Lloyd would be able to teach Bangladesh to talk a better game

When David "Bumble" Lloyd was England coach his wild, wild Press conferences were always worth attending.

Ted Corbett

When David "Bumble" Lloyd was England coach his wild, wild Press conferences were always worth attending. At one he told the assembled multitude that he was never going to answer one of my questions again. His personal problems had been made huge in a tabloid newspaper for which I ghosted Fred Trueman's copy. He did not say whether he had refused to speak to Trueman as well.

He held up another Press briefing to ask: "What are you doing, wearing a waistcoat at this time of day." Again I was the guilty party although Bumble could not explain what was wrong with a waistcoat worn at midday. After all James Stewart wore one in High Noon.

His way with words, he was also a radio commentator, a gardening presenter on television and a very witty after dinner speaker at the time, made some of his utterances memorable to everyone.

After Zimbabwe held England to a draw in Bulawayo by the dubious practice of bowling way down the legside, he let rip with so many words that even he was not able to remember all of them for his autobiography. "We flippin, murdered `em," was his most often quoted phrase. Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, told him in no uncertain terms to keep his `flippin' mouth shut in future.

It was not a wise move. Speaking is, to Lloyd, like breathing is to the rest of mankind and the words continued to pour out of him without restraint. He also pinned slogans all over the dressing room, played inspirational music and then talked some more.

One sentence came back to me this week as I watched Bangladesh struggle to stay in touch with England in their three one-day matches.

I cannot now recall the venue but the question from the back of the room concerned the ease with which countries from the sub-continent turned out young players and the failure by England to find lads in their teens who might be giants by their mid-twenties.

"Well, we've one or two," said Lloyd. "I used to be under-17 coach and there were . . ." and here his voice trailed away. "Hey up," he shouted suddenly. It's a northern phrase which means `listen up, guys.'

"I don't know if you have heard of him, but there's a Lancashire lad by the name of Andrew Flintoff and a lot of people including me think he has a future. He's big, he hits the ball a mile and he bowls pretty quick and he's mean. He's got chances of playing for England and if he does you'll not forget him in a hurry."

A few weeks later I saw Flintoff playing for Lancashire. He was 19 and raw and after hitting one or two long boundaries he got out in a rather naive way and he did not bowl very well but right at the end he took the most astonishing catch.

The match was virtually over, so there was not pressure but he ran 35 yards along the boundary and took the ball with both hands below the knees. Very casually as if it might be a practice match. I thought it was just about the best outfield catch I saw that year and it woke me up to the hope that Lloyd's prediction might come true.

That's six years ago now and a lot of water had flowed under a lot of bridges since that day.

Flintoff won a place against the 1998 South Africans which showed he was too young but which at least gave the selectors a chance to have a look, give him some advice and then keep him in mind for another try.

He did not take the advice. Well, lads of 20 don't even like advice so that's not surprising. As a result of listening to his own dietary ideas for instance his weight ballooned to 17st 12lb, or as a boxing writer put it so deftly, `the same as the world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.'

"I seem to be a slow learner," Flintoff said when he received his Man of the Match award at Chittagong as well as the awards for best batsman and best bowler. It is beginning to look as if he learned all his lessons properly and now the mid-2000s promise to be the Flintoff era.

This enormous man 6ft 4in and a trimmed down 15st has the strength of ten so that, as he showed in the final Test against South Africa, he can force a ball over the leg side boundary even when he is cramped for room.

That day he scored 95 off 104 balls with 12 fours and four sixes. He was out trying to hit his fifth six into the same place in the stand that had been the final resting place of the fourth six off the previous ball.

Ambitious, stupid, over-confident or simply carried away by the moment. You can guess what I think. Kapil Dev's four sixes in succession at Lord's is one of my favourite moments and I would rather see a man get out going for six to reach a century than anyone push the ball for a safe single to break an obscure record.

It was the climax of his season since he had made two fast fifties in the fourth Test. As I told you earlier, that innings made it almost certain that Flintoff will be Michael Vaughan's vice-captain soon and probably the one-day captain by the next World Cup when he will still not be 30.

That innings at the Oval is important. It turned the game from being a leisurely draw into England's match. Few men in history could have played that knock: Kapil Dev, Ian Botham Gary Sobers, G. W. Grace, Gilbert Jessop, and Alfred Mynn, the Kent giant of the 18th century who had a build like Flintoff and was often described as `a champion cricketer.'

Like all the above players Flintoff rises above the game, ignores the quality of the opposition and, when the mood is right, lets fly. It is no use protesting that his recent runs came off Bangladesh. I suspect that before very long there will be no attack on earth that is safe when this big boy starts blasting. Then he will be a champion, too.

But what of Bangladesh?

Having watched them perform for 15 days remember that in the English countryside a Test in Dhaka begins at 3.30 a.m., not a great time for balanced, critical analysis. I can only answer that they are still trying to reach the bottom rung of the ladder.

There are one or two promising batsmen, a thinking captain, decent wicket-keeper and several bowlers you might like to be among the reserves in an England, an Australian or an Indian side.

They lack wisdom, experience and knowledge; they don't field properly and their running between the wickets is a joke. They have no one save Dav Whatmore to explain how to deal with life on the field.

And that situation may continue for the next ten years unless their selectors give up picking teams and allow one to settle down and learn lessons while losing.

I met Gordon Greenidge during his spell as coach to Bangladesh and asked him what the worst pressure he was finding. "The people of this country expect them to win the World Cup," he said. It was sad to see such a plain spoken man reduced to tears.

At the time Bangladesh could not beat Kenya or Canada without a struggle and there are so many question marks against their only victory over a Test-playing country that it is embarrassing to mention that 1999 World Cup match against Pakistan.

So the crowds, the fans and the men in the board-rooms bring a different type of problem. They think that old-fashioned remedies like sacking the coach and the captain, adopting a youth policy or bringing back veterans will cure their struggling team.

No, it will not guys. The only answer is even more old-fashioned. Pick a team and stick with it. That's way they will be able to pass on the tips they pick up along with way if, eventually, they find a great batsman, two good bowlers and a dozen fielders to kick start their team.

Perhaps they ought to make David Lloyd their next coach. At least he would be able to teach them to talk a better game.