Emburey's cool reason is Northamptonshire asset

Michael Austin talks to the coach who put county cricket before England's call
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The Independent Online
Laid-back he may look, with an economical bowling action and an uncomplicated batting style, but John Emburey, Northamptonshire's new coach, is a serious individual, not vulnerable to the mood swings of some contemporaries in his England heyday.

Not all renowned players make top-class coaches, but Emburey's adopted county have recognised his qualities. A four-year contract, together with the extension of his playing career for another season, sums up their sentiments. They were emphasised by Emburey being on a list one "contested" registration, because he rejected a two-year contract from Middlesex, his previous county.

Northamptonshire feel justified in using one of only two list one places allowed in any five-year period, despite Emburey saying that his own playing plans are "fairly flexible". The list one category is usually reserved for some young buck with seasons ahead of him.

For the present, Emburey is happy to play on, which is one of the reasons why he made himself unavailable when being sounded out as a candidate for the role of England coach, now bestowed on Lancashire's David Lloyd. Emburey coached England's successful A team in Pakistan last winter but said: "I do realise that with continuing to play this year that I do need more time in coaching and management to make sure I get it right.

"I want to get involved with the England set-up in the future. I have lots of ideas which I hope would be of benefit to the team," said the 43-year-old Emburey, who is starting his 24th season as a county player. Since first considering a cricket career at the age of 13, Emburey, a big spinner of the ball in suitable conditions, has gone on to take almost 1,600 wickets.

After 64 Test matches, 61 limited-overs internationals and 500 first- class appearances, the years have taken no toll on his enthusiasm either. During Northamptonshire's pre-season tour of South Africa, he marked his debut in a three-day game against Transvaal with 2 for 21 in 16 overs, despite an unhelpful pitch.

These are potentially productive times for the county, as Emburey asserted: "I am fortunate to have come to a club that was successful last season, finishing third in the County Championship and being NatWest Trophy finalists. Hopefully, we can go on and win a competition this summer."

His immediate thoughts occupy the opening County Championship match against Durham, starting today at Chester-le-Street, now that Northamptonshire have made a winning start in the Benson and Hedges Cup.

They beat Worcestershire and Scotland in the opening games, promoting David Capel from the lower order to knock the cover off the ball and exploit early-innings gaps in the outfield created by new regulations requiring nine fielders inside the circle for the first 15 overs.

Capel's elevation yielded two innings of 40-plus, though Emburey asserted that the ploy is not written in stone.

"There could be times when we want the Sri Lankan approach that they adopted in the World Cup or others when we need the more down-to-earth Australian plan, with a solid start and a build-up of momentum," he conceded. "In general terms I do not want to play at the expense of someone younger but I expect to be involved early season at least when the pitches are a bit green and not suited to spin bowling."

As for his switch from Lord's, Emburey expects to enjoy the more intimate surroundings of Northampton, and said: "Once you have been there a while, you get a bit blase about it and, at the end of the day, you are happy to get away from there."

Ironically, Emburey scored his maiden first-class hundred against Northamptonshire at Lord's in 1982, but added: "As for Northampton itself, oddly over all the years, I have played only three or four Championship games at the ground. I cannot remember taking lots of wickets here either. That's a bit worrying," he mused, breaking into a rare chuckle, far removed from his steely determination to get his team excelling on a greensward illuminated with golden summer moments.