The art of coaching

Nottinghamshire got in touch with former England coach Peter Moores, found he was at a loose end and offered him as much one-to-one coaching as he could handle. Moores jumped at the chance and today, less than six months later, he has signed a two-year contract and Trent Bridge is the better place for his presence.

Peter Moores... coaching Nottinghamshire these days.   -  REUTERS

It’s satisfying, isn’t it, when even in a tough sport, a rejected man has found a home where he can relax, earn a few pounds and feel he is serving a purpose.

A few months ago we all felt that the England coach, Peter Moores, had once again been given a raw deal when he was sent packing. A lot of us thought he had been let down by his players and that, being sacked for the second time by the Test team bosses, his future was bound to be difficult.

But the wise ones amongst us realised that he was a highly talented coach, and that he ought to be useful as he had already proved himself at both Sussex and Lancashire.

One particularly bright spark in Trent Bridge said: “I wish he was helping with our coaching” and received the surprising answer that it should not be too difficult as “he only lives a couple of miles from here.”

So those nice people in Nottinghamshire got in touch with Moores, found he was at a loose end and offered him as much one-to-one coaching as he could handle. Moores jumped at the chance and today, less than six months later, he has signed a two-year contract and Trent Bridge is the better place for his presence.

“It is amazing,” said my old friend who once played for Notts, “that from the moment he stepped through the door, our performances improved. Somehow he managed to create a different atmosphere in the place and the players swear he is the best one-to-one coach in the business.

“Things are looking up here and it is mostly down to Peter. He may have been wrong for England but he is a success here and we look forward to a championship or two while he is on the staff.”

Coaches have an easier time in cricket than managers trying to rescue football clubs but their lives can still be difficult. Cricket is very conventional and sometimes coaches find those habits get in the way of commonsense.

When Dav Whatmore was coaching Lancashire a few years ago he stood watching their nets with a pal of mine. Suddenly he grabbed my friend by the elbow and barked: “Look at that forward defensive stroke. It’s bad and it’s ugly.” It was being played by Mike Atherton, the England opener.

“Up to you,” said my friend, a man who enjoys telling life the way it is. “You are the coach, go and put him right.”

“No,” said Whatmore. “I cannot possibly tell the captain of England how to play a forward defensive stroke.” Why not? It is all about the cricket culture and leaving each man to do the job he has been given and simple, straightforward politeness.

The same day I heard the Moores story I was told of another occasion when the great Sir Richard Hadlee dropped in on the Newark ground — home to some Notts matches at the time — to meet an old friend. No sign of his chum but he saw a bunch of 15-year-olds practising and could not resist the temptation to go and help.

One of those lads — now in his 30s, of course, — said: “He watched me bowl two balls, suggested a small change in my grip — I’m a left-arm bowler — and ever since that day I have been able to move the ball towards the slips. Just a bit but it improved my bowling. He never even waited to be thanked before he was off to help someone else. What a gent!”

See, there are good guys in the game and long may that continue although I did hear of an England Test bowler who greeted a piece of advice from Hadlee with the words “and what do you know about Test bowling?”

The answer lies in Wisden which records that Hadlee was one of the great fast swing bowlers. He taught me a number of things about bowling — and I don’t even play the game!