Nick Denman died aged 55 last week and one of his former captains, Paul Baker, has paid tribute to a ‘prolific batsman’ and someone who ‘never really got the chances his talent deserved’.
Denman was Baker’s vice-captain for Horsham 2nd XI during a hugely suuccessful period between 1998 and 1990 when they won three league titles and two cups.
Baker said: “He was really prolific in a team I captained.
“I thought he had a bit of a future so I made him my vice-captain and he was a good fella. He was a good student of the game.
“He was in the wrong era really, he was a prolific second team player when there were far fewer first XI opportunities available. That’s when players played every week. They didn’t go to Auntie Mabel’s barbecue or some pointless Christening or wait until the season got important then go to Glastonbury.
“They didn’t do that then, they played cricket.”
And Baker believes if Denman played in a different era or a weaker club, he would have scored a lot more first team runs.
Baker said: “The number of opportunities at first team level, particularly for an opening batter, were restricted. If Nick had played in a different era, or perhaps he played for a weaker club, I have no doubt he would have been a prolific first team player. He was an opening batter, a big strong boy, he was the first bloke I can remember to use one of those giant bats.
“He had the biggest Gray Nicolls bat I have ever seen in my life. I couldn’t lift it up – I tried to have a net with it one day and lasted four balls. It was impossible.”
Baker added that the second XI division was very strong in the period they had their success. He said: “There were some strong second XIs at that time – Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne, very good 2nd XIs, probably 1st XI standard. We had a team of young blokes backed up by a few experienced players.
“We had Mark Upton playing then. I played. Steve Pheasant, who was on the county staff, played; Barry Peay, Richard Marshall, these sort of blokes were playing second XI cricket then.
“Then you had people playing with them like Nick, Mark Jeffries, Ben Newton, Richard Smith, and Christian Bates and Sean Humphries who both went on to be pros.
“And Nick played in that era with great success."
Denman took over the captaincy after Baker retired in 1990. Denman played his finals years at Horsham Trinity before he retired due to back injury.
Nick’s wife Kelly said: “His time playing there meant the world to him. That’s where he took me on our first date!
“A whole (and very long) day spent sat on me own, in the sun with a bottle of rose - which he bought for me - just watching a bunch of people dressed in very dirty whites standing around and if lucky, someone finally hits the ball with a very odd looking baseball bat.
“But despite being Canadian, I learnt the game of cricket pretty quickly because he brought me to many of his games. He loved the club very much and all his team mates.”