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The moment I knew my career was over

In 2016, England cricketer Nick Compton put down his bat and picked up a camera - an epiphany moment that was to define his career post-cricket. Here, he talks to Roann Ghosh about those moments that make us

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In 2016, England cricketer Nick Compton put down his bat and picked up a camera – an epiphany moment that was to define his career post-cricket. Here, he talks to Roann Ghosh about those moments that make us

It happened in an instant. One moment, Nick Compton was preparing to bat for England. The next he was staring at Ben Stokes, considering angles and backlight. 

“I could see Ben Stokes hunched over, thinking about something, and I just wanted to reach for my camera and take his shot. I was thinking about that more than I was thinking about performing in the second innings. And I think when I did that, I realised the writing was on the wall, and actually I was probably the best-placed on the sidelines with a long lens.” 

One of the top cricketers of his generation, having made centuries for England and played in the ashes, Nick Compton is sporting royalty and the grandson of Arsenal footballer and legendary cricketer Denis Compton.

But heritage is no guarantee of happiness and for Nick, the pressure of the Compton name was too heavy a burden to carry at times. 

“What impact did my grandfather have on me at an early age? I probably don’t even know the answer to that. Did my ego carry me away? Probably.  And that wasn’t healthy because anything that wasn’t Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar was a failure, it just wasn’t good enough – and it didn’t matter who told me it was.” 

That moment with Ben Stokes in the dressing room in 2015 was clearly a turning point. Freed from the pressure of professional sport – which Nick told me he felt he was often too emotional for – he was not only able to turn his camera into his work, but also to access the parts of himself he’d shut down to survive. “Photography was the thing that connected me more as a human being and as a person.”

He has since travelled to places like India, Kenya and deprived parts of the USA, exposing through the lens, the cultures of less privileged society, listening to people’s stories, sharing their lives and raising money for good causes. His life is different, a richer tapestry than it was before.

Leaving cricket was a wrench. Epiphany moments are rarely easy, but they can be the making of us. When Nick’s happened, he had the courage to turn towards it and not away from it. “The real me is letting go of that ego and that thing we call success. What is success? Was I really that happy playing cricket? I don’t really know. I do know that I felt there was more in me. More that I wanted to know.  And I’m starting to feel that connection now – catching these more spiritual, emotional, moments.”

You can listen to all of Nick’s interview with Roann Ghosh on his podcast Self Centred with Roann, available on Apple, Spotify, Anchor or wherever you get your podcasts from.

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