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Hick looks forward ahead of England reunion

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It only took a couple of minutes for Graeme Hick to look as if he had never been away. Like a man who had just been told he needed root canal surgery.

"Oh, we don't have to go back on all that again, do we?" he sighed when asked about his own Test career. "I thought we'd gone past that. We've got an Ashes series to look forward to..."

You can see Hick's point. He enjoyed a remarkable career: he represented England nearly 200 times; he played in a World Cup final; and made a (scarcely believable) 136 first-class centuries. At New Road - where they saw him plunder county attacks (and several international ones: remember the ton against a full-strength West Indies in 1988? That one that took him past 1000 first-class runs before the end of May) for a quarter of a century and the pavilion bears his name - they know what an incredible batsman he was.

He has made a success of his coaching career, too. After moving to Australia six years ago, he has risen to the position of batting coach of the national team. He has raised a healthy, happy family and lives in something approaching paradise on the Gold Coast. He is here, in Townsville, to talk about the Cricket Australia XI he is coaching. He wants to look forward.

Yet all the questions want to look back. All the questions have the tone of "where did it all go wrong?"

And that's understandable, too. Because for all his talent, Hick's international career was only a modest success. A Test batting average of 31.32, for goodness sake. Chris Woakes averages more. It is almost inexplicable. And that's why people have been asking "why?" for most of his life.

It is a remarkable coincidence that the batting coaches for these Ashes sides are Hick and Mark Ramprakash. Both were vastly talented players who, judged by the highest (and harshest) standards, must be said to have underachieved at the top level. Even more remarkably, they made their Test debut in the same match, against West Indies in June 1991, and became the two most recent men to record 100 first-class centuries. It remains staggering that England managed to coax so little out of them.

Perhaps, though, their experiences give them the insight and empathy to prove helpful batting coaches. They, more than most, understand the pressures of international sport and the torture of failing to deliver. They saw what worked and what didn't and understand how tough it can be unlock the talent. They aren't just experts on technique.

"Fortunately, yes," Hick replies when asked if his international career is a distant memory. "I can sleep at night these days.

"I've never been one to reflect and look back and feel sorry for myself or whatever. I had great opportunities and loved what I did. I reflect on it now in terms of some of the things I did and decisions I made to try to help people in what they go through, particularly the younger players.

"Quite often during those moments I think 'yes, that's what I went through and this is what helped me'. It doesn't mean it necessarily helps someone else but it's one of the challenges I've enjoyed in coaching.

"You have to understand how important your relationship with each player is and how each one is different. If you can create a good relationship and feel you can gain some leverage and pass on some knowledge. Of course they don't have to take it.

"It will be interesting to catch up with Ramps and chat to him about what his ideas on batting are now and what he's preaching. We've got some common ground."

Might it have been different if they were starting their careers now? Not only is the England environment more benevolent - the policy of continuity of selection might have proved a revelation to Hick, who was dropped more often than a name by Piers Morgan - but international attacks are, in general, weaker. Malcolm Marshall was second change in the West Indies attack Hick and Ramprakash faced on their first day in Test cricket.

"I don't know if it would have been different," Hick, who looks more like a slim Arnold Schwarzenegger than ever, says. "Central contracts came in as I was going out and there's so much cricket now it's great to have them to control it. As I said I'm not someone who looks back and says 'if only'.

"Why would I have regrets? It's for me to deal with and I've dealt with that myself. I know I tried hard and worked hard but I don't dwell on it. I count myself as very fortunate to have had the chances I had.

"I've been here for six years now and I really enjoy it. I've been really lucky to land the role I had here with Cricket Australia working through the development side, I really enjoyed that, and now working with the quality of these players in this environment is a very different challenge and one I'm enjoying. I feel I'm growing into it and getting better at it all the time."

He points out, too, that in some ways the scrutiny is more intrusive now that ever. Maybe, once, the newspapers could be avoided. But Twitter? Facebook? The news on your mobile and your TV? If you're struggling these days, it's hard to escape.

"You get analysed and looked at both on and off the field and that's part of international sport," Hick says. "Especially with social media. Everything you do is out there and it's just something you have to learn to handle."

And the one thing he knows now that he wishes he had then? "Do you want the honest truth?" he says. "I wouldn't have listened to the media as much as I did."

So Hick will probably remain an enigma. To most of us, anyway. A decade or so ago, there was some talk of Hick writing an autobiography. He had a few reservations, but most could be easily resolved.

But then he said: "There's a bit of me that only my family gets to see - that's only for them - and I'd quite like to keep it that way. I'm a quiet man and I'm happy to be a quiet man."

It's a good answer, isn't it? He has no desire to cast blame or make excuses or even just vent. The book - a mystery, maybe - remains unwritten.

The players he is coaching, the beneficiaries of all his experiences, are lucky to have him.