Monday, September 04, 2017

Wally Hammond, Tiger Smith and Mike Brearley

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Last week I discovered that Mike Brearley is about to publish a new book.

Today I found that there are two good recent pieces by or about him behind The Times paywall.

In one he is profiled by Mike Atherton and, as ever, has something enlightening to say about cricket and captaincy:
The peculiarities of this Yorkshire ground, Headingley, are intriguing him as we chat and our conversation is peppered at my insistence about the Test in front of us ... 
"Shouldn’t first slip be a little wider? I don’t think enough thought is given to the position of the slips according to how a batsman plays ... you could be standing in two very different positions for the same bowler to two different batsmen."
The other is an extract from his new book where he discusses the reasons for his poor record as a test batsman.

In it he mentions two former players who offered him help:
One day during the match, a man stood behind the nets at the rear of the stadium watching me practise. As I came out, he asked quietly if he might make a comment on my batting. Yes, of course, I said. He suggested that I was holding the bat too tightly, as if my life depended on it. He said I needed to relax my arms and both hands, especially the top hand. I listened politely. And walked away. 
At some point I was told that this sallow man who seemed old to me (he was only 62 and died of cancer a few weeks later) was none other than Wally Hammond, one of England’s most successful batsmen, and one of the greatest stylists of all time. Despite knowing this, I did not properly take on board what he had said. I had the idea that relaxing would mean being loose. I thought I knew better. 
It took me a decade to realise the truth of what Hammond had told me. Tiger Smith, when in his nineties and nearly blind, watched me score a stiff-upper-lip 78 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. 
Remembering the respect that Warwickshire and Somerset all-rounder Tom Cartwright, whom I admired greatly as a cricketer and friend, had for Tiger as a coach, which he had told me about when we were team-mates on that South Africa tour ten years before, I asked him for his advice. We were in the players' dining room. Tiger told me to stand facing him with his walking stick as my bat and 'play' a few shots. He then asked, “Do you think frowning helps you hit the ball harder?”

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