Attitudes: past and present

Published : Oct 20, 2001 00:00 IST

IN my last column for The Sportstar I wrote of my concern about the players' complaint of too much cricket. Since then I have read an interview given by Marcus Trescothick, the exciting young English batsman, in which he has quoted about the sacrifices players have to make, the pressure they are all under and how hard it all is, both physically and mentally.

Not once does he mention opportunity, enjoyment or excitement and this worries, concerns, but doesn't surprise me, for such attitudes are very common now in first class cricket.

It was once only a symptom of county cricket. But now it has infected the international arena.

I just wonder whether it may also be the reason behind the decline in the standard of Test cricket in most parts of the world.

I am now in my 49th season in first class cricket, as a player or coach and I am still as passionately fascinated and dedicated to the game as I was as a 16-year-old when I was first asked to play for New South Wales alongside Keith Miller, Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey, Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson.

I thought I was the luckiest person in the world then and still can't believe I have been lucky enough to still be in demand and able, I trust, to still give something back to the game I have loved and treasured all these years.

I have accepted long ago that personalities and attitudes change and we are now in an era where it is not cool to appear enthusiastic, even if deep down you are.

Justin Langer is one of the exceptions, but he often has the Mickey taken out of him by being too often openly enthusiastic.

I have no doubt that others would like to express their sheer love and enjoyment of the game, but won't because of the fear of the ribbing they might get.

The present generation like to promote they are doing their own thing, but you only have to look below the surface to see "their own thing is the same as their mates' around them." This is particularly noticeable in dress and attitudes.

I have no doubt that deep down the present day stars are as keen and enthusiastic as someone like Johnny Martin, the NSW and Australian left-hand chinaman spinner.

Johnny, or little Fav, short for 'little favourite', was a fine cricketer. He ranks in the top five all-time wicket-takers for NSW and was a prodigious hitter of sixers. He was a country boy and hailed from a tiny hamlet (population 92), 250 miles north of Sydney.

He ran the local post office, manned the community phone switchboard, delivered the mail, 40 miles or more each day and in between raised some poddy calves and grew peas to keep the wolves from the door.

Except for a few years in Sydney, he lived in Burrell Creek all his life. He loved cricket with a great fire and passion and respected and upheld the traditions and finer aspects of the game.

Obviously, he had to leave his beloved Burrell Creek and seek the higher standards in Sydney if he was to progress, but not for too long, preferring to catch the Friday midnight train from Taree, the nearest big town for the all-station 8-hour trip to the big smoke.

After a full day of cricket he took the 10 p.m. mail train back to Taree to pick up his push bike for the 16-mile ride to Burrell Creek.

He did this for years with no thoughts of being compensated and never once thought it was a sacrifice, pressure or how hard it was physically or mentally to squeeze a day's cricket in between two nights without sleep. His rewards and satisfaction came when he won his NSW cap and like the rest of us received the equivalent of US $2 per day. It didn't really matter that the sightscreen and room attendant were receiving more for we were fulfilling our ambitions and dreams.

In many, many ways I am thrilled I played when I did for it was undoubtedly the last age of innocence, before World Series cricket and the South African rebel tours. Obviously, in retrospect, we would have liked to have been paid more, but I do not resent this and am delighted that the present players are being well rewarded. The only thing that really raises my hackles is when I hear statements about how much more professional the modern day players are.

If you relate professionalism to being very well paid then I agree entirely with this, but if it suggests that the present day players put more thought, planning and effort into their preparation then I disagree.

I believe I am in a unique position to judge this for no one has worked at the coal face of first class cricket longer and I have had the opportunity to view first class cricket for five decades.

There have been changes in the game, obviously, but these haven't altered how the game is played all that much. The players are no fitter or tougher than in the past, they just do things differently to get fit.

My assessment of fitness is always cricket related. Whether a bowler can bowl 30 overs a day or a batsman can bat all day is the ultimate fitness test.

Modern coaching and fashion, fads and theories seem to be dictating that worldwide coaching will be the same. Australian is the flavour of the month and most other nations seem to be rushing to implement our system. Yes, we do have a good structure, particularly for developing youngsters.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, as long as coaches allow their charges to express their natural instincts and style and not try to clone their youngsters in the current trend or thoughts if it doesn't suit them.

Above all, every nation must try to implement fun and enjoyment in their coaching and development process. It is healthy and beneficial for all cricketers to enjoy what they are doing. Time passes more quickly and players put more effort into their training. Instead of it being tough and hard work they will look forward to the stimulant and excitement of improving. Cricket will only survive and prosper if the players truly enjoy and love what they are doing.

Money is important, but unless the players get a buzz of excitement and love what they are doing we will not see the best of their talents.

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