Cricket: World Cup - Jenner leg-spin lecture casts Warne-like spell

Adam Szreter enjoys the many attractions of the first World Cricket Coaches' Conference and Exhibition
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The Independent Online
WHILE IT could be said that the national team have not taken full advantage of staging the World Cup in England, no one could level the same accusation at their former opener Hugh Morris. The England and Wales Cricket Board's technical director put on a show at Birmingham's NEC yesterday to rival anything seen in the tournament so far.

If you think the first World Cricket Coaches' Conference and Exhibition, which began yesterday and ends today, is strictly for the birds and the cricketing anoraks you might well be right, but the entertainment and stimulation on offer has already been enough to make shell-suits almost fashionable. Nearly 2,000 delegates packed the main auditorium to watch Terry Jenner, Shane Warne's mentor, open the bowling with a 45-minute talk on the art of leg-spinning. Mark Nicholas, introducing the guest speakers, said he had never witnessed an audience so spellbound.

Next door the exhibition was in full swing by the lunch interval, with stands for sponsors, county cricket boards, clothing and equipment suppliers and innovative companies like Crick-E-Tek, whose simple coaching aids look destined to do wonders for grassroots cricket over the next few years.

All around were familiar faces. Keith Fletcher, the former England coach, was just browsing, John Emburey was demonstrating something called the Tube Train, a muscular development contraption for bowlers, and Neale Radford was flogging the Radford EzyNet, whatever that is.

David Capel looked wide-eyed and bewildered by it all. "I've been very impressed and it just shows that the ECB are really getting their act together," he said. "It's a big facelift for English cricket and all credit to them. They're going a long way towards addressing the problems - it's not shown in this World Cup, that's a product of what's gone on in the past, but it bodes well for the future."

Ricardo Johnson, a sports science graduate from South Bank University, said: "It's been interesting. I'm really here to see how far I can sell myself as a sports scientist, and see what I can learn. There are a lot of people like me who've just done a sports science degree and there is nowhere like this for them to go."

Yesterday's main event was a talk by Bob Woolmer, the South African coach - and, who knows, maybe the next England coach - in which he shared some of the secrets of his success with an audience that included Rodney Marsh, the former Australian wicketkeeper who now runs his country's acclaimed Cricket Academy.

"It was very intimidating to talk to 2,000 people," Woolmer said later. "You're very conscious of all the great players and coaches in there."

If you fancy going along today, highlights include Desmond Haynes on batting, Sir Richard Hadlee on bowling and Bob Taylor on wicketkeeping, while the fringe meetings which yesterday featured Allan Donald and Clive Rice will continue although they were all sold out well in advance. The only letdown yesterday was the non-appearance of Jonty Rhodes to talk about fielding.

England, it seems, have done something right after all during this World Cup. "We're absolutely delighted," Morris said. "Obviously having the World Cup here was significant, but there are people here who've flown in from South Africa, Australia, Malaysia and the Caribbean."