Lorries Before Wicket

Stephen Brenkley talks to players about their cold comfort in the close season
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The Independent Online
ONE will deal with the complicated business of dispatching lorries around Europe. Another will don pin stripes and become a stockbroker. This may or may not possess more career potential than selling Christmas trees, which is the aim of a third. Painting the house, studying for a law degree and being an engineer in the nuclear industry are among the options for other members of the fraternity. For cricketers, winter will clearly be much the same as ever.

But it is not as fraught as it used to be. There are more tours now and more players go to clubs abroad, in apparent defiance of the supposition that the English pro plays too much. The counties also continue to employ several players for coaching duties at schools when once they conveyed the impression of being glad to see the back of them when September came.

Some summer heroes took menial jobs because their meagre county salaries demanded it; others faced the indignity of attending the dole office where they could sign on and sign autographs at the same time.

Still, there remains the feeling that most of them must take what they are given. In the case of Colin Metson, this involves the intricacies of the haulage industry. In the winter the Glamorgan wicketkeeper, frequently described as the most proficient in Britain, and that includes Jack Russell, is responsible for calculating the profitability of lorries on routes in Europe.

He is anticipating his unseasonal employment with great eagerness and there were times, speaking to him last week, when he seemed much to prefer the world of haulage to the world of keeping wicket.

"This hasn't been the best of seasons for me," he said. "I haven't been in the team for the last month because the policy has been to pick the better batsman not the better wicketkeeper. This has been frustrating."

Metson, 33, has worked as project co-ordinator for Castle Services, based at Cardiff Docks, for several winters. He is now enamoured enough with the job to take his briefcase to matches. "On batting days I try to do some work in the dressing room," he said. "There's only so many newspapers you can read."

Metson, who will spend at least part of the winter planning his 1997 benefit, much prefers the job to winter coaching. "The idea of being in a playground getting cold and teaching cricket to people who may not want to be taught it isn't much fun," he said.

While the diminutive Glamorgan keeper (he is 5ft 6in) is happy with his spread sheets, his taller counterpart at Somerset, Rob Turner (6ft 2in), will be calculating different figures. This will be his second winter with the Bristol stockbroking firm, Rowan Dartington.

"I shall be taking it more seriously this year and intend to take some exams," he said. "I'm not sure it's what I want to do when I give up cricket and I certainly don't intend to do that just yet. But you have to make provision for when you're not playing." Turner, 28, got a Cambridge degree in engineering but engineering jobs are hard to come by.

Not, however, for Mark Bowen, the Nottinghamshire seam bowler. He will again be employed by British Nuclear Fuels at Sellafield as a commissioning engineer, a job which will doubtless demand much of his degree in chemical engineering.

The potential Christmas tree vendor, if he can get the trees and a place to sell them, is the Surrey batsman Nadeem Shahid who should have no trouble unloading them around Kennington, having hit the winning runs in the Sunday League last week to give Surrey their first trophy for 14 years.

The house painter, after moving into his new home last April and having his hands full with cricket since, is Jason Lewry, the Sussex swing bowler. "That should take care of two months though I hope I can get some part- time job to stop me going nuts," he said. The student lawyer is the Somerset opening batsman, Peter Bowler.

Of course, the winter may be stranger for the bigger names accustomed to the big tours. Graeme Hick will spend part of the winter in Zimbabwe - with his family, not the England team. Mark Ramprakash is playing club cricket in Sydney. Whoever they get their Christmas tree from, there won't be a spread sheet in sight.