Dean-Headley

Dean Headley Q&A, BGL Sports Bash, Stamford School, Thursday July 23rd and Friday 24th

Stamford and Rutland’s Richard Chumbley quizzes ex-England cricketer Dean Headley about his career, English cricket and this year’s BGL Sports Bash at Stamford School

Dean-Headley

This year’s BGL Big Bash (www.BGLsportbash.co.uk), now in it’s fourth year, takes place at Stamford School Main Field on Thursday July 23rd and Friday 24th. It’s a two-day event sponsored by BGL Group and PS Financials based around two celebrity Twenty 20 cricket matches but also featuring a host of family activities and entertainment.

Last year the event raised over £30,000 for local charities and this year’s event will once again be raising funds for the Matt Hampson Foundation, supporting children seriously injured through sport. The charity came into being after the popular Oakham, England and Leicester Tigers player became a tetraplegic following a rugby injury in an under 21’s training session.

Celebrities taking part in Thursday’s match, the Matt Hambo XI versus the Help for Heroes XI, include James Phelps (Fred from Harry Potter), Dom Joly, James Bond actor Colin Salmon, along with rugby legends Rory Underwood, Emily Scarratt and Leicester Tigers’ Freddie Tuilagi.

Friday’s match sees the England Masters XI take on the Local Legends, with the former including cricketing greats such as Mark Ramprakash, Matthew Hoggard, Philip Defreitas, Adam Hollioake, Alex Tudor and of course our interviewee, event organiser Dean Headley.

Dean Headley, who hails from a famous West Indian cricketing family, was a right-arm medium fast bowler for Kent, Middlesex and England during the 1990’s. He is perhaps best remembered as the man who decimated Australia in the fourth test of the 1998 Ashes series. He retired from professional cricket in 2001 due to injury and is now cricketing (rugby and hockey) coach for Stamford School.

How did the BGL Big Bash come about, Dean?

At some point I suggested to the school that we should bring a celebrity cricket team to the school and they agreed. I didn’t run the event in the first year but then took over running it as a commercial and fundraising venture from the second year.

And which charity are you raising money for?

We’re raising money for the Matt Hampson Foundation who supports children like Seb Goold, a nine-year-old Stamford rugby club player who fell from a moving coach on the way back from a mini rugby tournament in 2014 and suffered life-changing injuries, including the amputation of his right leg. Seb’s now back at school here at Stamford [determined to excel in paralympic sports] and he’s doing brilliantly.

Is it difficult to get the big names to come along?

It can be. Just because of schedules and diaries: there are games that go on all around the country. It’s Twenty20 because I always find it increasingly hard to get them to play any more overs than that [he laughs]. Age does come into that.

The England Masters are taking on stars from local teams? Fair fight?

Well the England superstars have always won but it’s played in good spirits so they’ve got enough experience to make sure it’s a good exhibition game. So we’ll bat first. Not sure whether that’s match fixing but there you go.

People think it’s just a cricket event, but it’s a family event, with lots to do. We’ve got UK parachuting display team coming along, a fly past coming over, there are inflatables a climbing, live music, all free with the ticket. It’s just a really fun day.

What do you think of cricketers doing celebrity programmes, like Ramprakash on Come Dancing?

Cricket has become more diverse and more people see cricketers as celebs, whereas when I played very few people got treated in that way. Flintoff probably changed it around a lot when brands realised it was good to sponsor. It’s a clean game, and cricketers are quite intelligent and good with people, so the whole surface of cricket changed at that point. Cricket has become a bit more vogue.

Along with increased fame, Cricketers earn more today than they did when you were playing. Is that a bit annoying?

I’ve always celebrated what I’ve had rather than what I’ve missed out on. I retired at 29 so I probably just missed out. Wages went through the roof over the next five years, but that’s just life, isn’t it.

What do you think of the current England team and who do you most look forward to watching?

People like Butler, Hales and Stokes. They’re very exciting players and still relatively inexperienced. I think that we’ve got to start playing a different brand of cricket. The England/New Zealand series was fantastic – box office stuff. I think that the game has moved on. Players are in the business of entertainment and the brand of cricket played around the world at the moment is very entertaining.

Do you think it’s harder for bowlers these days in the modern formats and with this new style of play?

Yes, well that’s history. Cricket has always made rules to stem bowlers. You’ve got two new balls now in one-day cricket, which means that reverse swing doesn’t come into it so much at the end, whereas when I played it was always a real battle. Cricket has to make it a real contest, otherwise just seeing people hit the sixes and fours could make it become a bit too predictable. I don’t agree with the rule change about how many people you’ve got to have in the circle. I think they’ve got to readdress the balance a little bit.

I always think the most exciting matches are when the team wins although they’re eight wickets down. So wickets are very important – even in Twenty20. There is a school of thought that you set defensive fields, but actually some of the most aggressive people like Brendan McCullum, are saying, ‘do you know what, I’m going to try and take wickets. If I take wickets I stem you’. Playing defensive doesn’t necessarily work because you don’t put the batsmen under pressure.

Did you ever rank yourself in terms of how good a bowler you were internationally? Did you judge yourself that way?

I didn’t concentrate on that. I felt I was very much a team player. If the captain asked me to bowl, I’d bowl. I was more interested in playing in the team environment than I was in whether I was getting five wickets. That said, playing for England I got a lot of four-wicket hauls and one five-fer. I’d judge myself against the best team in the world at the time and that was Australia, and I did well against them.

What were the proudest moments of your career?

It’s a really interesting question because I think that your career isn’t built unless you have several of those proud moments. For instance, I remember years ago I went to Lords and one of my first team captains came up to me and said, ‘you probably don’t remember me. I captained you at school’. I said yes, you’re Duncan Norris. He was taken aback that I remembered, but I was 15 he was 18 – it was a big moment for me: playing for the school 1st eleven. Then playing second eleven cricket; then when you make your first team debut for your county. And then you start becoming a key player for them, and then you have some good games, and then somebody says do you want to play for England? Then your one-day international debut; then your test debut. Then you have a day like I had at Melbourne where you bowl really well and England fans remember it[his six-wicket haul to help win an Ashes test against Australia]. All of them are equally important at the time. So your career is built up out of lots of proud moments or greatest moments.

What did you most like or dislike about he international cricket scene?

I don’t think there’s anything to dislike about it. It made me laugh when England players started complaining. Simple, give it up. There are other people who do want to do it. I’m somebody who wishes they’d have played more but didn’t get the opportunity, so I don’t quite understand people complaining. I think England players are looked after very well. They’re lives are managed a lot better now – they’re bodies are looked after. 20 years ago it was more of a treadmill.

Who were the most difficult English batsmen to bowl at and why?

I would say Ramprakash, I think he’s the best English batsman I’ve bowled to. I don’t care what anyone says about his test career and averages, I just know who I’m bowling to. Graeme Hick was another one: same sort of thing. Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe exposed my biggest weaknesses: they were very good off the back foot and very hard to drag into that non-committal position of going backwards and forwards simultaneously. So I used to focus a lot of my training on bowling at those two because I felt that if I could get them to drag forward a little bit, I could bowl at anyone.

And the best internationally?

Lara. Lara, Lara and Lara. He was just magnificent – I don’t have enough words to describe him. Although if anyone wanted to talk about batsmanship, I would say go and look at Steve Waugh. He used to do very simple things that caused you problems – he’d change his location and stand a yard out of his crease and that altered your length. He batted like a chess grandmaster.

People think that cricket is a game of perfection, but actually it’s a game of management, and the best players in the world manage the situation. There’s no other game in the world where you can go to hit a ball over mid-on, and then it goes to third man for four, and everyone claps – that’s like a golfer hitting the ball backwards!

So it’s designed to be a game of management. People don’t understand that. A lot of coaches coach perfection but it’s not a game of perfection, If you go and get 100, you might nail the ball 20% of the time. The rest of the time you’ve hit the ball within a range, from not very good to brilliant, but only about 20% of your balls will be hit perfectly, if that.

As a bowler, who did you most admire or learn from?

Darren Gough. You had to have a big heart to be a good bowler. And Darren had as big a heart as anybody, whether it was 11am in the morning or the last ball at 6pm at night. I’d like to think that if you spoke to anyone I played with, they’d say pretty much the same of me. Angus Fraser was good as well when I was young. He used to say that your career didn’t depend on how many good days you had, it depended on how well you got through your bad days.

Is there a difference in temperament between a batsman and a bowler, and do they tend to mix with each other?

I think there is a difference. I’ll be controversial here. Batsmen tend to be more selfish and bowlers tend to be more fun-loving. It’s quite interesting when you see a lot of the ex-players teams, very few top batsmen play in them. Whether that’s because they’re clever and we’re stupid, I don’t know!

Following your injury in 2001, was it a difficult transition away from life as a professional sportsman?

Yeah, it was actually. I played my last game at 29. I don’t think I fully appreciated what I’d gone through until I’d got to 38. I can’t really explain much more than that, just life went very quickly and it was very hard.

You’d built up a picture of yourself as a certain thing, and that was taken away from you and you then had to start from scratch – is that how it felt?

Yes, yes it is. You are completely rebuilding your life. I think that is less the case [for cricketers] now because ex-players might be in a position where they don’t have to work again if they manage their money well. But I certainly wasn’t in that position.

You’re now the coach at Stamford School. How did you get into coaching?

Not too many steps. This biggest thing for a coach is to have enthusiasm for the game. I think I coach slightly differently to how others might. A lot of people are taught how to coach, and I think that you can be a natural coach. There are things that you pick up but ultimately I think that cricket’s got a bit too ‘this is how you build a player’. I believe the player creates himself. If you look through all the great players, they’ve all done things differently. You can score runs like Kevin Pieterson; you can score runs like Alistair Cook, Both of them are very successful but very, very different in how they go about it. I think in England we control people a little too much and don’t find out what they can do.

The modern game has changed. When I grew up it was: ‘you can’t do that, you can’t do this.’ Whereas now the mindset is different. Yes, the bats are better, the wickets are better, but ultimately a great batsman knows that if he hits the next ball right it’s going out of the ground. A few players probably had it in the past – Botham, Viv Richard’s – but more people are getting that mindset now. It’s not a technical thing, it’s just a belief and an understanding. [The American ‘can do’ attitude?] Yes, but without the nonsense. You’ve got to have a sense of reality.

You’ve been coaching at Stamford for how long?

This is my fifth year. It’s all about enthusing people to play sport. I’ve got some boys who aren’t that great but who love cricket, and I’ve got boys who are very good and love cricket. A lot of people play sport as a kid and then start to try and build a career out of it. I think you should get out and play the game. I always say that sport picks you, you don’t pick sport. Luck is involved: your coach has to like you, see the talent in you, and you need to be able to fit into his team at that time. Play the game. Play passionately: enjoy it, love it, eat and breathe it. One day you might be lucky enough that someday someone comes up to you and says, do you want to do this for a living? Until that time, just go out and enjoy it.

I don’t believe coaches produce good cricketers, I think good cricketers produce themselves: all you need to do is give them the environment to do that.

What do you think is special about Stamford School?

I think the school is best described as it was by the headmaster who employed me. He said Stamford produces grounded, rounded kids. The emphasis here is on hard work. We’re not as selective academically as a lot of private schools. It doesn’t make you a great teacher if you only take A* students in and get them A*s, but if you take a boy who’s a grade D and take them to C or a B, then you really know how much you’ve achieved.

Do you live locally and what do you think of the area?

I live in Uffington, just a mile and a half down the road. It’s a beautiful area and a fantastic place to bring up children [he has three]. Lots of things to do. Nice people. Not over the top development. A great outdoor environment – we often go up to Rutland Water and kick a ball about, or use the beach they put in last year. We visit the little towns: Uppingham, Oakham and Stamford. Stamford is particularly beautiful. The area is quaint and relaxed. Life is at a nice pace here.

Tickets for the BGL Sport Bash start at £10 for adults and are available at www.BGLsportbash.co.uk

 

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