Sunday, 12 August 2012

Tips for Coaches

The art of cricket coaching has been developed over a period of some 150 years. I had my share of it over 50 years ago in Cape Town. My coach was the Headmaster of the school, Peter van der Bijl, father of the affable 6 foot 6 inch Middlesex and South Africa fast bowler, Vincent.

Peter van der Bijl was also tall and upright, but he was an exceptionally dour opening batsman for Oxford University, Western Province and South Africa in the 1930s. In those days, if the outcome of a series of Test Matches was not decided until the final match, this was played without time limits, a bit like the final set of a grand slam tennis match. Peter was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing this experiment to an end.

In the timeless test of 1939 in Durban, he made an undefeated century of such excruciating slowness that the game was finally left unfinished so that the England party could catch the boat home. I have never been clear whether this was because all the spectators had melted away, or that the impending threat of world  war caused the authorities to fear a U boat attack somewhere off the West African coast.

As a coach, he emphasised the disciplines and technical niceties of batsmanship. He managed to turn me into a passable imitiation of my contemporary, no doubt receiving similar instructiion from his mother and her legendary stick of rhubarb in Fitzwilliam, Yorkshire, the great Geoffrey Boycott. As soon as I got the chance, I became a bowler.

Running round the cricket field last week, I as very impressed to see a coach using all sorts of imaginative exercises and games to teach some very promising lads the finer points. They wore expressions of enjoyment, rather than the resignation of my tea-mates of former times.

But the old style art of coaching is not dead. On my run today, I circumnavigated a boys' match, and had to pass several times a slightly familiar-looking figure of a father constantly chuntering and sending critical instructions to the fielding side.

'What's Jonathan Trott's Dad doing here?', I asked a couple of other fathers, strategically positioned some distance away from him..

'No', they replied,  poorly suppressing their laughter, 'That's Glen'.

'Well tell him he looks exactly like Jonathan Trott's Dad', I suggested, 'And I should know, I come from Rondebosch, in the Cape'.

I shall never know if he felt furious or flattered.

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