CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1994

Steve Watkin

When the Cricketers' Association voted Steve Watkin as their player of the year at the end of the summer of 1993, they recognised his immense value and dedication to Glamorgan, who had enjoyed their most productive season for 24 years. The cricket fraternity appreciates a whole-hearted trier and there was enough evidence of Watkin's commitment and willingness to shoulder the burden of the attack by the 766.4 overs he sent down last season, a figure surpassed only by his county colleague Robert Croft and Peter Such of Essex, both slow bowlers. Watkin, with 92 victims, was also the country's leading wicket-taker.

His efforts were belatedly rewarded by the England selectors when they chose him, along with Devon Malcolm and Angus Fraser, in a revamped pace attack for the final Test against Australia. After taking two wickets in the first innings Watkin then set up England's first Test win in 11 matches, and their first against Australia in 19, by taking the first three Australian wickets in the second innings. He had Slater caught by Alec Stewart, trapped Boon leg before and then knocked back Taylor's leg stump. When fellow Glamorgan player Matthew Maynard caught Healy, the Australians were on their way to a 161-run defeat and Watkin, with match figures of six for 152, had vindicated his recall to Test cricket. His success compensated for the disappointment at being left out of the previous Test team at Edgbaston when, contrary to expectation, the pitch favoured the spinners. John Emburey was summoned to Birmingham while Watkin drove down the M5 to join his county colleagues in the Championship game against Warwickshire.

STEVEN LLEWELLYN WATKIN was born in Maesteg on September 15, 1964, brought up in Duffryn Rhondda and attended Cymmer Afan Comprehensive School, where there were limited opportunities for organised cricket. He played in only three competitive school matches but soon developed a natural aptitude for the game when he joined Maesteg Town Club and played for the first team at 15.

He was recommended to Tom Cartwright, who was then Glamorgan's Second XI coach, and was offered a two-year contract in 1986. Apart from learning how to grip the ball, Watkin says he has not changed his action since he began bowling against my father on Porthcawl beach during the summer holidays. He is essentially an attacking bowler whose high arm action enables him to obtain bounce from unresponsive pitches, notably in Wales, while his unflagging determination is an inspiration to all his colleagues. He is also a thinker, and over the past two seasons has developed a subtle change of pace and an effective slower ball.

He made his first-class debut at Worcester in 1986 and gained a notable first victim when Graeme Hick struck a leading edge to mid-off. But he did not appear again until 1988 when he topped the county's bowling averages. He shared the new-ball attack with Greg Thomas that summer, but Thomas then left for Northamptonshire and since his departure Glamorgan have relied more and more on Watkin. It is unusual for fast bowlers to sustain form and fitness season after season but Watkin has kept going for long spells, summoning fresh energy often because there was no quick bowler to complement him from the other end. It was no secret that Glamorgan were searching for a fast bowler to replace Viv Richards as their overseas player, and Watkin warmly welcomes the arrival of the Barbadian Ottis Gibson.

Watkin was awarded his county cap at the end of a game at Old Trafford in 1989 when he took 13 wickets. Although Glamorgan ended bottom of the County Championship that season, Watkin claimed 94 victims at 25.09 and was the country's joint leading Wicket-taker. His reward was selection for the England A team which toured Kenya and Zimbabwe in 1989-90, followed by successive A tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and the West Indies. He achieved only moderate success, mainly because he did not bowl enough overs to get into any sort of rhythm, but in between the second and third tours the selectors recognised his effectiveness on English pitches and selected him for the First Test against West Indies at Headingley in June 1991.

He was initially chosen as cover for Derek Pringle but played instead when Chris Lewis was ill, and helped England gain their first home win against West Indies since 1969. After taking two wickets in the first innings, which included Desmond Haynes with his 14th ball in Test cricket, Watkin demolished the visitors' middle order in the second innings, dismissing Hooper, Richards and Logie for 11 runs. Any thoughts of a regular place in the team were quickly dispelled when he failed to take a wicket in the Second Test on a slow Lord's pitch, where West Indies scored 419. He returned to his county, wheeled down 728.5 first-class overs during the 1991 season and - as he has been for five successive years - was Glamorgan's leading wicket-taker.

Watkin's degree, gained in human movement studies, perhaps explains why he has missed only one game because of injury during his career. He has the ideal physique for a fast bowler, carrying no superfluous fat, while his great reserves of stamina enable him to soldier on while others tire.

Glamorgan's success last season owed much to Steve Watkin's prowess and exemplary attitude. A fierce competitor, yet unassuming and uncomplaining, he plays cricket with dignity, control and goodwill, while his easy humour and cheerful temperament are qualities that have endears him to his fellow players.

© John Wisden & Co