My thrills and spills in coach's fielding drills


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The Independent Online

I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody... bother, dropped another one. Was Andy watching? Oww, that hurt. Hope Andy wasn't watching. Got 'im... Andy, Andy over here.

Reality long since determined I would never make any sort of grade as a cricketer – willing but unfortunately unable. That doesn't take away the man-child desire to impress the most important grown-up in English cricket, the man who took England to the top of the world. We gather at The Oval, a handful of competition winners and two journalists, for an hour's coaching masterclass from Andy Flower and Tom, one of Surrey's coaches, and suddenly nine men and one woman who have little to offer but enthusiasm and advancing years are gambolling around the indoor nets like 10 wannabe Jonty Rhodes.

The indoor school is laid out with mats, cones and legless bowling machines. "What do you want to get out of this session?" asks Flower. I'd be happy with self-respect intact, but Flower is not a man for low expectations. The machine growls, spits a ball on to a rutted ramp and it flies straight at me. Down it goes. "Well tried," says Tom and feeds the machine again. Same result. Then one sticks, and another.

"Get low," says Flower before we start the next exercise, diving on to mats to try and catch his throws. This is more like it – visions of glory, with a soft landing. Flower explains how at the highest level players learn to use one hand to catch the ball and the other to break their fall when diving. Soon all shapes and sizes are flying through the air to barks of encouragement from Flower. He has a good word about everyone and everyone glows to receive it. "Catch!" he says and it's worth every bit of pain in my ankle in the days since.