leicester cricket commentator Richard Rae

It was a privilege to be present every single day ‘Coz’ took the field for Leicestershire, because he was never less than totally committed.

With the bat, he was often a class apart; the fact his was the wicket opposing bowlers valued the most highly was always evident.

Belligerent, yes, but very stylish with it. At times he played shots with a grace that brought to mind former Foxes’ left-hander David Gower, though that was possibly the only thing they had in common.

As captain everything he did was positive – and he was a better swing bowler than he realised, as well being a fine close catcher, though again, he was less convinced.

And for all his furious determination, Cozzie played cricket with a smile. His love for the game was always apparent, and sometimes he couldn’t help but make you smile; famously less than svelte, he didn’t so much turn on his heel when running two as prescribe a semi-circle.

“Momentum, mate, it’s all about momentum,” he grinned. We will miss him very much.

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