Matthew Maynard - Virtuoso Finds His Reason For Succeeding In Ul- timate Test - Tony Lewis

Five years ago, when I became chairman of Glamorgan, my end-of- season report on Matthew Maynard would have been: Matthew has extreme talent as a batsman, often exhilarating to watch, but it is infuriating to witness the occasional performance lurch into slapstick and silly risk.

When I retired from the chair last March, I would have written: Matthew badly wants to play Test cricket again; it is a strong desire which burns in him for more than one reason, not least his need to have something to play for. His virtuosity needs direc- tion if it is not to be squandered and I think he now has the self-discipline. He should establish himself if England's selec- tors are prepared to back talent.

Maynard has returned to Test cricket with a duck; but he has got back and I do not believe that much will stop him now, though in a perfect world he will be bolstered by sound grafters.

Underlying Maynard's game is the need to dominate. Not surprisingly he is an admirer of Ian Botham's cricket. He has never been seen to drag his feet around the field or through a party. It was typical that on Thursday (Aug 5) his wife, Sue, should also give birth to a baby girl in the morning and he get nought against Australia by lunchtime-mere taskers for the day in the Maynard mind.

He would have wanted to have fielded as well, taking two run- ning catches and have sent down half a dozen rapid overs before speeding down to Cardiff to inspect the newborn and then he would be disappointed not to find the other English players up and about when he got back, taking a nightcap in the hotel bar before going into Birmingham for a vegetable curry.

The assistant secretary of cricket at Glamorgan, Mike Fatkin, once went on holiday with the Maynards and reported that Matthew had broken the land speed record from Cardiff to the Norfolk Broads. They planned to boat for peace and quiet but Matthew proceeded to drive his boat like a car, was always first up in the morning and last to bed at night, organizing volleyball and baseball at every pub stop. And when he hurtled back to Wales, he roared out of the house to make a small offering to the Geoff Holmes benefit-a jump out of an aircract!

The maturing of Matthew Maynard comes from family responsibili- ties and also from his upbringing. Born in Oldham, he was brought up in Menai Bridge in Anglesey. He went to the David Hughes School where most of the conversation was in Welsh. He soon made his way and played cricket for the Welsh Schools Under-15s. His father Ken, was a club professional so tuition in the basic techniques of the game was always available and gen- erously given.

It was suggested that he go to Kent to become a professional cricketer at the age of 16. After a couple of seasons in the Kent second team, never batting above No. 8, he got kindly direc- tion from Colin Page, the county coach, towards Glamorgan. He made his county championship debut aged 19, and hit 102 out of 117 in 87 minutes against Yorkshire.

That performance said as much about his mind as about his talent, and the way that they were intertwined. It was obvious his advance to Test class could only be stopped by his own reck- lessness and by the pessimism which historically grips England selectors, that sad indigenous caution which makes young players wait and wait until they have proved their abilities on the daily circuit.

He became the youngest player to be capped by Glamorgan (21) and in 1988 was voted Young Cricketer of the Year by the cricket writers. He made his debut for England the same year.

He failed against West Indies at the Oval in the fifth Test and was dropped for the match which followed against Sri Lanka at Lord's. He was badly wounded by this. It was and will always remain a pathetic piece of selection or rather non-selection. That was the time when he could have matured as part of the Eng- land set-up but instead he was off to South Africa as one of Gatting's mercenaries.

I would not place all the blame for his flight on the selec- tors, however, because his county chairman did advise him to stay within the established game, to fight back and make just as much money in the end. Cash approximating 82,000 pounds was too much of a temptation for a 22-year-old who wanted to set up his family in a good house without mortgage.

Dr. Ali Bacher, in South Africa was right about it when he ar- gued that Matthew Maynard wuld have time to defect and to come back. This time it is hoped that he will get a decent run at the job.

Hyperactive, headstrong, charming, loyal, one of the lads but in many ways unique-Matthew Maynard is all of these. But will he fit into the present England squad? There's the rub.

I will guess that there is enough of the old pro in him to play responsibly. He is now playing meaningful innings for his county but I do not believe the amazing range of attacking strokes will narrow or his horizons will be shortened. He sees at least two possible strokes for every ball.

While he seeks to establish this Test place, now aged 27, every ball is going to be worth watching and that means that England will be compulsory entertainment-and maybe exciting play is more likely to drag us out of the swamp of failure than deadly block- ing.

****Playing in the last two Ashes Tests of the summer, Maynard totalled only 39 runs (avg. 9.75) in four visits to the crease, with a highest score of 20 at the Oval.

Source :: Pakistani Cricketer, Sept.1993