Friday, 5 June 2015
Last summer I slipped down to Derbyshire versus Kent in the County Championship, hoping to grab Jimmy Adams, the Kent coach, for an hour. The main purpose was to get some material for for a career overview, 'Gleanings' piece for cricinfo, but I also had in mind a more focussed piece about the West Indies' rivalry with the Australiand over the course of the 1990s, the decade that saw one dominant Test dynasty replace the other, the decade that encompassed Jimmy's career with West Indies.
We chatted for two hours and twenty minutes: an hour and a half before lunch, the rest afterward. Clearly, he was generous with his time. He was also generous, if phlegmatic with his opinions, refusing to be drawn by any leading questions (me fishing for stories about conflict between the two sides), eminently polite in rebutting lines of enquiry that he thought wide of the mark in one way or another. Warmly dismissive, you might say.
Anyway, when I got home and listened back to the interview, I realized there were a few holes in this narrative of the 1990s battles for The Frank Worrell Trophy, so I prepared a follow-up interview and sheepishly phoned him up to finish off. He gave me another 55 minutes. Uncomplainingly. The end result, once transcribed (not fully, but selectively), was 7,000 words long. I compressed this down to 3,600 words when I filed it, and the editors in Bangalore compressed it still further to the final piece, published on the eve of this short two-Test series between the two countries (itself a sign of Windies' decline).
Jimmy: definitely one of the good guys.
"Going to Perth in '93, we just knew we were going to win"
For the first game of the 2008 season Moddershall 'A' had a substitute professional sent up from Worcestershire, someone to whom all the lads warmed. Yep, it was Moeen Ali, a spin-bowling all-rounder who, last time I checked, was averaging around 30 with the bat and 32 with the ball in Test cricket, very respectable stats. Of course, we want him to be a frontline spinner, to bowl sides out; we aren't satisfied with, or appreciative of, what we have (maybe, like the Aussies with Warne, we want "the next Graeme Swann").
Anyway, Moeen is much more than a cricketer. It's the beard, innit. And the fact that as a nation we've drifted further rightward than Lionel Messi under Luis Enrique's management. Moeen is thus something of a bellwether for how tolerant and open we are as a society, a theme I explored in this piece for Vice Sports.
Moeen and Multiculturalism
With Australia due to play the First Test of their Frank Worrell Trophy series in Roseau, Dominica, I thought I'd write my latest blog for cricinfo's Cordon about one of that island's most famous son's, a former professional at Moddershall CC.
Adam Sanford had a brief career with West Indies, performing creditably across five Tests against India before he got to us, but faring less well in two Tests each against South Africa and England. He retired in 2007 – leaving Antigua (where he was based as a Leeward Islands player, and where he looked after me when I did a week's work there in January that year) and migrating to the USA – and shortly afterward Dominican cricket officialdom announced that one of the stands at their shiny new stadium, Windsor Park, would be named after Adam. Quite an honour.
Here are a few recollections of that 2003 season.
Playing alongside Adam Sanford
Last month, All Out Cricket magazine published the first in a new series of short pieces that I'll be contributing about the cult players of county cricket: 'The Shire Brigade'. Truth be told, it was only pitched because I wanted to include a former editor of mine's observation about Aah ter talk Notts, and to segue from Tony Hadley to Richard Hadlee.
Anyway, the qualifications for cult status are simply that you're universally loved by the members, a bit of a character, and have a funny story or two to tell. The candidates from around the counties would be the likes of Peter Trego, Phil Mustard, Jack Shantry, James Tomlinson, Charlie Shreck, Rob Key, Mark Footitt, all of whom I'm hoping to cross off the list.
The Shire Brigade: Luke Fletcher
The struggles of Gary Ballance and Ian Bell in the recently completed series with New Zealand would have piqued the interest of a certain son of Pietermaritzburg, but the likelihood of England losing faith in these two leading into the Ashes is not particularly sizeable. Even if they did, there seems little chance under the Strauss regime that Kevin "absolute cunt" Pietersen would be the first cab off the rank – which is not to say he wouldn't be the batsman that the Aussie quicks would least like to bowl at.
Anyway, all of the above means that it's almost certain that The Pietersen Narrative will not have its fairytale ending, much as I wrote in this piece for Vice Sports.
Friday, 1 May 2015
Last August, paying a first ever visit to Lord's Cricket Ground, I had the pleasure of a long chat with Angus Fraser, the former England fast-medium warhorse, now Director of Cricket at Middlesex and one of England's fab four selectors. When I say long chat, I'm talking an hour and 40 minutes. At one stage Gus – an England selector, did I mention that? – had to field a call from Michael Atherton (I looked at the display screen), doubtless trying to get the inside line on the England team for the forthcoming Test series. "Do you mind?" asked Gus, ever so politely, "only I didn't realize this was going to take this long".
The first of the two features I pieced from our meeting, a career overview for Gleanings, was well received, being chosen for Guardian Sport's 'Our Favourite Things This Week' and eliciting a nice comment or two from the likes of Rob Smyth. Undoubtedly, this was in large part because of just how amiable and affable a man Gus is; it may also have had a wee bit to do with the interviewer being able to coax a few interesting answers from him. The trick? Keep them talking as long as possible, of course!
In the midst of working through his career highs and lows, I diverted things into his post-career transition from player to journalist, a fifteen minute piece-within-a-piece finally published earlier this week.
"Life as a journalist is a pretty paranoid existence"
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
My second regular Cordon blog for ESPNcricinfo was as much about what I left out as what went in. What goes on tour stays on tour, they say. Perhaps.
Either way, publication of this piece has put me back in touch with three of the 16-strong touring party, and in the thread below several dusty and long-forgotten memories were pulled from the attic: (1) a player who managed to defecate while unconscious, stinking out the whole condominium, although not enough to rouse one of his roommates; (2) getting hustled when buying the ingredients for jazz cigarettes, the first batch we were sold being kosher, the second, from the same guy, later seen with a machete tucked into his basketball socks, probably better served to improve a pasta sauce; (3) a player buying the ingredients to cook a spaghetti bolognese in order to win the heart of an ebony princess plucked from the dancefloor of a nightclub; (4) said player not quite making it to the end of an intimate encounter before having to run through the streets of Bridgetown to catch a minibus back to the condos to pick up luggage and head to the airport; (5) a player downing a jar of local hot peper sauce, claiming it was "muppet" and "Haagen-Dasz"; (6) the many, many vodka-pineapples and rum punches drunk on the refined cultural experience that was the Jolly Roger cruise ship; (7) an inebriated player standing on the foot-rest of a bar stool and toppling Del-Boy-like flat on his face; (8) meeting ex-Windies and Essex all-rounder, the late Keith Boyce, and hearing him predict the decline of the then still dominant team; (9) getting into the local vibe by playing saucepans at the West Indies versus Australia Test match, the first session of which John Woodcock of The Times said was the best he'd seen in 60 years of watching cricket; (10) the tour anthem, the ubiquitous 'Hot Stepper' by Ini Kamozi.
Ah, good times. I'll never return as a youngster, but I will return for cricket one day. What goes on tour gets recycled as a blog about a blog, right?
Once upon a Caribbean Cricket Holiday