England cricket September 24, 2013

'Reasonably confident I won't drown'

Thirty miles, 19 hours, jellyfish, boats, and other assorted dangers: this is what Adam Shantry, the former Glamorgan bowler, will face when he swims the English Channel for the Tom Maynard Trust

The sheer number of events undertaken to raise funds for the Tom Maynard Trust illustrate just how many lives the cricketer touched in his tragically short life. Whether it is dinners, bike rides, climbs or golf days, the trust has already raised £200,000 to help disadvantaged young sportsmen and women.

But of all the challenges undertaken, Adam Shantry's is possibly the most ambitious.

Shantry, a left-arm swing bowler who played with Tom Maynard for three years at Glamorgan, is attempting to swim the English Channel to raise funds for the trust. At a time when the rest of us are putting on the central heating, he will, alongside friends Tom Mees (a former Warwickshire seamer) and Mees' girlfriend Emma Lawson plunge into the chilly sea and swim the 21 miles between England and France. He hopes to raise £10,000.

It is a daunting task. The trio estimate that, swimming in relay for an hour at a time each, it will take them up to 19 hours and that, with tides and obstacles taken into account, they will have to swim the equivalent of 30 miles. They are currently scheduled to leave from Dover harbour at around 4pm on September 25, meaning most of the swim will take place in the dark. Shantry admits, in characteristically laidback fashion, that he has never swum in the dark before, never swum with a pilot boat before and never swum for more than two hours before. More people have reached the summit of Everest than have completed solo Channel swims.

"Hmm," he says. "You're making me think I maybe haven't prepared quite as thoroughly as I might have done."

Shantry has, in the nicest way, always been a bit mad. On his Warwickshire debut, he recalls dismissing Tino Best, then playing for West Indies A, and giving the batsman a send-off. "It was only then I realised I might have to face his bowling," he says. " 'Just joking, Tino,' I called after him. 'You were a bit unlucky there. And have I mentioned what a handsome man you are?'"

There was an unusual softness behind the affable exterior, though. It emerged a few years ago that Shantry had taken it upon himself to spend his free time visiting a couple of county members who had become unwell. None of his team-mates or his county knew about it. Not many 23-year-old sportsmen take the time to undertake such missions.

Such was Adam's love of the game that, when he was released by Warwickshire and it appeared his career might have reached a premature end, he found it hard to take. "I got in the car and drove," he says. "I wasn't even wearing shoes. It wasn't until I reached Dundee then I stopped and thought: 'What are you doing, Adam?' I bought a couple of Toblerones, turned the car round and drove back home."

Glamorgan subsequently offered him another chance. In a four-year spell in Wales, Shantry developed a reputation as a skilful swing bowler - albeit one so lacking in pace that one journalist suggested his bowling style should be described as 'slow to stationary' - and a dogged batsman good enough to register a first-class century. By the time a chronic knee injury forced him into early retirement, he had fulfilled many of his dreams; 90 first-class wickets in 32 matches at an average of 24.60 hints at real talent.

He still lives just outside Cardiff, but these days he is a cricket coach. Among other things, he has been working at Shrewsbury School where, he jokes, the pupils are already bowling with more pace than either he or his brother, Jack, who has forged a fine career at Worcestershire, ever managed.

"When we used to play cricket in the garden, I used to tell Jack he'd struggle to make the local league third side," Adams says without a hint of fraternal kindness. "His bowling action is practically a cry for help and neither of us were blessed with pace.

"But he's done brilliantly. He's outshone me in every area of our lives and I'm very proud of his success."

His inspiration for the swim is simple.

"Tom Maynard was simply one of the nicest people I've ever met," he says. "I know people read the stories associated with his death, they see the words 'drink and drugs' and they jump to conclusions.

"But that wasn't what Tom was about. He may have made some mistakes - who hasn't? - but he was an inspirational, kind person who could light up the room with his smile. You only have to see all the challenges people are taking on to raise money in his name to see the effect he had on those who knew him. He was a special person."

Due to his knees, now held together with blu-tac and hope, Shantry is unable to consider a run or bike ride and he confesses that his swimming is "more anvil than eel." But, in conjunction with the Channel Swimming Association, Shantry and his partners have built up their training and are now ready for the challenge.

"I probably won't be mistaken for a halibut, but I'm reasonably confident I won't drown," he says. "I'm actually not much good at swimming. I've been swimming off Barry Island, near where I live, a couple of times a week for the last few months and wondering what I've got myself in to.

"The record for the fastest swim - which is just over seven hours - is not in jeopardy, put it like that. But I've built up the training so I can swim for a couple of hours at a time now. I know it's going to be a long, drawn out manoeuvre but I wanted to do something for Tom and this was the first idea that came to mind. Maybe I should have given the whole thing a bit more thought?

"I think the cold is the biggest worry. That and some of the things you find that people have thrown into the sea. The rules are quite strict, so we can only wear goggles, a swimming hat and trunks that basically amount to a pair of Y-fronts. And the cold isn't very flattering, if you know what I mean…"

You may think, in this age of health and safety, that such adventures are quite tame. But it is not so. In July 34-year-old Susan Taylor died just a mile from land attempting the feat. The previous year Paraic Casey, a 45-year-old from Ireland, died in similar circumstances. It is a demanding, dangerous challenge.

"I'm not focussing on the danger," Shantry says. "I know it will be cold and exhausting but every time I'm struggling, I'll think of Tom and I think of all the good things the money we raise will do in his memory. That will keep us going."

Donations can be made by visiting this Just Giving page.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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