A kind and gentle giant

Derek Pringle is, as you will remember from his playing days, a massive man, 6ft 4in and now ten years after he last pulls on an England sweater close to 18st.


JUNE 27. Derek Pringle is, as you will remember from his playing days, a massive man, 6ft 4in and now ten years after he last pulls on an England sweater close to 18st. But no giant is ever gentler nor kinder. So when he sees Julian Guyer, the cricket reporter for AFP — the French agency which reports the game mainly for newspapers in the Far East — after the Headingley match he assumes he is heading for the same hotel. "You French reporters," he giggles, "you will be staying at the Malmaison!" No, says Guyer, but at a hotel nearby. "I'll give you a lift," says Pringle and off they go. A couple of miles into the journey Guyer gets worried. "This is a strange way to the centre of Leeds," he ventures as Pringle heads on to the motorway. "We're not going to Leeds, are we?" says Pringle. "We're off to Birmingham." As I say, Pringle is the kindest of men and when Guyer explains that all his clothes are in Leeds, Pringle turns round and delivers him to his destination even though that adds half an hour to his trip. And no doubt makes him late for the pint of real ale — to which he is very partial — in the Malmaison Hotel, Birmingham.

June 28. Oh, no, not again. S. Warne, cricketer, has the misfortune to meet yet another lady who suddenly realises he has a wife and children and, because she is clearly rather higher class than his other associates, does not run to the newspapers herself, but sends her best pal along to spread the news of her liaison. (Amazing isn't it that there appears to be some sort of central casting for these girls where they can all go to have their stories processed so that they are identical.) Seriously, though, the Warne wanderings are becoming a problem to the Australian management. Do they want their tour spoilt by more tales of his romances? I bet the answer is no; but what about his ability to pick up a few wickets to ensure the Poms have nightmares. I walk into breakfast at the team hotel and see the captain Ricky Ponting hidden underneath one of the biggest oversize baseball caps and wonder if he is trying to pretend he is nothing to do with the rest of the team; or perhaps that he is nothing to do with Warne. When I ask an expert he tells me the baseball cap has a different purpose. "Ricky wears it all the time. It's the receding hairline he is trying to camouflage not his worry over Warne." Plenty of time for that later no doubt. I also read that Russell Crowe, an actor with a history of confrontation, steps down as patron of the kids' charity, also known as The Shane Warne Foundation, because of Warne's escapades. Now that is a big condemnation.

June 29. For the first two overs at drab and miserable Edgbaston Darren Gough bowls as though it is his first one-day international and lets go 23 runs. Michael Vaughan, the England captain, sends him off to meditate on his sins at long leg while his younger team-mates repair the damage. When he comes back for seven more overs Gough grabs three for 47. Not perfect but just one of the signs he plays more than 150 one-dayers. How do the selectors judge this performance? Do they say that he is getting old and that even his new treatment with the by-product of chicken beaks cannot reduce his age? Do they regard him as an iconic figure who will inspire the rest of the bowling squad? Or do they continue to keep him around as trainer, coach and a thinking man's fast bowler. We will know when the one-day sides for the autumn are chosen. As for Edgbaston it needs a face lift far more than Gough, or Ponting, or the adventurous Warne. Trent Bridge is lovely, Lord's is more beautiful than ever and the Riverside ground at Durham is everything you want in a cricket ground although the access by road is not perfect. So will someone please at least give it a lick of paint before the Aussies come back again.

June 30. Every time an Indian or a Pakistan or a Sri Lankan side comes to this country I have to answer the same question. "Which is the correct spelling of this guy's name?" I get from some newspaper executive who is terrific at his job but never goes beyond Dover except for a holiday in Spain. Is it "Nafis" or "Nafees" or "Qadar" or "Kadar"? I never know the answer so this time, when the Bangladesh team arrive, I acquire their official list and CD which contain the names of all of them. Then we hear that the opening batsman who is Javed Omar for the past ten years wants to be Javed Omar Belim. Various suggestions as to the right name for other players crop up and I become so confused that by the match between Bangladesh and Australia at Cardiff I am convinced there is a new player in the team. When "A. A. Chowdhury" appears on the scorecard at Headingley I convince myself that there is another new guy on the team; but no, he turns out to be the same diminutive batsman and medium pace bowler we know here as Aftab Ahmed. I consult the nearest Bangladeshi journalist. "Oh, don't worry," he says. "There are several here who have totally different names when they are at home." So I decide to stick with the names on the CD. If that annoys, upsets or confuses anyone I am sorry. Frankly, you will be in a state if you are as annoyed, upset or confused as I am.

Is Darren Gough regarded as an icon to inspire the other bowlers?-V.V. KRISHNAN

July 1. ICC cause difficulties all round with their new rules but a week after they announce that there will be a "football-style" substitute and a revised way of using the fielding restrictions the changes will be in place for the NatWest Challenge and we will be able to judge how they work. I usually welcome change but, of course, there are dinosaurs and Luddites out there who think that all progress is bad and they will no doubt be handing their tickets for the Challenge games to a charity and turning to worthy causes instead of going to cricket matches in future.

July 2. The mandarins at ICC headquarters must iron out a number of problems before the new regulations come into force but here is a little taster. Bowler A, a brute, keeps running straight down the pitch. He gets two warnings and then his replacement is sent on. According to the new rules neither of these warnings counts against the substitute — lets call him Brute No.2 — who can run down the pitch twice more without suffering too much grief. I hope ICC detect the result of that little worry before one of the highly-paid coaches sees it as a window of opportunity.

July 3. No sooner do I complete an item about the need for advice for cricketers than the Professional Cricketers' Association establish a help line for those who find that the game and their private lives conflict. Ring the number and be told how to control substance abuse, over-zealous drinking and the break-up of a marriage. Not before time. Cricket is the game with the worst suicide rate and all because players cannot cope with the way their wonderful life sometimes goes bizarrely wrong. Leave the game and find you are trained to do nothing else half as interesting; be chosen for a tour, the highlight of a career, and get home to discover that your partner has found an alternative partner; light a cigarette at 18 and end up with a drug habit. Yes, it happens in other professions too but it seems particularly difficult for sportsmen who go from being captain at school, to their county and so to the Test side without once having to think. Perhaps all they need is a little more contact with the real world. Did you know that Nasser Hussain — for all his admirable stance during the Zimbabwe crisis — never votes in elections during his sporting life? In my book that is a desperate sin and I hope he puts it right but it proves my point. Cricketers — and many other sportsmen — divorce themselves from those matters of conscience, morale judgement and anything which does not include playing cricket or making money. If they take in the world around them they may find some of their problems go away.