my own goal; John Emburey

THE 42-year-old Middlesex and England off-spinner has a tesimonial this year, his 23rd in first-class cricket. He looks back to just before his career began and an incident that helped shape his attitude to the game . . .
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The Independent Online
ALTHOUGH I've played all my county cricket for Middlesex, it was Surrey who I was first involved with, having been to school in Peckham in south-east London and got into the Surrey Schools side as a teenager. Around this time - the late Sixties, early Seventies - the Surrey coach was Arthur McIntyre, who had kept wicket for them in the Fifties when they won seven county championships in succession. I would have been about 16 when I first came across him; I was one of a few boys from my school, Peckham Manor, who went along to The Oval so Surrey could assess us.

I remember I was the only one from my school the county were interested in, and in September 1970 I was included in a Surrey Young Cricketers side for a tour of Canada. It was a big thing for me even though I'd already had a tour abroad - to East Africa the previous year with Londons Schools, which was where my friendship with Graham Gooch really started.

Anyway, Arthur was the team manager in Canada, and we were all a bit scared of him because he was a strict disciplinarian. Looking back, I learnt a lot from him, especially how to conduct yourself on the field. For example, he never liked players sitting down when a wicket fell or during any break in the play; that's something I never do even to this day. He had a thing about when you walked back to your mark. He didn't like a bowler to receive the ball from a fielder while he was on his way back. You had to stop, wait for the ball to be thrown to you, and then walk back.

Cricket in Canada meant cricket in Ontario and Quebec, where we played a mixture of ex-pat teams and locals. There was quite a big West Indian population as well, so the cricket was pretty good, and it got us used to playing on matting wickets. But I remember that the facilities generally, the clubhouses and the nets, were excellent. Arthur was, of course, responsible for us off the field as well. Now you're talking about a group of lads aged 17 and 18, so we naturally wanted to enjoy ourselves. The only thing was that the drinking age over there was 21. The match that got us into trouble was in Toronto. There was an ex-pat Englishman in the opposing side who took some of us under his wing afterwards and invited us out for the evening. Which was great except that Arthur wanted us back in our dormitory by about 9 o'clock. "Don't be ridiculous," our host told him, and in the end we all got back, somewhat the worse for wear, at about half past one in the morning.

There were about eight of us, in two cars, and I can still picture Arthur, caught in the headlights, as he stood outside where we were staying, legs apart, arms folded, waiting for us. We all tried to sneak back into our beds without him noticing. After all, this could have been our future careers as cricketers at stake. In the morning Arthur gave us all a bit of a dressing-down and reminded us we were ambassadors.

What I learnt later was that you can't have too many hard and fast rules about how much you should drink or sleep. You've got to be able to enjoy yourself, and after all no two people are alike. I remember, on a tour of India, Ian Botham was phenomenal. He seemed to be up all night and in the morning his eyes would look like gobstoppers, and he'd still go out and score a hundred and take five wickets.

I owe Arthur a lot in another way. The winter after we got back from Canada I practised with Surrey and hoped they would offer me a contract. But they had Pat Pocock and Intikhab Alam and didn't have room for me. Arthur recommended me to Middlesex, and I joined them the following summer.