Sometimes it takes a bit of outside-the-box thinking to get cricketers to realise their full potential on and off the pitch, but going off-piste isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be. Presenting 10 of cricket’s most notable mentor figures.
10) Neil Burns
The name on everyone’s lips following Nick Compton and Monty Panesar’s performances in India in the 2012/13 winter. A keeper who had spells with Essex, Somerset and Leicestershire, Burns revived the London County Cricket Club – an institution founded by WG Grace to provide first-class experience to aspiring cricketers – in 2004, and from that developed a mentoring programme designed to reinvigorate elite athletes, Monty and Compton among them. “When I went into the nets with Neil it was about going in cold – no warm ups, no chance to do throw downs – and knowing the bowling machine was going to be quick [99mph to be precise] and scary,” Compton told AOC, an indication of the lengths Burns is prepared to go to get the best out of his protégés.
9) Tim Hudson
Back in the 80s – a time when World Series Cricket had just redefined cricket’s earning potential – Ian Botham fell in with Tim Hudson, a multi-millionaire DJ, voiceover actor (fun fact: he’s the voice of one of the vultures from The Jungle Book) and property developer, whose talk of star-studded, privately hosted cricket matches and natty Rastafarian clothing lines bewitched Beefy into appointing him as his manager. Lord Tim, as Hudson liked to be called, set about upping his client’s profile with gusto (“What I wanted was for [Botham] to wear a pirate-style earring and a headband with the St George’s flag on it as he walked out to bat,” he told The Observer), culminating in him propelling England’s star allrounder into a meeting with Hollywood heavyweight Menahem Golan and proposing Beefy as the next Sylvester Stallone (Golan: “Well, he’s better looking than Tom Selleck”). The snag? Botham would have to spend six months in LA having acting lessons when he was supposed to be squaring off against the Windies. Eventually, when it became apparent that his contacts book wasn’t exactly as advertised (Botham’s screen test remarkably failed to materialise) and some ill-judged (and inebriated) allegations to the press regarding his client’s recreational habits, Hudson’s spell was broken and he was handed his marching orders as England’s finest sensibly got back to doing what he did best.
8) Khemraj Chanderpaul
Some parents instinctively wrap their children in cotton wool. Khemraj Chanderpaul, father of Shiv (he of the 10,696 Test runs), is cut from different cloth. His strategy for preparing his eight-year-old son for professional cricket? Instruct said son to bat on a concrete pitch, invite every adult fast bowler in the neighbourhood to tear in and issue one stipulation – the boy cannot show pain. “I think my father gave them a challenge to hit me and everybody wanted to,” Chanderpaul once explained to the Guardian. “I had to defend myself.” Rumour has it Shiv’s boy Tagenarine will be playing international cricket before long – let’s hope for bowlers everywhere that more merciful training regimes have since been adopted in the Chanderpaul household.
7) Matthew Hayden
It would seem that Australia’s former opener and sledging advocate fancies mentoring the whole world in the art of “Getting Betta,” and he’s set up a website to prove it. Don’t believe us? Type ‘Hayden Way’ into Google and bask in his motivational glory. Yeah, words failed us too.
6) Viv Richards
Now this we understand. Richards, the most intimidating batsman in history and a man who would have made a fortune had he been born in the Twenty20 era, has just been snapped up by Shane Warne’s Big Bash outfit Melbourne Stars to pass on his knowledge to Australia’s next generation of ball thwackers. “You hear some say a blast from the past,” Richards told the Aussie press at his unveiling. “Why not add some of that blast from the past to what we have at present?” English fans everywhere are now dreading the day that Rob Quiney struts to the crease in multi-coloured sweatbands and repeatedly smashes fast bowlers over mid-wicket.
5) Don Wilson
A canny left-arm spinner for Yorkshire and England, Wilson was the coach put in charge of Lord’s’ brand-new Indoor School back in 1977. A mischievous, old school character with a vocabulary to match, Wilson helped several dozen young cricketers on the road towards a first-class career during his 13-year stint at the Home of Cricket, and reportedly went out of his way to persuade Middlesex to take a punt on a hard-drinking wild child no one else thought much of. His name? Philip Clive Roderick Tufnell.
4) Neal Abberley
An Edgbaston institution who sadly passed away in 2011, Abberley was an instrumental figure in the careers of countless Warwickshire cricketers – most notably Ian Bell – so much so that Bears skipper Jim Troughton dedicated the club’s 2012 Championship triumph to the former batting coach. “Whatever I have achieved in cricket is down to Neal Abberley,” Bell told the media last year. “He helped me to grow up. He could be quite tough and there were a few bollockings along the way but all he wanted me to do was to get better and better as a cricketer.”
3) Dennis Waight
There is no doubt in my mind that the work done by Dennis was the catalyst for West Indies’ period of dominance.” So writes Michael Holding in his autobiography No Holding Back, acknowledging the influence a tough talking, rugby league-obsessed Aussie had on one of the greatest teams in the history of sport. Initially appointed by Kerry Packer as the Windies physical trainer during World Series Cricket, Waight’s heavy-duty fitness regimes (“Dennis made Forrest Gumps of all of us. We just kept runnin’”) so impressed Clive Lloyd’s team that the WICB employed him as the side’s physical trainer and physio from 1977-2000, and his tireless efforts helped make the likes of King Viv, Malcolm Marshall and Gordon Greenidge immortals of the game. “Dennis… was considered part of the team,” Holding explained, “as important as the opening batsmen, wicketkeeper or fast bowlers.”
2) Shane Warne
Pick any summer from 2000-2007 – specifically the period just prior to the start of England’s international fixtures – and read any article featuring Australia’s greatest leg spinner. Chances are it will largely feature Warne arguing passionately that England are shooting themselves in the foot by not picking X, Y and Z (forget the fact that Z hadn’t scored a run all summer), all of whom just happen to play for Hampshire, the county Ol’ Shane happened to skipper for the best part of the Noughties. In some cases Warnie had a point, and the likes of Dimitri Mascarenhas and Shaun Udal have waxed lyrical about how his encouragement and backing made them better cricketers, but every once in a while you did just wish he’d give it a rest…
1) Terry Jenner
The man who arguably helped Warne become the passionate advocate of all things Hampshire, Jenner was a leggie who claimed 24 wickets in nine Tests, served two years for embezzlement and then utterly reinvented himself as the finest spin bowling coach the game has ever known. Playfully dubbed ‘The Spin Doctor’, Jenner was the man Warne would time and again turn to when loss of form or shoulder surgery prevented him from being at his best, and always Warnie would return re-energised, and – to abuse one of Jenner’s favourite catchphrases – spinning up and spinning big. “TJ became my Dr Phil on all matters and levels – wherever I was around the world we would call and chat – we would plan to bring down the opposition batsmen, laugh and I would hang up feeling good,” Warne wrote when Jenner passed away in 2011. “His knowledge of the game,not just spin bowling,was amazing.”