Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2006

Are you a member, sir? No, I'm the boss

Keith Bradshaw © MCC

For almost 200 years, the credentials to become secretary of MCC were pretty straightforward: public school was obligatory, Oxbridge helped, and a decent rank in the army often sealed the deal. But these days, even at Lord's, things are changing. The successor to the retiring Roger Knight (Dulwich College, Cambridge and various first-class counties) is Keith Bradshaw (New Town High School and the University of Tasmania).

With old-fashioned good-chappery out, MCC's headhunters had two criteria: business experience and a cricket background, and Bradshaw offered both. He is a partner at the accountants Deloittes, and played 25 times for Tasmania in the 1980s, scoring two Sheffield Shield centuries. So on October 1 - the day before his 43rd birthday - he will become only the 14th occupant since 1822 of the office with the best view in the world, overlooking Lord's from high in the pavilion.

Being an Australian turned out to be no bar. It might even have helped, given MCC's determination to look outwards: the search was a global one. But Bradshaw was never mentioned in the general speculation, and he was as surprised as anyone. "A friend of mine works for the recruitment company that handled the process in Australia, and he suggested I apply. At the initial interview, just about my first question was whether they were really serious about appointing someone from overseas, and they said if the best person for the job happened to be from overseas then that's what would happen. I thought that was very encouraging."

Far from being an MCC member, Bradshaw was paying only his second visit to Lord's when he popped in during the final round of interviews. This was not for the interview itself, which was held elsewhere, for secrecy's sake; he discreetly turned up and went on one of the public tours. His previous visit was in 1985: "I was playing in Lancashire, and some of us went down to watch a one-day international against Australia. We didn't have a lot of money, so we grabbed a few hours' sleep in the car before the game. I was in awe of the place. Still am."

One of his centuries came in Brisbane off the formidable pairing of Jeff Thomson and John Maguire - a terrific innings, according to Mark Ray, who later became Tasmanian captain. Ray remembers Bradshaw as a stylish batsman, a good cover fielder and "a sharp-minded, impressive sort of bloke". Bradshaw has the right diplomatic answer when asked if he might actually be changing sides, and supporting England: "Well, one thing I'm really looking forward to at Lord's is helping out the emerging nations, which is one of MCC's main aims. So you could say I'll be supporting them."

Woman in white

Another novelty is the idea of a woman umpiring major men's matches in England. The prospect edged closer in 2006 when Lorraine Elgar became the first woman to be appointed to the Minor Counties panel. She works in the development office at Kent's outground in Beckenham, and has been umpiring since 1978, when she was pressed into service for a club game where she had been expecting to do the scoring. "The regular umpire had gout. I'd recently sat an umpires' course, so I was thrown in at the deep end."

Lorraine, who's also a hockey ref, first met her husband, David, at a schools match, and their three children are all cricket fans. The highlight of her umpiring career so far was a women's one-day international at Lord's in 1998. She hasn't faced too many problems on the pitch - not recently, anyway: "I have experienced unruly players, but not many, mostly in my early, naive years. I have learnt from experience and established a reputation that now stands me in good stead." The first-class reserve list is the next stepping stone. Then we really would be on the brink of cricket history.

Man in black and white

He refereed the 1997 League Cup final, while he's also remembered for sending off one of football's legendary hard men, Vinnie Jones, and having a frank exchange of views with another, Roy Keane. Martin Bodenham had to stand down from the Premiership on reaching the compulsory retirement age of 48 but, seven years later, he's still refereeing a lot of matches in Sussex, where he runs the FA panel. But nowadays there's a white coat alongside the black shirt in the wardrobe: after 30 years of playing club cricket (which ended after he witnessed a post-match fight), he was lured back to umpire, and now he has been named as one of the reserves for the first-class panel. Bodenham spent two years as a groundsman at Hove after leaving school, and played as a wicketkeeper-batsman for Brighton & Hove, as well as for Sussex Second Eleven. He's also hoping to make it to the first-class list, to complete a remarkable double.

Still in the news

The day's play in the 2005 Ashes Tests would finish in the early hours of the morning Perth time, and most of the city's cricket fans then headed for bed. Geoff Marsh, who played for and coached Australian teams in the days when they did not lose series to England, often had to head straight to work. After 50 Tests as opening bat, plus two Ashes wins and a World Cup victory as coach, Marsh now keeps different hours. According to some reports, he's doing a paper round. It's rather grander than that. He says he has a newspaper business, but he isn't exactly Rupert Murdoch either. Marsh runs the firm that distributes papers and magazines round the Perth suburb of Atterdale, which means very unsociable hours. And Marsh, like any small businessman, does everything - including doing the deliveries himself if need be.

And he sounds pretty happy. After spending seven years of the past decade on the global cricket treadmill, as coach of Australia and then Zimbabwe, he's content doing a bit of coaching (Western Australia Under-19) and helping his own kids with their sporting endeavours. "Travel is hard work. There comes a time in your life when you want to be there supporting them as best you can."

He wasn't happy with the way Australia prepared for the Ashes; "I can't believe how few warm-up games they had." And if someone called with a tempting offer? "We'd have to sit down and talk about it."

Like a hawk

A certain old cricketer called Dennis Lillee has been saying some grumpy things about the accuracy of Hawk-Eye, and its inventor doesn't like it at all. "Dennis Lillee's bowling is considerably more accurate than his journalism," said Paul Hawkins, like a protective father.

As the name suggests, Hawkins and Hawk-Eye go back a long way. He hit on the idea of a computer system to adjudicate lbws in 1999, after completing a PhD in artificial intelligence at Durham University. "I'd played cricket to quite a decent level for Buckinghamshire and the two combined nicely."

His idea, loosely based on missile-tracking technology, was taken up by Channel 4 in 2001. Five years on, he is many thousands of pounds richer, and is still evangelising - criss-crossing the world with his cameras and computers, setting up at cricket and tennis events, swatting aside detractors en passant.

Should Hawk-Eye be used as a guide for umpires as well as viewers?

"Yes,'' says Hawkins. "Lbw is the hardest officiating call in any sport. On the tight calls - not the ridiculous appeals - umpires are getting just over 50% right. A little bit better than the toss of a coin."

But what about the technology trial (which didn't include Hawk-Eye) at the 2005 Super Series? Wasn't that a flop? He's got that one covered too: "It gave technology a bad name. It was so poorly thought through. It could be much more accurate, much faster, much more definitive."

Hawkins is overflowing with ideas and even has a solution for the gripe that using Hawk-Eye would lead to far more lbws because batsmen wouldn't get the benefit of the doubt any more. "We can build an allowance into the system for how far the ball still has to travel before reaching the stumps. The further forward you are, the more leeway you get. If they wanted a system to model a perfect umpire then we could do that." And it will take more than Dennis Lillee to convince him otherwise.

Welsh wizardry

It was the summer of 2004 when the rumours reached Rod Marsh. A magnificent and mysterious bowler had emerged in Wales: he could send down toe-crushing in-duckers like Waqar and leg-spin like Warne - and he never complained when decisions went against him.

So the England selector set off to investigate. He got lost briefly in the twisty lanes on the Welsh border but eventually found the chap he was after, in the barn in Llowes. There he found a unique kind of bowling machine, assembled by his inventors, a 71-year-old retired property investor called Henry Pryor, and his cricket-writer son Matthew.

The project had taken 15 years, many prototypes and a little help from a Hereford engineering firm. The end result was named Merlyn, because, like the wizard, he was from Wales and could do things others couldn't. Bowling machines had been around for yonks. (Wisden advertised a woodand- rubber sling-shot called "The Catapulta" in Victorian times.) England used one endlessly to try to combat West Indian pace in the 1980s. But Merlyn was the first to serve up swerve and spin, and could be programmed to bowl any particular series of deliveries.

Marsh was convinced and, after a successful trial at the National Cricket Centre, Merlyn got a call-up to help England before the Ashes. Soon he became one of the talking points of the summer, partly because England really did seem to be improving against Warne. "He was a great asset in honing technique against leg-spinners," said England's other spinner, Ashley Giles. "He turns it sharper than me, but I can still shade him in the field." Merlyn clones are now available to buy (for £22,500) and look set to continue helping England. And Matthew is excited, if a little nervous, about Merlyn being introduced on club grounds, for fear that ordinary players would set the speed too high: "You can't bowl Waqar at Joe Public."

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