Darren started playing cricket as a boy when his Dad gave him an Ian Botham bat. Although his parents weren’t particularly sporty themselves, they encouraged and supported Darren in playing cricket and football. He had trials as a midfielder with Rotherham United, but decided to make cricket his career.
Darren joined Yorkshire in 1987 on a Youth Training Scheme and two years later, aged 19, made his first-class debut for the county. He took five wickets in his first match (which was at Lord’s) and was selected on an England youth tour to the West Indies in 1989-90.
He made an immediate impression on his England senior debut in 1994 by taking six wickets in the Third Test against New Zealand. By the end of 2000, he had taken over 180 wickets playing for his country.
In January 1999, he became the first England bowler to take an Ashes hat-trick for a hundred years and was subsequently named Wisden Cricketer of the year.
At the beginning of 2000, Darren became one of the first England players contracted to the ECB and so played only three games for Yorkshire. Later that summer, he was named Man of the Series when England beat the West Indies for the first time in 31 years.
Nobody contributed more to England’s four series wins in a row in 2000 and 2000-01 than Gough, who was Man of the Series against West Indies and in Sri Lanka. Succeeding there and in Pakistan, the traditional graveyard of fast bowlers, was the final stage of his development, although even his self-confidence took a battering after England’s failure to compete against Australia the following summer.
In need of a rest, he chose to miss England’s trip to India, and though selected for the one-dayers in New Zealand, he damaged his knee in the final match – it seemed trivial at the time, but mushroomed into a year of misdiagnosis and aborted comebacks. He was forced out of the Ashes tour and the World Cup, but somehow willed himself back to fitness in time for the 2003 season, when lesser mortals would have accepted their fate. And though he was instrumental in England’s NatWest Series victory that summer, he was exposed in Test cricket, from which he retired after a heavy Lord’s defeat against South Africa.
He was overlooked for the one-day series in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka the following winter, and, in January 2004, he parted company with Yorkshire after 15 years to head to Essex, giving family reasons as the deciding factor. Gough returned to the international stage in 2004, but was a shadow of his former self until England’s tour of South Africa the following winter. With a new spring in his step, he re-established himself as the leader of the pack, silenced the critics who believed his days were numbered, and reawakened his dream of playing in the 2007 World Cup.
His nicknames are Lege (short for Legend!), Rhino and Dazzler. Apparently he was christened Dazzler when he was 16 by the daughters of Yorkshire’s former director of cricket – something to do with his dazzling blue eyes! He still supports his hometown football team, Barnsley, and also Premiership side Tottenham. Off the pitch, in December 2005, Darren added a new trophy to his cabinet – he won the BBC Strictly Ballroom Dancing TV programme with dance partner Lilia Kopylova!