The second Tom Maynard Academy intake group met in the driving wind and rain of Birmingham Airport with the usual tentative pre-bonding handshakes and quiet initial small talk.
The management team remained largely intact, with just the one substitution from what can only be described as an outstanding debut group in 2014, Mark Garaway replacing Gordon Lord to help look at the players’ action type and personality profiling. “Garars” (© the classic cricket dressing room school of original nicknames) had ‘previous’, having worked with Messrs Maynard and Conway on previous England tours and on home series. Now settled into the gentle daily public school life at Millfield, he brought a daytime maturity and knowledge to proceedings. When the sun went down, well, different story!!
The nets and the way the group was looked after were, again, outstanding. Check the touch of the logo on top of the coffees and cappuccinos – outstanding. Andy (or, as Dean Conway christened him, rather lamely, ‘Inda’) House has always been an exceptionally helpful on-the-ground source and he again lived up to billing, ferrying folk back and forth to the airport with ne’er a complaint, stepping in after Conway and Garaway had managed to leave their room keys inside their apartment and generally just sweeping up in every sense imaginable. Every group trip should have an Andy House. Even if he is, rather disappointingly for such a thoroughly decent bloke, a Tottenham fan. We don’t talk about that.
It was good to catch up again with Nico and Harv, the Chuckle Brothers of elite development coaching. Nico is still a million miles an hour, with fingers in more pies than a Ginsters factory, but still the same outstanding mixer with the lads, with a drill for every occasion. Though his excuse when late for golf on the second day – “this bloke kept me talking and I couldn’t get away” – wasn’t altogether believed by his three playing partners. Harv has managed to work even harder on his Australianisms in the year since the first Academy group came together. Progress had clearly been made, though, as he managed to sit through an entire Jamie Dalrymple talk without once asking what a word meant. Last year, the words ‘hubris’ and ‘antonym’ had furrowed his Victorian brow somewhat. He’s obviously been going to evening classes. Either that or JD has deliberately toned it down now that he’s found the right level. But, like Nico, as a coach, Harv has been a fantastic benefit to the players, especially the bowlers.
There have been two talks so far. Mike gave an introduction to the Trust and its work before opening a discussion on some of the challenges which face young cricketers on the early rungs of the career ladder. Jamie Dalrymple was back by popular demand to talk to the players about leadership, teams and teamwork, and sports psychology. He had managed to bypass the general public by flying in on a private jet. Unfortunately this time his butler, nanny, chauffer, chef, valet and secretary weren’t able to make it. He even had to carry his own golf clubs. The shame.
Last year’s group only contained a couple of golfers but the opposite applies this time around, with a good nine or ten who play. They all went out on the Sunday for a hit. And they hit plenty. Apartment roofs, wildlife, water, cacti… fortunately not any of the residents or holiday makers. Or none that were owned up to. Alex Wakely took charge of the competition element, with €2 in and the winner scooping the prize. Harvey walked off with the money though I have to express a little disappointment that having, for once in my life, played well, defeating Conway and Garaway comfortably, the fact that Dean decided not to complete any of the card after a dozen holes owing to the fact that he was sulking after the worst round in the history of world golf might have ruled me out of contention. The coaches, along with Martyn Ryan, the Trust Chairman, who spent a few days with us, played a couple of times, with Nixon and Harvey generally prevailing. After the first round, Conway and I took one look at the wind, acknowledged the fact that our limited games and the fact that a set of clubs actually equated to a driver (which no one uses), around three irons and a putter didn’t make for too happy a combination and promptly went off to do something more interesting instead.
Deano has been busy organizing the lads’ fitness work. They all have individual programmes to follow and the way the Academy timetable has been arranged they are given sufficient time to work on those. There is a gym on site and Matt organized a couple of bike rides along the coast for the group. There are pools but the temperature/wind combination was such that you’d have to be either drunk, completely stupid or a raging masochist to dive in. Two of the boys went into the sea at the midway point of the first bike ride – hardy souls – but even the Ironest of Iron Men would tip his toe in the pool back at base and go off and find something less challenging to do. Like ascend a Himalayan peak blindfolded with no shoes.
Dean also has charge of the warm-ups. The third net session was preceded by a penalty shoot-out after the teams couldn’t be separated in the normal time football match, despite Dean adding ‘one more minute’ around twenty times. Sunny Singh was the Conway selection as man of the match – Ashley Cole-like, Dean described his performance – before his Warwickshire colleague Andy Umeed put away the winning penalty. I dare not ask how the teams were divided but the spirit was good if not the technical ability. I think Dean is just desperate for the boys to move on to a rugby ball.
Garas’s work was focused on action profiling for the players, helping them understand where they might be able to bring about a few basic improvements to stance, fielding position, eye alignment and the like. It’s geeky stuff, and he’s geeky enough to absolutely love it, but incredibly powerful if used effectively. As with everything we do on the Academy it is designed to provide the twelve participating players with some tools, something to think about. They are free to take whatever elements they like, and what they believe would work for them and go away and work on it with their county coaches back home in the UK.
As in 2014, midweek saw a group bonding session around the Champions League football in the complex’s cinema room. Management had organized a €5-a-go sweep on the first and last scorer for the Manchester City/Barcelona game, with an even split of the pot. After the customary bickering the group’s resident Scotsman, Andy Umeed, managed to make up for the fact that he’d had to endure a moment’s silence during the warm up on day two after England managed to power past the might of Scotland in the World Cup game, by seeing Luis Suarez earn him a minimum of €60. Not content with that, Suarez went on to bag a second, meaning Andy was on course for €120. But the Desert Springs golf pro, Kirk, then settled in to the last scorer’s seat when Aguero scored and that looked to be that. But with Barcelona earning an injury time penalty, Alex Barrow was on track for half of the pot if Messi scored. He didn’t. Kirk walked away with the cash. Which, after running around the group sorting out tee-off times, buggies, clubs, left handed gloves (for Nico, inevitably) and other golf issues, probably earned the group a few extra brownie points. Nico’s own player managed to get himself sent off. Probably for excessive talking J.
The end of the week sees a couple of Twenty20 games against a Spanish XI at La Manga and remaining net sessions will focus on game plans for those. More of that as the week progresses.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Alex Barrow (Somerset); Bradley Erasmus (Surrey); Jack Murphy (Glamorgan); Liam Norkett (Gloucestershire); Jamie Porter (Essex); Sunny Singh (Warwickshire); Matt Taylor (Gloucestershire); Jordan Thompson (Yorkshire); Adam Tillcock (Nottinghamshire); Andrew Umeed (Warwickshire); Alex Wakely (Northamptonshire); Chris Wood (Hampshire)
Matthew Maynard (Head Coach); Ian Harvey (Coach); Paul Nixon (Coach); Dean Conway (Physiotherapist); Mark Garaway (Personality Profiling); Jamie Dalrymple (Coach/Speaker); Mike Fatkin (Trustee/Speaker); Richard Green (Kit Sponsor); Andy House (Sport Europe, Local Contact); Martyn Ryan (Trust Chairman)