A career ended but a life saved

It’s always sad to see a professional athlete’s career being cut short by injury or illness.

This week it was announced that James Taylor, the England batsman, was to retire immediately from all forms of professional cricket after being diagnosed with a very serious heart condition. By all accounts there were no previous symptoms and it was discovered during routine checks after he felt ill during a county match for Nottinghamshire last week.

Taylor will be devastated, his career shot down in it’s prime in the blink of an eye. At the age of 26 it will be difficult for him to process the fact that he won’t ever play professional cricket again. On the positive side, a potentially deadly condition has been spotted and he can now receive the treatment required to live a long life. If the condition had not been discovered we could have seen a terrible tragedy on the field of play so while his family will obviously be sad for James that his career is over they will be overcome with relief that he can now receive the medical treatment he needs to be healthy and be around for them.

It’s easy for us on the outside to say that he should be happy he got diagnosed and his career being over is just a consequence of having a serious medical condition, but to Taylor it will be so much more devastating and hard to come to terms with.

His career ends virtually on the spot, how does he process that? All the guy has ever done is play Cricket, it’s probably all he knows and it will be tough despite the relief he is alive.

I can in some ways relate to Taylor’s situation. My own cricket career was end by the dreaded “yips” but rather than it coming to an abrupt end like Taylor’s, mine was a slow demise but just as devastating. You wonder what you are going to do with your life, you question yourself, you question others, you beat yourself up asking yourself if you could have done anything different so that this situation never occurred. While my career ended due to a mental issue, Taylor’s has ended due to a physical condition which may in some ways make it slightly easier for him to accept. And he did achieve the ultimate in playing Test Match cricket for his country and no one can ever take that away from him.

Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club is a fantastic club. I spent 2 seasons there during the “yips” period and they did all they could to help me so I’m sure they will be there for Taylor during this time. Back in my day and from my own experience the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) weren’t that great when it came to emotional support for any pro or ex pro going through hard times but from what I’ve seen and heard the PCA are now absolutely fantastic at supporting their members and I’m sure they will give Taylor any help and support required to get his life back on track after dealing with such devastating news.

I hope Taylor keeps his love for the game and that he stays involved in it in some capacity but it’s hard to say if that will happen as being around the game you love but can no longer play can be upsetting but with the correct support system I’m sure we will see him again, maybe in a coaching capacity. He appears to be a bubbly, upbeat character and that will hold him in good stead for the journey ahead.

All the best James!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dying Art of Express Pace

pacebowlers“You are living in the past mate, sport moves on and they get bigger and faster”.

 

 

That’s what I’ve heard many a time when someone questions if sport really has got better as time moves on.

But Cricket has an art that I believe isn’t getting faster…….bowling.

There’s pace and then there’s express pace, the kind that gets the crowd off their seats, the kind that makes you think about wife and kids when at the crease.

We are talking Jeff Thompson, Shoaib Ahktar, Brett Lee, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Allan Donald, Frank Tyson, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait quick. Notice that there are hardly any names in there of current bowlers. I believe express pace bowling is a dying art and I have a hunch why.

tysonModern day bowlers are being “programmed” to bowl in a certain way so as to minimize injuries. Side on actions are few and far between at the top level and my only conclusion is that the young quick bowlers are being encouraged to bowl a certain way. With all the “hanger onners” you see within a professional outfit you end up with the biomechanic experts or coaches who learned from a book drawing up templates on how a bowler should bowl to maximize results but minimize injuries. While this is very useful info for someone who wants to enjoy a long career bowling fast-medium I believe it’s resulting in fewer and fewer express pace bowlers at the higher levels of the game.

thompsonJeff Thompson, Shoaib Ahktar and Shaun Tait are the fastest bowlers of all time and all had side on actions. They were “slingers” which appears to be the best method to bowl faster than anybody else. They had almost javelin throwing actions, you might not become the best bowler with a slinging, side on action but you are going to be fast! I remember playing for Yorkshire 2nd XI against Kent in 1993. They had an Aussie born guy called Duncan Spencer playing. Goodness me that bloke was lightening quick, fastest I’ve ever seen or played against and again had a side on, slingy action. Andre Van Troost was another notoriously quick bowler on the scene who had a side on slingy action. There’s a trend there.

Going back to when I was just starting out at Yorkshire, some of us trained under a javelin coach, Wilf Paish, for 10 weeks and it was amazing the results we got, not necessarily changing our actions but he trained us the way he trained Mick Hill and Steve Backley and I personally put on a good yard and a half of pace after that in a short space of time so good old Wilf was right I think when he said Javelin throwing and fast bowling were very similar.

I wonder how a county/Provincial coach would manage a young kid with a side on slingy action these days? I’d tell him to keep doing it and bowl as fast as he could, bowling quick is a gift that few are given so youngsters should be encouraged to bowl as fast as they can regardless of accuracy. Accuracy will come later, for lads with the natural tools to bowl express pace, speed should be the priority.

It’s great to have everyone bowling with an injury proof action for 20 years at fast-medium, some would choose that route, personally I’d rather have 8 years bowling rapid!

Interesting debate though, let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Stokes will be reminded

Stokes-Brathwaite-657891So there is a hell of a lot of sympathy for Ben Stokes on social media following his disastrous final over in the World T20 final yesterday in Koltata.

I don’t blame the guy for his poor final over as the pressure must be immense and so to stray a little in line and length (he wasn’t miles out) isn’t a major crime but in reality it wasn’t that difficult for Brathwaite to score from the 4 deliveries.

I am of the opinion that Stokes says too much when bowling. I wasn’t much of a talker when I bowled, I didn’t feel it necessary. Most of the great fast bowlers have said little at the crease, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, Imran, Marshall, Roberts, Holding, Willis, Hadlee hardly said a word, their stares were enough. Only the Aussie greats like Lillee and Mcgrath have been chirpy.

Even yesterday during that over, Marlon Samuels (at the none strikers end) said Stokes was chirping at him. Samuels is known to produce his best when he gets wound up by verbal abuse so why Stokes was at him is a mystery.

I’m pretty sure every batsman that Stokes verbally attacks in the future will remind him of that World T20 final and how it went for him and it might just shut him up!!!

Good cricketer though.