19 September 1998
By Matthew Fleming
ON Tuesday the Professional Cricketers' Association held their annual awards dinner at Lord's. It was attended by HRH The Duke of York, nearly 700 players, sponsors and guests, and was a fitting celebration of a memorable summer's cricket.
The main awards, the PCA Player and Young Player of the Year, won by Mal Loye and Freddie Flintoff respectively, have been well documented.
There was, however, one award made by the PCA that received little or no publicity, and as chairman it was my privilege to be able to present it.
This year the PCA Special Merit award took on a new meaning as it was presented to a man outside the immediate realms of professional cricket who has devoted his life to the development of other people's skill and enthusiasm.
We all realise that no one would be playing professional cricket today if their passion and ability had not been fostered at an early age.
Most of us owe our careers to those dedicated men and women around the country who give up their time and energy to allow others to play and flourish. In 1998 the PCA chose to honour one of these many unsung heroes.
Tony Moody is a member of the Lambeth Borough Community Cricket Council, who are forever trying to advance the opportunities available to the schoolchildren of that borough to recognise their talents.
It is one of cricket's extraordinary and unacceptable statistics that Lambeth, boasting a population in excess of 250,000, has only one cricket ground, the Oval.
Moody has established and run an organised programme of cricket coaching in primary schools and in doing so has coached in more than half of Lambeth's schools. On average he has looked after over 100 children each week as part of this scheme.
Working in conjunction with the coaches at Surrey in the Ken Barrington Centre, Moody then continues the development of these young primary school cricketers when they move on to secondary schools.
These young cricketers can then be selected for the Lambeth cricket squad and introduced to senior clubs, a scheme in which Moody is also totally involved. He has organised a cricket tour to Zimbabwe, a pan-African tour of the United Kingdom, and the Lambeth Community Cricket Day.
He is a modest man who is quick to pay tribute to others; Surrey County Cricket Club as an organisation, and individuals such as Pat Pocock and John Barclay.
One of the things that sets Moody apart is his unconventional coaching technique. He uses music and singing as a medium to get his message of the spirit, nature and disciplines of cricket across.
The PCA recognise that although Moody is special, he is not unique. There are many people the length and breadth of the country who give their time, skill and energy to the development of young cricketers at all levels.
WHILE we cannot single them all out for the attention they undoubtedly deserve, we can recognise one of their own to try and demonstrate just how much their contribution to our sport is appreciated.
The evening also afforded the PCA the chance to pay tribute to two umpires. Ray Julian was voted Umpire of the Year, and though his acceptance speech contained one of the lines of the evening ("I'd just like to thank all those bowlers who voted for me"), he will not mind admitting, I am sure, that the show was stolen by one Dickie Bird.
Dickie was presented with a piece of Waterford crystal to mark his retirement. His contribution to the game has been rich and varied and he is enormously respected worldwide.
Despite being described by a recently-retired England captain as being as "mad as a badger", he is the epitome of the neutral umpire and is all that is good about our game.
He predictably brought the house down at Lord's during a brief question-and-answer session with David Gower. He was frank about the success of his autobiography and admitted to buying a new Jaguar sports car with part of the proceeds.
He did not seem remotely embarrassed about the fact that having bought the car he discovered that it would not fit through his front gate and had to get the stonemasons in to widen the entrance.
He did, however, seem slightly more embarrassed when admitting that having widened the entrance he subsequently discovered that his car would not fit in his garage.
The game needs the great front-of-house characters like Dickie Bird, and his presence will be missed.
However, the game really needs men like Tony Moody, one of the unsung heroes of cricket.
Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)