Australia news May 25, 2011

TJ crests his final summit

On his return from England and the massive heart attack that curtailed a rich life of spin coaching and overseas travel in April last year, Terry Jenner set himself one simple goal - to live for another 12 months.

To the great satisfaction and admiration of those close to him, Jenner did so, despite a severely weakened heart and a physique so changed as to be unrecognisable from the robust figure he cut in the nets when standing alongside Shane Warne.

Across that final year, by necessity spent far more quietly than any of the previous 65, Jenner maintained a close relationship with Cullen Bailey, the South Australian legspin bowler he had coached since Bailey was 11 years old.

Like Jenner, Bailey has not found legspin so easy an art, and at 26 he remains a battler on the fringes of the Redbacks squad. But his relationship with Jenner gave Bailey a tremendous resource and a friendship that transcended generations, all for the love of cricket and spin bowling.

"I first met TJ when I was 11 years old at a spin bowling clinic. He was a huge influence on my life, and the best spin bowling coach in the world," Bailey told ESPNcricinfo. "He was a soothing influence on my career, right up until the last time I saw him before I flew up to Darwin [to play club cricket] he was always urging me to be courageous and take risks and to never stop believing in my bowling.

"He talked a lot about SA cricket, he was excited about Darren Berry coming back, and was looking forward to seeing me get back into the state team. He'd say 'you're only 26 Bails, you've got years ahead of you'. He'd always find the right words."

Bailey and Jenner spent hours together, either at Jenner's home or whichever cricket nets were most practical. At that distance, Bailey could see the common touch Jenner had, the combination of advice and enthusiasm that can allow great talents to be unlocked.

"TJ loved talking about the game any chance he got," said Bailey. "When I'd go to visit him in the summer he'd have a cigar in one hand and a glass of red in the other, and we'd sit on the back porch talking cricket until a spin bowler came on the TV, and we'd go inside, and then when his spell ended we'd go back out to the porch and he'd go back to his cigar.

"At spin clinics he'd take a little kid who'd never seen the ball spin, give him a few basic tips and within minutes he'd have the ball spinning, and showing the young bowler how exciting it could be to see that spin. He always seemed to have the right thing to say to relax you or help you concentrate on the thing you needed to."

Jenner's misadventures after his playing days have been often recounted, not least in his autobiography TJ: Over The Top. Bailey said Jenner's frankness about that time of his life contributed greatly to his rehabilitation out of it.

"TJ had his ups and downs," said Bailey. "Now and again we'd talk about the time he spent in prison and I know it did have an enormous influence on how he lived his life afterwards. He had help from friends, but the fact that he was able to re-build his life so well afterwards showed the sort of man he was. And he was always so open and honest about that period of his life."

Open and honest too about the difficulties of life after a major heart trauma. Jenner's final year was often difficult, and eight weeks ago he seemed particularly near to death. But a final effort took Jenner past the year since his heart attack, and the final goal had been accomplished.

"Over the last year or so his health would vary, some days he wouldn't be trending too well at all but others it would be the old TJ. We'd sit and talk and he stayed razor-sharp right until the end," Bailey said. "That was his goal, to get through another year. And he did it."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo