Poor Hick, we knew him well, that forthright batsman of yesteryear. Where was he in those last two champagne Test matches against South Africa? Where was the authority that made his sword the most feared in the land?
It was lost in the confusion of his mind, that's where, hidden among the doubt that has plagued his life as an international cricketer.
Having previously been criticised for not imposing himself in Tests in the way that he does in county games, he chose to challenge South Africa from the off, rather than to play quietly in building his innings. So he flapped to cover point, misdrove to mid-off and mishooked on to his stumps. Not a boring one among them, no static lbw or feeble prod to slip, just failed attacking strokes to confuse him, and us, further. Poor choices, poor Hick.
Which is why yesterday is not a red herring. Why a Test hundred for Hick against Muralitharan and mates, against any Tom or Dick, for that matter, is relevant. In fact, it is significant because it tells us about state of mind and about self-esteem, which are the things in Hick we don't understand. We know he can bat, but can he cope?
It is common to say that this is a man who makes runs against easy bowling. It is the old flat-track bully argument, and, of course, it is true. But any very good player will do that, will cash in when the going is good, so why use it as ammunition against him? Why not talk, instead, of the 42 that he averages against Australia - yes, against Australia; or the 43 against South Africa?
Or better still, of the 41.2 he has averaged in all the Test matches he has played outside England. Now here's a thing, a clue, for he averages just 30 in England, where he feels less secure because he is most investigated. Away from the endless flak, Hick is fine. In the face of it, he is frightened. Do we blame him? Hardly. The vitriol poured on him after his innings at Trent Bridge beggared belief. This was an ordinary fellow trying his darndest in a cricket match, not a president releasing missiles. And the president gets less stick. One thing we know for sure about Hick is that the attention given to him is out of proportion. So what can he do, for it seems he cannot win? When he blows it, he is a bottler; when he turns it on, he is a bully. Best thing for him is to forget what anyone else thinks, best to reflect on all those hundreds, and five now - a growing number, I'll wager - in Test matches. Best to forget opinion and to play the ball rather than the man, or the world. Justification comes from within, not from what others see but from what you know of yourself. If he is satisfied by what he is doing as a batsman, then that is enough. Best for Hick to relax and to be himself, not to strive any more to be the aspiration of others.
For a moment yesterday, he betrayed himself when he beamed that smile upon the single which took him to three figures. What he wanted to do, but it is not his way, was to shout from the rooftops: ``I've done it and I'm pleased with myself for it and I'm allowed to be, so there. Take me to Australia if you will, and if you don't, then damn you, it's your problem now not mine.''
This is why yesterday meant so much for Hick - it was make or break in the mind game and, without playing as fluently or as powerfully as he can, he made it. So good on him.