England news April 4, 2016

Famous sledger Kirby becomes MCC head coach

Steve Kirby adds another wicket to his haul - Steve Jacques on this occasion © Getty Images

Steve Kirby, once reputed as one of the most passionate competitors in cricket, not averse to a famous sledge or two, has been appointed as head coach of MCC, proof perhaps that even the wildest players mature into establishment jobs and the MCC, these days at least, has a broader attitude to life.

Kirby, a ginger-haired never-say-die pace bowler for Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset, will oversee all aspects of the MCC's coaching structures, including the MCC Young Cricketers, who compete in the 2nd XI Championship, the MCC Academy based at Lord's and the Club's burgeoning community coaching programmes.

He will assume the role in late April, replacing Mark Alleyne, whose seven-year term has ended. His "infectious love of cricket", as cited by the MCC, is bound to challenge the next generation of players in ways they have yet to imagine.

Kirby's most famous outburst - and he must be weary of hearing it - was allegedly when he informed Michael Atherton that he had "seen better players in my fridge" - an assessment that as far as is known he has never fully explained. Perhaps alongside the milk and the probiotic yogurt he had a perishable figure of Wally Hammond?

The player himself later gave his own version of what passed, suggesting that the sledge had actually been "I've seen better batters in my fish and chip shop," which sounded a little more logical.

The irresistible vision cannot be resisted of future players in MCC caps lambasting their opponents in colourful language that has rarely entered the annals of the most famous private cricket club in England. It is doubtless unfair, because Kirby has many qualities, but it is irresistible all the same.

There were few more committed cricketers than Kirby and his sheer love of the game is sure to be communicated to the next generation of MCC cricketers.

With less ambition, he would never have made the grade. He began his career at Leicestershire as a 17-year-old but after suffering a back injury was released from the before playing a first-class match.

His first-class debut for Yorkshire in 2001 was a revelation - not just because he was born in Lancashire, on the other side of the Pennines. He took 7-50 on his first-class debut and amassed 47 wickets at just over 20 runs apiece in a championship-winning season. Raw of bone and unpretentious of nature, he was instantly one of the fastest bowlers in England, obsessively committed to attack, stomping through the season with the gait of an American gold prospector.

Yorkshire released Kirby three years later at his own request. His future was in doubt, Kirby would go on to take 572 first-class wickets for three counties in a fourteen-year playing career. His sheer desire won him four England A tours. That England debut never came and, on balance, he could not fairly complain..

Kirby has been a Member of MCC since 2010 and played in the annual Champion County match on four occasions, taking 5 for 29 against Nottinghamshire in Abu Dhabi in 2011. He has represented MCC on overseas tours to Papua New Guinea and Fiji and also to Argentina. His coaching experience has been earned with county academies at Oxford MCC University and by heading community coaching programmes throughout the South-West.

John Stephenson, MCC's head of cricket, said: "Steve's passion for the role and for MCC shone through and this was a key reason why we decided to appoint him. He has energy, drive and commitment in spades and his ambition to drive forward all the club's coaching structures was clear throughout the robust interview process.

"With a successful playing career and impressive coaching credentials, we feel we have, in Steve, someone who is going to really inspire young cricketers of all ages either to take up the game or to take their game to the next level.

"His infectious love of cricket will also rub off on our MCC Academy and Community coaches and we very much look forward to him joining the staff as we start another busy cricket season."

Kirby said: "Words can't describe how excited I am to be taking on such a prestigious role of MCC head coach and I can't wait to get started. Mark Alleyne did a tremendous job over the previous seven years and they are very big boots to fill.

"This role is about helping to unearth the hidden talent of young players from all age groups and backgrounds, helping them to excel in their dreams of playing professional cricket but most importantly helping them to become truly well-rounded confident people who can cope with any hurdle that life throws at them.

"I want to teach them to treasure and respect the values MCC stands for within the game, nurturing them to be role models and ambassadors that MCC can be proud of, but most importantly that they are extremely proud to say they are a real part of."

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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