Harry Gurney on poker, Mr Bean and becoming a T20 great

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Gurney took 2-26 on his England T20 debut against Sri Lanka in 2014, but played only one more game

This story was originally due to be told in a different world.

It was a time when the impact of Covid-19 was a threat, rather than a reality. When leaving the house was a luxury taken for granted. When queuing to get into a shop only happened in the early hours of Boxing Day. Pubs were still open.

In this particular pub, just outside Melton Mowbray, one of the owners is sitting under the window, tapping away on a laptop.

He also happens to be one of Twenty20 cricket’s leading bowlers of the past 18 months. His business partner is second on the list of England’s all-time Test wicket-takers.

In the ensuing conversation with Harry Gurney, his intelligence, thoughtfulness and assuredness mean it is no surprise when, shortly after social distancing measures are introduced, the Tap and Run is turned into a takeaway and village shop not only to serve the community, but also in an attempt to protect the jobs of its staff.

That, though, is for the future. We start in the past, and how Gurney, Nottinghamshire team-mate Stuart Broad and their friend Dan Cramp came to own this gastropub and its forerunner, the Three Crowns.

“The Three Crowns became available and I had the crazy idea of taking it on,” says Gurney. “Dan was running the Larwood & Voce at Trent Bridge at the time, and I asked him to come for a pint to discuss what he thought about the prospect of it.

“Dan and Broady had often talked about doing a pub together, so we went round to Broady’s house with a proposal. Within 24 hours, he was on board.”

Broad & Gurney turn pub into village shop

Gurney, a 33-year-old left-arm seamer, describes himself as “very hands on” and chairs meetings of the management team every Monday morning.

When he’s unavailable – franchise cricket has taken him to Australia, India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and the Caribbean in the past year or so – his wife takes charge.

And Broad? “The only time Broady pulls pints is when we have photographers in here and they ask him to do it,” says Gurney. “He’s useless. It’s always got a massive head on it. He’s OK at pouring a glass of red. What he is good at is sitting, eating and drinking.

“But, like I have, he’s put his hand in his pocket to invest. People come in here saying ‘Is Stuart here? This is his pub, isn’t it?’ We’ve started putting his name on our advertising.

“People often ask me if I mind flying under the radar, which I don’t. One of the reasons I’m in business with Broady, apart from the fact that we’re mates, is to use his profile.”

The ability to make clear-headed, calm and calculated manoeuvres in business probably goes hand in hand with the temperament to bowl the crucial overs in the world’s biggest T20 tournaments.

Gurney, who has a degree in economics and says he would probably have worked in the City had he not become a cricketer, believes his decision-making skills were honed at the poker table.

“I got released by Leicestershire in 2008 and I went off and tried to become a professional poker player,” he explains. “I had an online poker sponsorship. They’d give me $500 a day. At the end of the day, they’d take the profit and if I was down, they’d top it up. At the end of the month, we split the overall profit.

“The problem is there was never any profit and I got flicked after about three months.

“I still play a little bit. Poker helps you hone your decision-making process. when it comes to making decisions in life, in business and on the cricket pitch, when you weigh up the pros and cons, all of those hours sat at poker tables have had an influence.”

Poker sidelined and cricket career back on track, Gurney joined Notts for the 2012 season and was playing for England two years later. All of his 10 one-day international and two T20 caps came in 2014.

Although he admits he was never likely to play Test cricket, Gurney remained a mainstay of the Notts attack in first-class cricket and was their leading wicket-taker