The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Life after cricket can be one long dance

London, Dec. 19: Sourav Ganguly will perhaps take heart that there can be life after cricket from the example of England one-day opening bowler Darren Gough who on Saturday night won a hugely popular BBC television competition called Strictly Come Dancing.

Before winning the competition, a prospect initially considered highly unlikely by the experts, Gough had jokingly suggested that if he won he would consider opening a ballroom dancing school in his hometown of Barnsley in Yorkshire.

Back in September, Gough, who has taken 229 wickets (including one hat-trick against Australia) in 58 Tests and 235 wickets in 157 one-day internationals, had ruled himself out of the England side currently in Pakistan because he said he wanted rest and more time with his two young children (Gough is estranged from his wife Anna).

In fact, the Yorkshireman, who now plays for Essex, had been secretly selected by the BBC as a “celebrity” contestant in the third series of Strictly Come Dancing, which pairs a well-known personality from public life with a professional dancer.

In Gough’s case, the 35-year-old ' he is two years older than Sourav ' was paired with a Latin American expert, Lilia Kopylova. But each week as viewers were invited to vote one of 12 couples off the show, Gough’s chances of remaining until the concluding stages were not regarded as high.

The 14-stone cricketer himself admitted that he had little experience of dancing and being graceful was not one of his strengths.

“It’s all a bit nancy,” he said at the start. “I can’t dance like a nancy on national TV.”

He explained: “The last time I danced was after a semi-final win against Australia. Freddie Flintoff and I did some rock ‘’ roll moves.”

But the nation clearly warmed to Gough’s heroic efforts to overcome his natural gawkiness and as Saturday night fever gripped Britain, over 10 million viewers (big ratings for the UK) tuned in to the finals of Strictly Come Dancing.

The bookies had made Colin Jackson, the former Olympics silver medallist in hurdling, the favourite, followed by a radio DJ, Zoe Ball, but after each of the couples had danced a Viennese waltz, a ballroom and Latin dance last night, 5 million viewers telephoned a special number and cast enough votes to make Gough the surprise winner.

“I started with nothing and... worked myself up to something decent,” a delighted Gough told the judges. “I’m enjoying it... It has been an amazing journey for a guy who has never danced.”

Gough, the first male winner of Strictly Come Dancing, paid tribute to his dance partner and teacher Kopylova. “I could not have wished for a better partner.”

The injury-prone Gough, who was once considered Ian Botham’s successor as an all rounder before Andrew Flintoff came along, may now wonder whether it is worthwhile for him to persevere with cricket and make himself available for the one day series in India next year.

However, even if he is not picked as a player, England strike bowler Steve Harmison has said he would like Gough to take over as the side’s new bowling coach to replace Troy Cooley, who has had a row with his employers, the ECB, and is returning to his native Australia next May.

“If anyone can fill Troy’s boots, Darren can,” Harmison told a Sunday newspaper. “Whether or not he is picked again as a player, I would love to have him as coach in India.”

Gough’s success may be catching. In the studio audience last night was fellow England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, who is as much known for his distinctive hairstyle as he is for his batting.

Another cricketer who has been seduced into becoming a TV celebrity is former England spin bowler Phil Tuffnel, who last year won a reality show I’m a Celebrity' Get me out of here!

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