Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: First giddy dance steps towards cricketing greatness

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The year was 1989 and I was finishing intermediate at St Kentigern's School, a fancy Presbyterian learning establishment which occupies a pohutukawa-framed piece of coast at the bottom of Remuera, Auckland.

At the age of 12, my pathway to cricketing greatness was clearly marked. I would play for the St Kent's 1st XI before moving through the Auckland Grammar grades to their 1st XI - springboarding me to provincial and then international glory. Along the way I'd backhand Rothmans King Size cigarettes and find a wife, possibly in the bushes at Pukekura Park, with whom I'd produce cricket-playing children. What could be more pleasurable - cricket, a woman and the best tobacco money can buy?

Our St Kent's 1st XI was coached by the deputy headmaster and former Auckland rep, Rex Hooton. Mr Hooton had a reputation for being no-nonsense. In our first team meeting each of the five bowlers were handed an A4 piece of paper with the fielding positions we needed to remember when bowling.

Hooton meant business. During the course of the session we were told where we'd bat all season, which overs we'd bowl and where to field. I batted at three, bowled first change (after Nick Camel from the out-swing end) and fielded at mid-off (or long-off during the death). That was it. No questions asked.

We were instructed to wear long white hose with garters - sports socks were strictly for tennis and forbidden by law. At the conclusion of the meeting Rex explained to us that our team (comprising seven 12-year-olds, three 11-year-olds and a 10-year-old) was potentially the worst 1st XI he'd seen, but if we listened to him and showed some application we might get away with not embarrassing ourselves shockingly.

The cricketing pot of gold at the end of the prep school rainbow was the Clippell Shield - named after a guy called Clippell - although that crucial part of the story Hooton failed to impart on A4 bits of paper.

As we started to win, Hooton began to believe in our team - he started to trust us. But unfortunately, one wet Tuesday afternoon, all that trust came unstuck in an incident that sent shockwaves through the small and ultra-conservative St Kentigern community.

Hooton called off practice due to bad weather, deciding instead to show us John Arlott's Vintage Cricket - a VHS compiled by the legendary BBC commentator showcasing his favourite cricketing moments dating back to W.G. Grace. Ten minutes in Hooton made a dash for the staffroom (allegedly to catch up on some marking) leaving us alone.

Rightly or wrongly, one of my best friends and I made a decision to replace the video in favour of 3.45 Live - a high-rating children's programme of the late-80s hosted by Phil Keoghan. As the high-energy modern rock intro to Jem and the Holograms replaced the droll ramblings of Arlott, we became overwhelmed by the moment and produced some kind of sexless tango at precisely the same time Hooton returned to the room.

My impromptu dance partner and I were immediately marched to the headmaster's office where he threatened to take our prefect's badges off us. Our bemused parents were called in and attempted to keep a straight face while our appalling crime was explained.

After the tango dust settled our team went on to become one of the greatest in the school's history, losing just one game all season.

What was the point in this story? I'm not exactly sure.

Rex Hooton was a truly great coach, though.

- NZ Herald

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