10 September 2020, 06:44 AM
  • Mike Duckworth, founding director of Nutcessity, shares the unlikely lessons he's learned from cricket pro, Alistair Cook
Mike Duckworth, Nutcessity: “Playing the long game”

This column is loosely about cricket, but it’s also about a model cricketer and a model man. They say mindset is crucial in the start-up food & drink world and it is; especially when you’re as sensitive and juvenile as I am. Sir Alastair Cook is a specialist in the art of mindset; my interpretation being ‘the state of switching one’s brain on and off at will’. He may not sell organic nut butter, as I do, but that may not particularly matter.

If you’re familiar with cricket, you’ll know that Cook is England’s leading runs scorer, ever, and is still playing for Essex just shy of his 36th birthday. 12,472 runs is plenty: only 3,500 more than the next man.

Every day I have a routine, just like Cook does in between facing the bowler. He’ll walk away from his wicket, look around the outfield, perhaps adjust his pads; he’ll switch off, in other words. Only this year have I understood the importance of my downtime, so I can switch on again when Shane Warne begins his prowl towards the crease.

Born into a farming family, Cook became an expert at one thing only: playing against the best bowlers in the world and playing them for as long as it took them to tire. His primary job was to slowly, surely, accumulate runs (for two days if possible, please) so that England won more test matches than not. And Cook was durable. Eye-wateringly, he played for England in a record 159 consecutive test matches and has taken the most catches ever in tests by an outfield player. There was no one better at fully focusing when the time was apt.

Since 2016, when I started Nutcessity, my peanut-free nut butter company, I’ve slowly been accumulating nuggets of knowledge, to try and become a Cook-like expert. I’m on a mission. I have a vision, a plan, and I’ve been meticulous up to now. I’ve made mistakes (the ball has passed the outside edge of Cook’s bat eight times by now), but I’m hanging on in there, and now, thank heavens, the ball is getting marginally more worn and my disposition is more at ease. As I’m now working with 150 independents plus Whole Foods & Planet Organic, I reckon I’m about 42 not out - doing alright but raising few eyebrows. 67 not out, and I’ll be seeing the ball even better, playing the ball even later, and hitting the ball even further. Not out overnight and I’ll be able to relax in the evening, ideally every evening.

I’m a huge fan of five-day test cricket, probably because it’s interesting, rewards richly, and keeps you honest. If 90 minutes of football were a pint, test cricket would be a banquet. In life, there’s certain thrills and spills at every corner. Drug abuse? Laziness? Late night movies? I engage with all of these; but all they do, every time, is rob me of long-term satisfaction.

In February, I started working with a specialist contract packer, to meet the growing demand of the marketplace. It’s at this point that I felt capable of playing a long innings and scoring a bit quicker. My upcoming holiday, a 3-day hike in Snowdonia with my partner in late September, is a bit like tea at Headingly on day 2. A chance to replenish fluids and calories and think of the bigger picture. Maybe I’ll read Birdsong and make giant pots of loose-leaf tea.

If you’ve read the name ‘Sir Alastair Cook’ for the first time and come this far, I’m impressed! The idolism itself doesn’t matter; what does is that it helps Nutcessity and I see the bigger picture and play the longer game. It’s called FMCG because it’s fast. Regardless, I’m glad I’m surrounded to play the longer game, because short-term thinking, I think you’ll agree, contains a whole host of on-pack warnings.