Saturday, February 28, 2009

The future of cricketers

I read an article on Cricinfo that really touched me. It's about the NZ pacer from the 80s - Ewen Chatfield. I remember him well - his thin frame and signature mustache can not be easily forgotten.

It seems that life after cricket has not been too great for him:
It hasn't been a great time after retirement. He coached his minor association, Hutt Valley, for a long while, only to lose the job when Hutt Valley merged with Wellington. His last job before the current one with Corporate Cabs, was that of a lawn-mower. Then two successive wet winters came.

"There was no income. I got frustrated that I couldn't do enough in summer without killing myself to make up for that." And just like that he called Corporate Cabs, because he "liked driving around". He got the licence and was employed. In between he has worked as a courier, a salesman at a chip shop, and has driven a dairy van. "One of your compatriots," he says of the dairy owner.

"I start at 5.30 in the morning, and I am only allowed to work for 13 hours a day. That's all. You think that's enough? Thirteen hours a day?"

He is not in touch with any of his team-mates. He claims he doesn't get nostalgic, doesn't watch old tapes ("I haven't even seen the 50-run partnership with Jeremy Coney, against Pakistan, to win the match"). There's no bitterness either. [LINK]

I am filled with so much respect for the man. This really is true character. To be content with what you have, to work hard regardless of circumstances, and to hold no grudges or bitterness - now that's a role model.

I know it's not necessarily the responsibility of the cricket boards to take care of the post-cricketing career of its players, but I'm sure they can help out through their contacts and influence. Sure Chatfield is no Hadlee, and he's not had the success of the Crowe or Cairns families either. But he represented NZ with pride and dedication. He played more than 40 Tests and more than 100 ODIs.

This story reminded me of a random encounter I had back in 1999. My mom was visiting me in Atlanta and she wanted to buy some stuff for my home. I dropped her off at a Home Depot Expo (home furnishings) store and came back a little later to pick her up. She said a very nice employee was helping her out and was bringing out the stuff from the backroom. She said he was from the West Indies and was talking about cricket and Pakistan with her.

So when this person came out with the stuff, he started talking cricket with me too. After a bit he said: "You know Ijaz, Wasim, Malik? I played with them." Played with them??? I took a look at his name badge and it said "Lambert". A lightbulb went off in my head, and I asked him, "Are you Clayton Lambert?" And sure enough it was him!

Really enjoyed talking to him, what a wonderful guy. Later I found out he totally dominated the Atlanta cricket league - he even slammed a friend of mine for six after six, on his way to a double century in a 40 over game. Lambert also eventually made it to the US team, and played an ODI for them.

There are so many cricketers I wonder about. Would love someone to do a "where are they now" style show for some of the lesser known cricketers of the 80s and 90s.

The reality is that cricket has not been typically a financially rewarding sport. And in any sport really, there's a small percentage who are well set for life, whereas the majority will have to rough it out like the rest of us. And given that so many sportsmen don't have a solid educational background, things are often tougher for them.

Make your pitch on this post...

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10 Pitched:

  1. Jrod said...

    Top Post SH.

    Its similar to a conversation me and leg break have been having.

    Which all started when we looked at Bryan Young's wikipedia page.

  2. Q said...

    Jrod, can u give me the link of where u and LB are having the convo?

    Thats a thought Sledge about the show.. I reckon u can sell someone that idea.. wud be a great one..

    There are so many Pak cricketers of the past that I have no idea about regarding their where they r and wat they're upto..

  3. Jrod said...

    Q, was a string of emails while we were writing the Masters Game post.

  4. SledgeHammer said...

    @Jrod: thanks!

    And that bit about Bryan Young is interesting.

    I also remember reading about a former Zimbabwe cricketer (can't remember which one) who started a company in California that maintains golf courses (from a soil, grass, curator perspective).

  5. Leg Break said...

    The sad ex-cricketers are the ones wo lurk around in pubs moaning about how much the current players earn

  6. Leg Break said...

    There's a fringe NZ cricketer I see a bit of at the pub.

    Played around 10 tests and fewer ODIs in the 80s.

    Has tried 1st class umpiring but, sadly, has had a few shockers.

    Now umpiring Under 17 games. He can't leave the game alone.

    This time last year he was ranting about how much the current crop are paid, Flem would never have made "his team" of the 80s etc...

    I'd have some sympathy for his view; except for the fact the he earned far more than genuine greats from the 60s ever earned.

  7. Miriam said...

    Really interesting post, Sledgehammer. I'm reading through some old Wisden almanacks at the moment and happen to be on 1986, which covers that NZ-Pakistan series, and it says the following about Chatfield in the Dunedin test:

    "...Pakistan's deep-set fields gave Coney plenty of singles - he had 21 on end at one stage - but Chatfield showed such willingness to take the strike that in their unbroken, match-winning stand of 50 he had 84 balls to Coney's 48. Coney reached his second Test century and Chatfield made his best Test score, his runs being almost outnumbered by his bruises."

  8. SledgeHammer said...

    @Miriam: Thanks for your comment. And interesting stuff about Chatfield. I had not known about him being involved in any heroics till I read the article, and now your comment.

    My strongest memories of Chatfield are when Gavaskar hammered him all around the ground in a World Cup 1987 group match to score his only ODI century.

    That was actually an important match for India as (IIRC) a high run-rate was critical for them to avoid playing Pakistan in Lahore in the semi-final.

    Funnily enough, in the 1996 World Cup, Pakistan were second in their group, India third. Yet Pakistan traveled to Bangalore to play the quarter final.

  9. miriam said...

    Sledgehammer, re the 1996 World Cup, have you read "war minus the shooting" by Mark Marqusee? It can be a bit hard to get hold of a copy but it's well worth a read.

  10. GoodCricketWicket said...

    I remember Clayton Lambert, along with Philo Wallace, making England's bowlers look less than average in Antigua in 1997/98.

    So much so, in fact, that Caddick and Tufnell weren't seen again for over a year.

    An aside on the subject of cricketers lives after cricket: I have been reading John Major's excellent book about cricket's beginnings, and was taken aback at the number of Victorian cricketers whose lives ended in the workhouse or through suicide.

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