32 Not Out : part 1- In the beginning... I met Obi Wan & Yoda
Before the County, England and other aspects of elite cricket, things started with a freakishly tall, fat, 6 year old with an old plank of wood shaped into a bat and a tennis ball which strangely seemed to weigh the same as a small moon when I hit it.
Yup. That 6 year old was me. I used to constantly be out in the garden or yard at my grandparents with a football or playing cricket depending on how long it took me to hit the kitchen window or patio door.
Eventually I was getting roasted enough that Mother sorted out a team for me to play with.
Preston Capes was where everything really began. Brought up playing T20 with no helmet, thigh pads, or ability to leave a ball, we learnt value for shots from an early stage.
we were however, in a nutshell, crap...
Although, we were rubbish, there was something charming about playing there, changing in what was a giant rabbit hutch complete with vaguely running water and an actual outhouse behind the ‘hutch’.
It even had its very own telegraph pole to circumnavigate in the middle of the outfield. Proper village cricket.
Preston Capes was a lovey little village, however it was the sort of place that only had one grandfather and was twinned with Royston Vasey (League of Gentlemen).
I can’t complain too much as they taught me a hell of a lot of the basics I needed to progress.
We had a number of good County players, future county players and excellent club cricketers that hadn’t been discovered yet.
I suppose you could say it was a little gold mine of talent.
From there at 11 I decided to move to Badby, a lovely little village with one of the oldest clubs in the UK. It was here I first played adult cricket. Within 4 weeks I had gone from the Under 13's to Mens 1st XI in Division 6 of the Northants league. This was before the league went downhill with the poison of politics and tactically putting idiots in charge of our beautiful game.
I'm young, enjoying cricket, and actually scoring runs fairly frequently, taking wickets occasionally and eventually I meet 2 people who I credit everything I've achieved to.
I was pre-season training at Danetre school in Daventry, where I met my Obi Wan and Yoda.
Alan Wilson and the late Alan Hodgson.
These men took me from being average to reaching my potential.
AW was the one pushed and nurtured the cricketer in me, the thinking and tactical side of the game I picked up from him. He was Yoda to me. The person no matter how old I got, I could pick the phone up and talk to. He was a good batting coach too, eventually I would value everything he did when the ability to bowl was cruelly taken away from me.
Then there was Hodge, Obi Wan Kenobi, in a nutshell, with the greatest respect he was a bastard. I've never worked harder, been pushed further and reached higher than when Hodge took me under his wing. The guy was a genius.
He got pace out of my action I never dreamt of utilising and bowling aggression every budding fast bowler needed. I was seriously being considered a true all rounder. This is where the sadness creeps in, knowing that the young players of today and tomorrow won't be able to have access to his knowledge and experience. He would also become my tutor coach. He got me to Level 2 and told me to then use what I had learnt and start helping others.
I'll always miss his Geordie tones at the bar watching the county getting a hiding each week.
I think he knew that is where I would end up. They say coaches know who will make it to be a Pro and who will be a coach and then who won't go anywhere. I just hope wherever he is now, if there is anything after we leave this Earth, he is proud of where I am, who I became in cricket and what I've achieved.
Needless to say, that year, I finally got my county cap, my first century against Wales in a small place called Ammanford. I've never looked back. My cap still sits in my bag as a reminder.
Anyway that's all for now...