A Lifetime in Cricket (Part Ten)

By Philip Evans

21st Sep 2022 | Local Features

My work at the County Ground in Taunton was based in an office within the Centre of Excellence, which housed a six-lane Indoor Cricket School.

 My office colleagues were Peter Robinson (Senior Coach), Julian Wyatt (Junior and Schools Coach), Matthew Evans (Centre of Excellence Manager) and myself (Cricket Development Officer) In true cricketing parlance, I immediately adopted the nick-name "Moulders", in a similar vein to Brian Johnson ("Jonners"), Jonathan Agnew ("Aggers") etc. In my 16 years in Somerset cricket, I was never known by any other way and when I now go back to watch cricket at the County Ground, I am still known as Moulders

The Centre of Excellence is sited within the Ondaatje Cricket Pavilion, named after businessman and philanthropist Christopher Ondaatje, who had donated a considerable sum of money to enable the pavilion to be built. Sir Christopher was born in Sri Lanka, but educated in England and attended Blundells School. There is a "penthouse" match-day viewing box within the building, which has one of the best vistas at the County Ground – and is used exclusively by the "Old Blundellians"

The Somerset Cricket Project

 My initial work with the Somerset Cricket Project derived from an initiative, based on grants acquired prior to my arrival. My task was to build on this grass-roots cricket project, which provided a programme from school playground to the development of excellence. This work involved a schools cricket programme, youth initiatives for clubs, improvement of facilities, coach education, women and girls' cricket and courses for umpires, scorers and groundsmen.

 I had two cricket co-ordinators to assist me – Dan Hodges in the south and Grant Sheppard in the north.

 Over time, I visited most of the schools and cricket clubs in Somerset, which involved a colossal amount of travelling. This included trips to the South Bristol area, as everything south of the River Avon was in the "cricketing county of Somerset". I had regular contact with all the qualified coaches in Somerset and assisted them to improve their skills and gain qualifications. I worked with the Somerset Wanderers, which at the time was the only renowned female cricket club in the county and also assisted umpires and scorers to improve their expertise and proficiency.

 I also had the opportunity of watching Somerset Cricket Club playing matches, training outdoors and in the Indoor Cricket School and began to know all the players.

 The captain in my first year was Andy Hayhurst, who interestingly moved into a cricket development role when he retired from playing cricket. He was an extremely affable man and when my son Robert was extremely unwell, there wasn't a day when Andy wouldn't walk into my office to ask after his well-being.

 The developing stars at the time were Andy Caddick, Marcus Trescothick and Mark Lathwell. Experienced players included the Pakistani test spin demon Mushtaq Ahmed, batsmen Peter Bowler and Richard Harden, wicketkeeper Rob Turner, together with all-rounders Graham Rose and Keith Parsons. We also had a 6ft 8ins Dutchman Andre Van Troost. Andre was probably the quickest bowler in English cricket at that time, but rarely bowled the ball in the right place! However, when visiting teams arrived at the ground, the first thing they asked was "Is that wild Dutchman playing"? The fact that Andre never knew where the ball was going was the issue that most worried the visiting teams, for if Andre didn't know where it was going, the batsman certainly didn't!

 Andre was also a bit of a mad driver. He had a club car and so did I. In reversing out of my regular parking space by the Centre of Excellence, Andre sped around a blind corner and we collided. Chief Executive Peter Anderson was not a happy bunny, as TWO club cars needed extensive repairs. 

 I couldn't believe my luck – having a job I loved and being able to regularly watch county cricket was a dream come true. The Somerset cricketing spectators are a very appreciative and knowledgeable audience – and they know their cricket. At that time in 1995, one of our rising stars was Mark Lathwell, a very quiet and unassuming young man – but when he was at the crease, everyone wanted to watch him. His timing was superb with very little effort he caressed the ball to the boundary – he was a joy to watch. It was always a great pity that when he was selected to play for England, he was only given two matches. I'm sure that this did nothing for the confidence of such a brilliant batsman.

The ECB was created in 1966 which replaced the National Cricket Association and the TCCB (Test and County Cricket Board). In Somerset we channelled the development of cricket in the four "Corners" of Somerset, so named after the late Tony Corner, who had previously been chairman of the Somerset Cricket Association.

 Schools cricket progressed under the coaching skills of Julian Wyatt and his team of coaches. Somerset was particularly fortunate that within the county we had a number of public schools which were able to develop talented young cricketers – Millfield, Taunton School, Kings College, Queens College, Wellington, Clifton and others. Co-ed secondary schools such as the Castle School in Taunton also produced a number of talented young players. 

 I started to enhance the status of women and girls cricket by supporting a women's cricket league. I also planned to introduce cricket for people with disabilities, which was close to my heart.

 My development work in the late 1990s included the involvement of a number of former professional cricketers. Brian Lobb helped with the development group in Glastonbury. Peter Wight umpired women's cricket matches. Andrew Kennedy (formerly with Lancashire) coached young cricketers at Taunton School, whilst Richard Ellison was head of cricket at Millfield. Tom Cartwright ran master classes for bowlers; Jack Russell ran similar tutorials for wicketkeepers and Fred Titmus taught spin bowlers. Around the ground and taking a keen interest in what we were doing were former players and umpires, Bill Alley and Ken Palmer.

 One of my key roles for Somerset was to help clubs and schools to acquire grants for a range of projects. At that time, the National Lottery was introduced, which started to make a fantastic contribution. We also had the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, the Lord's Taverners and Sportsmatch.

 Sportsmatch held annual celebrations for participating organisations to world renowned sporting venues and over the years, I visited Wembley, Lords, Twickenham, Wimbledon and the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. The Sun Life of Canada supported the National Under 15 competition, which I supported on a regional basis. As a thankyou for our work, Sun Life invited all county and regional organisers to a reception on the first day of each Lord's Test match. Not a bad perk.

 Despite a poor season for Somerset, Andy Caddick bowled well and was selected for England. The overseas players were Mushtaq and the Australian all-rounder Shane Lee – so perhaps Somerset's fortunes should have been better. The result was the removal of Andy Hayhurst as captain and Bob Cottam as Director of Cricket at the end of the season. The replacement for Bob Cottam was Dermot Reeve – a very different character – things were certainly unconventional, both on and off the field.

 As Cricket Development Officer, I had a very hectic and demanding schedule. However, the mantra of Peter Anderson, our Chief Executive, was that if you have a busy man – give him even more to do! …. and that was the situation when the Centre of Excellence Manager, Matt Evans, handed in his notice as he had been appointed Cricket Development Officer for Devon. "Moulders", said Peter, "you seem to be handling your work pretty well, perhaps you should combine your role with the position of Centre Manager".... and that was it.  More responsibility, more salary. I accepted the offer.

 In 1995, the sporting world was devastated by the Bradford Fire Disaster when 56 people sadly died. It was always felt that rubbish had accumulated beneath the boarded seating of the timber football stand and the fire spread with phenomenal speed. This Valley Parade fire tragedy led to "sweeping" changes to the safety of watching sport.

 The government of the day had set up a fund for improvements to dated wooden stands, which involved a grant application. We had an old timber stand adjacent to the Colin Atkinson Pavilion and as I was constantly submitting grant applications to the National Lottery, Sportsmatch, etc., Peter Anderson turned to me to put together the bid for a replacement modern stand. Fortunately, our request for funding was accepted and the Ian Botham stand was constructed.

 In most years, the County Cricket Club awarded a benefit to a long-serving player. Graham Rose was the beneficiary in 1997 and if Graham had been invited to speak at a club dinner or awards evening, I would often accompany him as I was keen to support clubs in Somerset. Graham had a standard patter which he came out with when invited to speak. One of his tales related to his early career with Middlesex, where the regular overseas player was the legendary West Indian fast bowler Wayne Daniel. At the time, Graham was a young lad with Middlesex and went into the nets to face his first ball from Wayne Daniel, who came steaming in and hit Graham in the fleshy part of the inner-thigh, where there was no protection. Wayne glared down the wicket at Graham and blurted out "Rub it man – you know it hurts!"

 Graham Rose was also involved at Somerset in a crucial 60-over game against Warwickshire. Our early batting order had not performed well and as a big hitter, down the order, it was hoped that Graham would come up with a miracle! Unfortunately, Graham was not able to turn our fortunes around. He was out for a low score and we lost the match.

 The following day, the players were out at the County Ground for "naughty-boy" nets. Peter Anderson was working in his office, which was at the upper level of the Colin Atkinson pavilion. Graham Rose was batting in the nets and hit an immense drive, with the ball going straight through Peter's office window and rebounding around the walls of his office. Within seconds, a red faced Peter Anderson appeared through the broken glass window brandishing the ball. "Rosey – you great twit (it was actually far worse words than that) – why didn't you do that yesterday?"

 It was always most exciting to see young talent come through the system. I assisted with running a team during the King's College Annual Under 14 Cricket Festival. A young player from our Somerset Under 14s was out for a duck and was virtually in tears. I knew he was a good player and walked around the boundary with him, telling him that cricket is like that – you have good days and bad days – but talented players like him will have far more good days than bad ones. That young lad was Peter Trego. He eventually played 640 first class matches in all spheres of the game.

 During 1997, Tony Coles, a long serving committee member from Yeovil, passed away and left 90 per cent of his estate to the club. This enabled approximately a quarter of a million pounds to be invested for the benefit of youth cricket. I have been involved in the Tony Coles Trust since its inception and am currently the chairman of the trust, which has supported well over 100 projects to the total value of well over half a million pounds.

 In 1997, with the assistance of an enthusiastic young Julian Bellew, we launched cricket for disabled people with an Open Day, attended by over 40 people with a range of disabilities. This encouraged us to kick-start the Somerset Cricket Club for People with Disabilities, which over the years has been a huge success.

 Under Dermot Reeve, Somerset had another disappointing year, with Peter Bowler as captain. New arrivals included Mike Burns and Kevin Shine. Our groundsman, Phil Frost was National Groundsman of the Year for the third time.

 I always admired Peter Bowler. Over the years, during lengthy periods of time when he wasn't batting, fielding, or involved in captain's duties, he was tucked away in a secluded area of the dressing room, studying for his law degree. Following an outstanding career in cricket for Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Somerset, he had achieved his degree and walked straight into a role in the legal profession.

 Andy Caddick had another good season for Somerset and was on the verge of the England team.

 However, like many cricketers in the nineties, he still had to find work in the winter. He was good with his hands and during the winter he became the club's handyman, managing a range of projects around the ground.

 Although Andy sometimes appeared rather austere, he readily made himself available for presentations to young cricketers, schools or clubs. He visited Axminster Cricket Club on two occasions, answering questions from our admiring young players

 From a young age, it was apparent that Marcus Tescothick had immense talent – but things were not clicking for him and he floated from First to Second XI. However, in July 1997, Marcus was playing for Somerset 2nd XI against Warwickshire 2nds at the Somerset County Ground. Warwickshire had batted well in their 1st and 2nd innings. Somerset's first innings was bad and ultimately they needed 612 runs to win.

Amazingly, Marcus scored a triple century (322), but Somerset failed to win by just seven runs, as Trescothick ran himself out trying to protect last man, Andrew Cottam, who had broken his hand. Employees of the club, including myself, tended not to watch second XI cricket, but beavered away in our offices. However, news was spreading and both employees and local club members had gathered at the ground to witness Marcus's outstanding feat. This turned out to be one of the turning points in Marcus Trescothick's magnificent career.

 In 1998, there was only one flourishing cricket academy in the country, which was in Yorkshire and had been running for several years. My colleague Julian Wyatt was really keen to start up an academy in Somerset. The proposed model was to select up to 12 talented young cricketers from around the south west, provide them with a sixth-form education at Richard Huish College in Taunton, arrange accommodation where necessary, and give them a high quality cricket experience. With good fortune this could lead to one or two academy cricketers making their way into first class cricket with Somerset. 

 In order to see how this would best work, Julian and I were invited to Bristol City football club to see how they ran their academy. We met up with David Burnside, a former England Youth Team coach and a former player for my favourite football team – West Bromwich Albion. David Burnside became well-renowned as a very young player, executing football tricks, dribbling skills," keepy-uppy", etc. at half-time during matches.

We were immediately stunned when Burnside told us that the annual budget for their academy was near to £1 million. The annual budget Peter Anderson had committed for Somerset was around £30,000! David Burnside explained that in professional football (at that time) if you produced just one gem from their academy, he could be sold for say £5 million – and that would subsidise a further five years of their academy.

 However, we ploughed on with our academy, which was a great success – Julian running the coaching and player development, whilst yours truly looked after the finances. The Somerset model was watched with great interest by the England cricket hierarchy, with Hugh Morris visiting us and asking us how we made it work. Ultimately, the ECB supported the development of academies in all cricketing counties – but we were proud that we were one of the pioneers – and the bonus was that our early efforts with the academy produced many excellent players for Somerset.

 We started to make some progress with setting up a Premier League in Somerset, despite opposition from some clubs.

 I was getting more involved in developing our coach education structure, working with former players Gordon Lord (Warwicksire and Worcestershire) and Keith Tomlins (Middlesex) who piloted the National Coaching Scheme. They were both superb people to work with and Gordon Lord attended a coaching session for young Axminster cricketers.

 Now that Cricket for People with Disabilities was well established nationally, two of our players, Julian Bellew and John Tucker, were selected to play for the England Disabled Cricket Team.

 Probably the premier club in Somerset at that time was Bath Cricket Club, who play on the beautiful North Parade ground in the heart of Bath. I knew the club well and was able to call on Bath CC coaches to assist with coaching and coach education in the Bath area: Grant Sheppard, Stuart Barnes, Greg Brown, Gordon Swinney, Stuart Priscott, Rob Maggs and Jan Godman for women's and girl's cricket.

 The club regularly invited me to their annual dinner and other celebrations, which ended up being late-night drinking sessions, where I stayed over with Stuart Barnes, Gordon Swinney and others. They were great nights (as far as I can remember!)

 I also recall some of their stalwart organisers, particularly Pat Colbourne, a former Bath cricketer, who I noticed had recently received the British Empire Medal for his work with Young People and Charity in Bath.

 The club also invited me to Lords, where on three occasions at that time, the club reached the National Club Championship Finals. Unfortunately, at each final, Bath came runners-up. However, I was delighted to see that last year (2021), Bath CC became National Champions.

 An initiative introduced in 1998 by the ECB was a "Kwik-cricket Roadshow", based around Kwik Cricket, which had fairly recently been initiated for Primary School age children.

 In order to further develop this model, the ECB had produced a trailer which opened up as a fast-moving test of skills for young people in batting, bowling and fielding. The idea was that the trailer and the roadshow could be located for a few days in high profile centres, where maximum usage by young people would prevail. Each county was asked to identify the best centre or event for the roadshow. An obvious event for Somerset to promote was the Bath & West Show, where there would be thousands of young people to take part.

 As the Bath & West Show ran for four days, this was quite a commitment for myself and a group of Somerset coaches who were there to assist the young cricketers with their skills.

 On the first day of one particular year's event, a young lad of about 9 or 10 from the Cheddar area, was there at the early morning "start of play" to take part in the Kwik Cricket Roadshow. His family regularly attended the Bath & West Show, but this young man was only there for one thing – to bat, bowl and field at the Kwik Cricket Roadshow. He was there for virtually all day on each of the four days of the show, taking his turn to have a go. However, it was obvious that this lad had immense talent and was invited to take part in coaching at Taunton and to eventually play in the Somerset Youth set-up. That young man was Jos Buttler – and, as they say, the rest is history. Whilst a young 14 year-old, Jos carried out his two weeks work experience in my office, so I have always been keen to witness the development of his outstanding cricketing career.

 The appeal year was launched by the former Prime Minister John Major. Also in attendance was Jeffery Archer (Lord Archer of Weston super Mare), prior to his jail sentence for perjury, who was the patron of Somerset County Cricket Club at that time.

 I was asked by Peter Anderson to escort our guests – to outline the work we carried out at the Centre of Cricketing Excellence in Taunton, our development of cricket for people with disabilities, the way we ran our Cricket Academy, etc.

 As both Sir John Major and Lord Archer are cricket enthusiasts, they were extremely interested in the initiatives we were undertaking.

 Not a great year for Somerset, although Andy Caddick took 105 championship wickets, Matthew Bulbeck and Carl Gazzard  (two of our first academy players) emerged on the scene, Paul Jarvis arrived from Yorkshire and local players Rob Turner and Keith Parsons had good seasons.

 In the Under 13s, a young James Hildreth was starting to demonstrate his tremendous ability and  would ultimately emerge as one of Somerset's best ever batsmen – NOT to play for England.!

 The next edition of "Moulding's Memories" will be Part Eleven of a Lifetime in Cricket and will continue with the development of Somerset cricket in the millennium.


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