The County Cricketers' Year

Captain, Kolpak, Colt

Captain

Darren Maddy is a yeoman, whose burning desire for the game lifts his doughty batting and medium-pace above those more talented. He is pint- sized, with fair eyebrows and hair, and appears as if lifted freshly scrubbed from a tin bath. His manner is tidy, his speech too; he treats questions with great kindness and deliberation. He grew up in Leicestershire, dreaming of a career at Grace Road, and made his debut in 1993. He stockpiled runs during Leicester's Championship-winning years and was picked for England during the dismal summer of 1999, but didn't flourish and played only three Tests and eight one-day internationals. In the autumn of 2006 he joined Warwickshire, and was appointed captain after only one week, when Heath Streak stood down. Warwickshire were relegated in 2007 and, after the World Twenty20 and a short spell in the ICL, he spent the rest of the winter preparing for the 2008 season with coach Ashley Giles. He lives with his wife Justine and two-year-old George in Solihull and spends his off-time making a mess of the DIY and playing the drums in a band with Charlie Dagnall, a former Leicestershire team-mate. The Maddys' second child was due in early July.


Ashley Giles and Darren Maddy wrap up against the cold, roars an appeal, Warwickshire v Worcestershire, Edgbaston, April 17, 2008
Darren Maddy has a word with Warwickshire coach Ashley Giles © Getty Images
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Isaac James was born nine days late, on July 12. We were playing Bangladesh A - I played the first day, Justine went into labour that evening, I had the second day off then on the third day I made a century, so it was a great weekend. For the first eight days, I only spent two days with Isaac. It was very emotional, but when you are playing cricket you get your game- head on and those thoughts have to be distant memories, otherwise they become distractions. Once you're out you've got all day to think about your family.

I had only just come back after injury. I had been batting nicely against Middlesex and then a ball from Tim Murtagh rose sharply and hit me on the thumb of the bottom hand. I was expecting to see it at right angles when I took my glove off, but it looked normal so I knew it was more than a dislocation. I had an X-ray and an operation the next day, my birthday. It was a lower-joint displacement fracture, three screws were inserted, and I will probably suffer a lot more from arthritis when I'm older.

It was quite an unusual thing for me, missing some of the cricket season. It's amazing how soon you feel left out of the team even when you're captain. I went down to Devon with the family for a summer holiday for the first time in about 20 years. It was nice to spend time with George; his cricket skills are really coming on. And then I helped the guys in terms of playing and preparing. I tried not to interfere. Ian Westwood and I have a good relationship, and we talked regularly on the phone, but once on the field it was his team. My first game back was the Twenty20 quarter-final against Kent. The guys welcomed me and it was almost like I'd never been away. We thought we were in a strong position... but we lost.

You're always learning with the captaincy. You take satisfaction from the good decisions and, when it goes horribly wrong, try not to let that eat away at you. The last six overs of that quarter-final spring to mind. The pitch was seamer-friendly, but I brought the seamers back too early and the batsmen dominated, and that changed the outlook of the game.

It used to be horrible coming to Edgbaston in the early to mid-1990s, because it was intimidating and you always knew you would be up for a battle. It would be nice to recapture some of that confidence, but we've got different characters now; some are a lot more reserved, so to get that aggressive nature out of them is a challenge.

I've seen insularity happen to myself and many players over the years. And as captain you have to be aware of those types early on and help them become more aware of the other ten players around them. It's fascinating. The sights, the sounds, the smells that come in the changing-room, you can never recapture them - so it's important you enjoy them.

We didn't have the easiest start. To have 20 days' cricket out of the first 26 days of the season was hard, but I didn't think there was a team out there that was significantly better, which was reassuring. A loss against Ireland in the Friends Provident was very frustrating, though. It hurt our pride.

I have found teams more reluctant to close a game in the second division, and we were the same. We looked like we could have lost the game at Northampton on the third day, and probably a better team would have seized the opportunity and beaten us. Instead I made 130 in a run-chase that we won, though didn't deserve to get anywhere near. It was a nice feeling, but obviously I couldn't sit on my laurels. I try and think, what would Mark Ramprakash do now? The way he keeps churning out the hundreds is something we all aspire to.

Second division cricket becomes a bit of a dogfight at times. Once you get through the first couple of main bowlers and batsmen, it lacks the quality of the first. I can't think of anyone that I faced who was outstanding - maybe I didn't bat for long enough! But the challenge and enjoyment are in different areas. We needed this season for people to learn their games inside out and become players capable of Division One.

As a player all you had to do was get to the ground on time, make sure you had the right kit and play to the best of your ability. As captain there is a lot more awareness of what is going on and people's responsibilities, from the groundsmen to the men at the gate, and you sort of appreciate what hard work goes into putting on a season of cricket.

You get home at night and you want to sit down in your chair and completely relax, but it's difficult - you're thinking about who is opening the bowling, a couple of fielding positions, and then the phone is ringing with a selection problem or some reason for a discussion, or you're required by the media, team-mates, the committee and of course you've got the family as well. It's pretty exhausting, though I was quite good at switching off and having a meal at the hotel or a glass of wine with Justine at home.

We went into the last month in a four-team race for the second division title, and from the last match we needed four points to secure first place. We went on to win the game. There was a mixture of feelings - excitement, some calmness, relief. Relief that we had jumped straight up after last season, and satisfaction after all the hard work we had put in since November 2007. We got presented with a trophy after the Glamorgan game - my first as captain, which was a nice moment.

The end did come as a welcome break. The injury didn't hold me back, but together with the rain it felt like a stop-start season, I didn't really find any real rhythm. It was challenging at times - I don't think any captain can say every decision is right, and I learned a lot about myself. I can't speak highly enough of my squad, particularly Jonathan Trott and Tony Frost, who had been sitting on the roller in early March.

We went away as a family and then I went to the Hong Kong Sixes, which we won - it was great to be wearing England colours again. I had a bit of time to reflect on my own performances and where the team is at, and I decided that it was the right time to step down as captain. It's a lot easier to combine cricket and the family without having to worry about the other 20 players in the squad. And I saw how well Ian Westwood led the team in my absence, and I'm 35 in May; he has more longevity than I've got.

I think the captaincy did impinge on my performances at times - it is hard to combine being captain and opening batsman. But I am quite sad - to be captain of such a big club was a big honour, especially as I thought I'd missed my chance at Leicester. I still had the passion and really enjoyed the leadership role and the fact that I was the man everyone had to rely on and show faith in. But Ashley Giles still wants me to lead by example, which I will. The first season I inherited the team and had no real influence, but this year I had much more impact, and take great satisfaction knowing we got back to where we belong, and were unbeaten in four-day cricket. I've got great memories.

Darren Maddy scored 678 runs at 35.68 and took 17 wickets at 25.76 in the 2008 County Championship as Warwickshire won the second division title, and also hit a century against Bangladesh A. He made 334 runs in one-day games, and 27 in his only Twenty20 match.

Kolpak

The day is beautiful, and the July hedgerows teem with life. A tall man waits outside his house in a pretty village not far from Market Harborough. He doesn't look like a radical, but the decision he made in 2004 transformed English cricket. Claude Henderson is a friendly soul, with the classic southern-hemisphere dipped-in-sunshine look: short blond hair, tanned long limbs, large hands and a symmetrical face. He is tending his poorly daughter Mia, waving toys and reading Otto Waars? - the Afrikaans version of Where's Spot? Claude grew up in Worcester in the Cape winelands, had a fine schoolboy career and went straight into first-class cricket for Boland, first under Bob Woolmer, before transferring to Western Province, where Duncan Fletcher was coach. He was picked for South Africa, and played seven Tests, but his place was never secure. Disillusioned, he turned his back on his country, falling into the arms of the East Midlands. A six-month contract with Leicestershire became a long-term year-round one, and he and his wife Nicci put down roots. The first Kolpak, a lanky left-arm spinner, had landed.


Claude Henderson portrait
'I didn't know where Leicestershire was, or about the wickets or anything' © Getty Images
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When I heard of the Kolpak ruling I was sat with four other South Africans around a dinner table. We all had the same problems - we were the top cricketers in the country but we just weren't looked at. One of the guys said we could now play as locals in England. I phoned the agent that night and said what is the situation? He said that Leicester was the only county still open for contracts. Did I want to wait another year? I said no, I want to get out now. I didn't know where Leicestershire was, or about the wickets or anything. The next day he phoned and said that James Whitaker, the director of cricket, was very interested. There were two months between that phone call and coming to England.

There is so much negative talk about Kolpak cricketers. If you pick the right Kolpak, it will only strengthen the side and strengthen the system. There are lots of EU cricketers - I won't mention any names - who don't do that. England still has more players to qualify for their Test team than any other country, and Justin Langer said that this is now the strongest league in the world. I don't listen now. I gave up everything in South Africa to come here. I coach the juniors; I don't just take the money and go. It is annoying but I'm not a guy who gets angry about things like that.

Leicester cannot afford Owais Shah or Mark Ramprakash, and would rather pay half the salary and get Boeta Dippenaar. I always say that Leicester is a British side and so is Manchester United, and how many British people play for Manchester United? H. D. Ackerman is never going to play for England, Dippenaar is never going to play for England, but Matthew Boyce might do, and his best chance is by playing with players of that sort of quality. Yes, affirmative action has knocked me in the face, but I can understand why it happened. But to be the best spinner for ten years and play seven Tests, and during those seven Tests I got dropped four times... it was difficult, but you move on. What can you do? It's not just me that suffered. I can't get used to the rain here. We played a pre-season game when it was about four degrees outside - that is not cricket weather. I adapt, but now and then I do miss the sun. April and May are the most difficult time for me, but I have to be on the money after the Twenty20, then it's cash-in time for Claude. We had a very good trip to Ireland in the Friends Provident Trophy, beat the Irish on Belfast soil. It was clinical but sometimes you have to get the job done. It's just a pity we lost to a one-man display against Essex in the quarter-final. Ravi Bopara, he was unbelievable - the guy didn't make one mistake, it's the best knock I've ever seen. I think I was the most economical bowler and went for 59.

The first half of the season was good - we were top of the second division at the start of June after we beat Glamorgan. But the way we played in the Twenty20 took a lot of steam out of us. It was such a shame. We have been very good at Twenty20, but the rest of the country has caught up. The other teams have signed massive overseas players, but you've got to expect that with all the money that has come in, and we didn't compete.

I'm just so passionate for cricket, whether it's all the action of the Twenty20 or four-day cricket with no one there and the wind blowing in your face. And this season felt like a good one - the technical side was sound, I was enjoying my practices and felt I'd started a new career. Spin bowling in England isn't easy, but it is challenging - people play spin well now. If you're Shane Warne, fantastic; but if you're a finger-spinner you've got to know what you're doing and be strong mentally. Left-arm spin bowling is probably the biggest passion in my life. I want to coach. I know the journey - I know what it takes.

The Championship games between Leicestershire and Northamptonshire - well, it was still county cricket, but there was a massive battle going on between the two sides' ten South Africans who were playing. I can understand where the English were coming from: this is not right, where are our people? But I can also understand where Leicester and Northants were coming from: what do they do, just play young kids and get blown over?

I love Lord's because of the place; walking through the Long Room is amazing, and I bowl really well there. I got four wickets in each innings, but could easily have got five or six. Some days you bowl unbelievably for four and deserve more, but then I took five for 39 on a seaming wicket against Essex having bowled nicely, but not amazingly.

One of the toughest things about county cricket is seeing the same people every day. You've got to motivate each other, support each other, especially during the tough times - but we've got a nice group at Leicester, and we move forward. The good thing is that we play so much cricket you always get a chance another day. We aren't a huge club, but we do want to compete and to be a happy place, and make sure young cricketers move on.

I had quite a nice season; I took 41 first-class wickets and with a good average as well. At the age of 36 I made a few adjustments to my bowling that improved me 20 or 30%. It's very difficult at Grace Road to bowl spin. There isn't a lot in the wickets, and you have to be very accurate with the angles you deliver the ball - I really explored that, and it paid dividends. And the best thing was that I earned a lot of respect at the club, which during the previous year or two wasn't there because I didn't do as well as people expected. It's a nice feeling.

In the winter I'll go to Cape Town to play for the Cape Cobras. It'll be nice to come back to South Africa; we miss family and the climate and the meat. But we're settled very nicely here now. My residency should arrive in April and the passport follows in 2010. I'm not shy about being a Kolpak - if there are bad words from other mouths that's fine. This is my route to becoming British - not to play for England, I'm too old for that, but for security, to work with young spin bowlers and to make a future here for my child.

Claude Henderson took 41 wickets at 31.56 and scored 349 runs at 20.52 in the 2008 County Championship. He also took 21 wickets at 27.28 in one- day games, and eight in the Twenty20 Cup.

Colt

Chris Jordan may be far from the beaches of home, but he is not forlorn, not one bit. His brown Surrey cap is pushed back on his head, his black hair is cropped, and a glittering hoop sits in his left ear. An easy smile stretches across his young face with almost every sentence; he is polite, remarkably self-assured, and just plain nice. A teenage girl's dream. He was born in Lowlands, Barbados, in 1988, younger brother to Keisha, a talented hockey player. From a young age he was a very good cricketer, eventually arriving in England in January 2006 on a scholarship to Dulwich College, thanks to "Mr Athey" (the former England batsman Bill, who now coaches at the school), who spotted him during a pro-am tournament. He was picked up by Surrey, and had bowled only a couple of overs for the Second Eleven before he was whipped over to first-team nets, and by April had been offered a contract. He left school in July 2007 and played five first-class matches that summer, taking 20 wickets to help save Surrey from relegation. His pace, and potential with the bat, turned heads; that his mother was born in England didn't go unnoticed either. This, then, was his first full year of county cricket. He was thrilled by the prospect, hoping for 40 wickets and a first five-for.


Chris Jordan impressed with two wickets at The Rose Bowl, Hampshire v Surrey, County Championship, The Rose Bowl, May 15, 2008
'Ideally I'd have loved to play my cricket in the West Indies, but my opportunities have brought me here and I can't say that if England offered me a chance to play I would turn it down' © Getty Images
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In London you look out of the window and see grey and buildings; at home you see coconut trees and palm trees and the sun. But it hasn't taken that long to get used to it - I don't even have to touch my satnav any more. I've got a flat in Battersea ten minutes' drive from The Oval and am doing fine.

I can look after myself, cook my own food, keep my house tidy, though this cooking thing has only come in the last half-year if I'm honest. There are a couple of West Indian restaurants in south London so I get some proper food from there: rice and peas, macaroni pie, baked chicken... I do miss home, but this is where my job is. There are little things I do to remind myself - listen to reggae music, go get some drink like Sea Moss, which tastes real nice, I guarantee. And I can always pick up the phone. I started playing when I was about four and would play every time I got a chance, in the road or on the beach.

When I got home from school my mum would look to crack me down to my homework, but it only took two minutes to get to the sea. I did three A-levels in business studies, IT and PE, but my choice was kinda easy not to go to university because my dream was always to be a professional cricketer.

I think I love the game even more when I'm playing for a living. You wake up every morning and you come to work and see a bunch of lads who enjoy your company; you go to different towns, see different cultures - I'm in my dream world. For years I was a batsman who could bowl medium-pace, until one pre-season when I was 15 or 16, I went to the gym and started getting it through and found I could knock people's heads off. It was much more enjoyable.

I started the season bowling as I would like, in the areas and at the pace I wanted to. I then got injured on the right side of my lower back. I was desperate to play and I perhaps rushed back a bit and aggravated the injury again. I felt it in the second spell against Kent. I did lots of gym work, and lots of helping the guys in the dressing-room, taking out drinks, but it was very frustrating. I was giving someone else an opportunity which is hard because I really, really want to play as much as possible. I believe in God, and when I'm in Barbados I go to church and praise the Almighty. I haven't had much time here but I do pray before I go to bed, to bless each and every one, especially my family. Back home there are a couple of boys who are Seventh Day Adventists who won't play on a Saturday, but I think God is pretty flexible.

We played in front of a full house against Kent in the Twenty20 - I've never played in front of one before - it was really overwhelming for me, I really enjoyed it. I think I did quite well - I'd take four overs for 26 any day. I felt I batted well against Middlesex in the Twenty20 too, and it was good to have my dad watching. He came over for a week. We had no plans, just went with the flow. We've got a very good relationship, and it's very nice to think that I'm looking after my dad. He used to walk everywhere when he was young and was athletic, but he never played cricket at a high level, and he's very excited for me.

I was just stringing a couple of games together when I aggravated my back again, had a ten-day break, then hit training quite hard. In Championship cricket I was the youngest player in the side. I look after myself, but obviously I get guidance from the senior players. They've played a lot more games; I'm young and have a lot of respect for them and never step out of line, though I don't believe in being fake or anything.

Every single team I've played for in my life has been more or less the best. And anyone in the country would say that on paper Surrey are one of the best sides, but every game our failure was something different - just half an hour of madness. Against Glamorgan, I bowled one ball and had to go off with cramp, and in the 20 minutes I was off, there were so many misfields it was quite embarrassing.

Another half an hour in the first innings cost us the game against Durham. Steve Harmison bowled some really testing spells - it was the fastest I'd faced in my life. His height plays a major factor - he gets bounce on a length - and balls you think are half-volleys aren't. He hit me on the head. I ducked into it, actually; it didn't hurt, just woke me up and made me a little sharper. He bowls 89mph, I bowl 85-86, but as I get older and stronger I'll try to get up to that pace. I bowled lots of overs in that game, and was very sore and exhausted.

I don't know if Ramps's 100th hundred was hanging over his head, but there was a lot of hype about it. If someone else scored a hundred, it wasn't that which made the papers but that Ramps didn't. But when he got it against Yorkshire he relaxed, scored more runs, and so we were all more relaxed. He's a big player, a really, really big player and a big presence in the dressing- room, and everyone feeds off his energy. Ramps has taken me under his wing - he is trying to convert me to a Gunner but I'm a Red Devil. He took me to my first football game ever last year, a Champions League game against Sevilla. It was unbelievable. I didn't play again after the Northamptonshire Pro40 game. I had been feeling very uncomfortable and getting strain around my hip area and my lower back, and found out after a scan that I had a stress fracture. It had felt very frustrating to be on the sidelines, just going in every day watching the boys play, so it put my mind at rest that something was actually wrong. Surrey handled me very well - it was the first time I've had a physio on call 24/7. It's the first time I've had injuries in my short cricket career too. It was a bit of a surprise. The amount of cricket took a toll on my body which was quite new to me.

Being relegated was very disappointing - I was confident till the end that we were going to stay up. It didn't hit me till the next day when it was announced on Sky Sports. I guess it was going to happen. We just have to put it behind us for next year. When I bowled, I bowled quite well, but I was thinking about it too much. I didn't get a lot of wickets - I was a bit unlucky at times, with a couple of dropped catches here and there. My best bowling was in the first-class game at Trent Bridge, when I tested the batsmen, and was at it all the time. Mark Ealham told me I bowled really well, and that meant a lot to me.

If there were any positives to take from the season it was my batting. I made my first first-class fifty, against Notts, and I batted at three in the Twenty20 at Lord's and at five in a one-dayer, which was really confidence- boosting. It's been a good experience and I've learned to live out of a suitcase. I'll do lots of strength work and training on the beaches back home this winter and will come back really fit next season. I'm hoping to get to six foot as well - I don't think I'm finished growing yet.

I grew up watching Walsh, Ambrose, Richardson and Lara. Ideally I'd have loved to play my cricket in the West Indies, but my opportunities have brought me here and I can't say that if England offered me a chance to play I would turn it down. It will be 2010 when I become eligible. I've not really had any contact with the West Indies selectors. I read about Clive Lloyd wanting my number but he's never rung.

Chris Jordan took 12 wickets at 47.50 and scored 123 runs at 17.57 in eight matches in the 2008 County Championship. He also took nine wickets in one-day games, and one in the Twenty20 Cup.

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