Maynard awaits Fletcher's call

The farewell summer: As the playing days draw to a close, a chance to rebuild an old relationship is on the horizon
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Matthew Maynard is a fatalist: "There's no point in worrying about something you can't control," he says. What will be, will be, but he does know what he would like it to be. If the fates dictate that he is an assistant coach to Duncan Fletcher during England's tours next winter, he will be a happy man.

Matthew Maynard is a fatalist: "There's no point in worrying about something you can't control," he says. What will be, will be, but he does know what he would like it to be. If the fates dictate that he is an assistant coach to Duncan Fletcher during England's tours next winter, he will be a happy man.

Fate did Maynard a good turn when it brought Fletcher to Glamorgan in 1996. Maynard was captain, and the pair took to each other. "We would sit and chat for hours over a couple of bottles of wine, and when our voices rose my missus would say we were arguing again." Not argument, says Maynard, more like heated discussion. Fletcher does not mind being challenged - in private - and he responds to people like Maynard who think for themselves. It was a productive partnership. Glamorgan were County Champions in 1997.

Then fate snatched Fletcher away from Glamorgan to coach England. After six years in the job, he still has a narrow acquaintance in English cricket, but Fletcher had made good friends in Wales, and at the end of their careers he was able to show his loyalty to them. Steve James, opening batsman turned author and journalist, has been chosen to ghost the autobiography, and Fletcher asked Matthew Maynard to be his assistant coach during two one-day series in southern Africa last winter.

Maynard was still active for Glamorgan. Indeed, he had turned down a similar offer from Fletcher a year earlier, in 2003, when he thought that he still had more mileage in county cricket. A year later, he said yes, and he found the winter coaching experience rewarding.

When Fletcher asked him to be his assistant coach during the NatWest one-day series against Australia and Bangladesh this summer, he did not hesitate. That was the prelude to the announcement of his retirement after 20 years in county cricket.

The England and Wales Cricket Board are likely to appoint a second assistant coach alongside the bowling specialist Troy Cooley in October, and Maynard is in with a good chance. The result is that, unlike many county professionals at the end of their careers, he is able to look forward instead of back. The fates have been kind so far.

Maynard was sitting in the team hotel in Birmingham last week before Glamorgan's first game of the season. The physical image has grown softer. The fierce beard has gone, and the cropped hair has grown out and developed a faded blond streak. He is off the drink, but this is his benefit year, so that may not last. Though he promises to stop at the end of the season, he still smokes steadily: "I won't find it easy, but I have got the willpower to do it."

Although he has lived in Wales for 32 years - he was born in Oldham in 1966 - he speaks with only a faint trace of an accent, but to a Welshman he is a Welshman. His name appeared in a Manic Street Preachers number titled "Mr Carbo-hydrate" ("Have you heard of Matthew Maynard/He's my favourite cricketer/I would rather watch him play than pick up my guitar/Than play with my guitar.") He declares: "I can look back and say I've had a good county career." Statistics confirm that: 24,779 runs at 42.64 with 59 hundreds in county cricket, and another 13,506 runs in one-day cricket.

The Championship victory was one of his two sweetest moments. Although he won five one-day medals, the other came when he was on the losing side in a B&H final. He made a hundred, and is still moved by the passion of the Welsh fans at Lord's, who celebrated it by singing "Bread of Heaven" loudly and harmoniously. He is an attacking batsman, especially strong through the covers, and he was admired in England too. Regret at the failure of his intermittent Test career (a mangy 87 runs in eight innings) is not confined to Wales.

He does regret that he was never given an extended run for England. He does not say so, but Fletcher would probably have rewarded Maynard's instinctive talent and given him one. Frustrated, he took the money and joined the rebel tour to South Africa in 1989-90. He feels no need to apologise.

Maynard remembers fondly early days when county cricketers met in the bar at close of play and drank five or six beers. By the mid-Nineties, Kent's players were forbidden to fraternise with the opposition. It may be changing. Glamorgan invite their opponents to join them in the Member's Bar, though not many others do - Lancashire, Yorkshire, Warwickshire are the exceptions.

Fletcher arrived on the scene halfway through Maynard's career. "When he arrived he sat back, looked, studied. That's his style. He aims to get players two per cent better. In my case it was a belief thing. He showed me what I could do as a batsman and a captain. I don't think I've ever been one to say, 'I agree, I agree', and we did argue about attitude and tactics. Perhaps he enjoyed the challenge of me trying to make him think outside the norm."

When Fletcher persisted and asked Maynard to join him for a second time, he had begun to think about the future. He had enjoyed a flirtation with insurance broking and was interested in marketing, but his wife encouraged him to go with Fletcher. He enjoyed the African experience: "The players were brilliant, to be honest. Because of their ability you can try things with Test players that county players can't do. We had some great batting drills going."

Fletcher is anxious to have a second assistant coach. If he convinces the ECB, the new appointment will be made in the autumn. Maynard intends to apply and, if he gets the job, his life will change dramatically. For a start, he will become a candidate for the succession. The suggestion embarrasses him. He laughs nervously: "I don't know about that," he says. He expects Fletcher to stay on until the 2007 World Cup. He adds that if Fletcher did resign in the autumn after another defeat by Australia, the position of assistant coach might not be filled. "I would be scratching my head, wondering what to do this winter." (Steve James thinks that the idea of Fletcher's early departure is, frankly, rubbish.)

Maynard's future may be back in the hands of the fates, but if humble humans have any influence, he trusts Fletcher with it. "Some people just have the X-factor, and he's one." And if he does tour with England to India and Pakistan, Maynard knows what he would like to achieve with England's batsmen: "I'll try to improve their game by a per cent or two," he says.