I still remember the first time I saw you. You’re hair all tufty, kickin’ the dirt like a shy boy. teeth whiter than jesus, big shoulders, a plunger sticking out of your back pocket, the once in a generation teddy bear in your grasp and your labrette piercing shining in the sun. Straight away I knew I’d be able to make you into something great.
Then I got to know you, and I’ve never bonded more with a young bowler than I have with you. By the end I felt like I was the loving uncle who tucked you in at night when your parents were busy fighting. You’re the left arm fast bowler I wish I could have had.
You were so eager to learn, so wide eyed and innocent. The bambi of fast bowling. I knew I could make you into a lethal machine. It took time, for a while you were a superstar bowling with a white ball, but you bowled everything so wide with the red ball most of the day people just left you alone.
It came to you. Some of it was your natural grace, the rest was me just giving you a friendly pat on the bum or explaining which way to point the seam. Then when Clark got nipless and Lee tried to hard, you took over the side.
For me it was like watching my favourite son graduate from high school. Sure you still had a lot to achieve, but I met you when you were a tiny little tacker, and now you’re all grown up. 63 wickets two years in a row, I was so proud. When you took the saffas down in Perth, I felt like I was watching you take your wife after your wedding.
Ofcourse, this is where I might have become too involved with you. Perhaps our relationship got weird. The whole inswinger thing was my mistake. I thought you were ready, and I pushed and pushed, but I was wrong. Very wrong.
Maybe I started thinking of you as my son, and I got a touch of the tennis parent about me. I was involved in every aspect of your life, and that was not healthy, I mean if you like cocoa pops, eat them, don’t listen to me. Also I stuffed up the whole Ashes thing by telling you what you needed instead of just letting you come to me. By that point I thought you were a man. That you were good enough to handle any sort of emotional upheaval and still work on your game. My bad.
Since then you’ve been struggling, and I think the problem is me. My role is simply bowling coach, but I see myself as so much more to you. I am your comfort blanket, your father figure, your warm cup of coffee and all of this means I am too much. I stopped coaching you a long time ago.
Now I smother.
So, it is better if I move on. I know that everything I have taught you is in there somewhere. You don’t need me.
I’m never more than a phone call away. I’ll always know you emotionally, physically and everything.
Fly freely my tufty haired bowling man. You’ll always be that shy little white tooth boy to me.
Your bowling coach, mentor, confidant, father figure and friend.