Abrahams’ journey led him back
John Abrahams was relishing the chance to get back to his cricketing roots with Shropshire this season, until the lockdown intervened.
Former Lancashire skipper John was appointed as Shropshire County Cricket Club’s new director of cricket in December, and had attended a number of pre-season net sessions at Shrewsbury School and Wrekin College. But the suspension of all cricket due to the coronavirus crisis means he is now back home in Lancashire hoping he gets the chance to see his new side in action later in the summer.
It is a return to Shropshire for John who was the county’s professional between 1989-91 after 17 years with Lancashire, including two-and-a-half years as captain. It was during that time that he first got into coaching, being appointed as National Coach for the North for the National Cricket Association in 1990.
That soon became part of the ECB, and John continued to work for the board for the next 24 years, first as coach then manager for the England Age Group and National Academy Programmes travelling around the world.
He said: “This has been the most exciting part of the coaching journey, together with the wonderful people I have shared that journey with.
“In my roles I have toured all major Test-playing countries except the West Indies, usually to attend the ICC Under-19s World Cups. In 1998 I was lucky enough to be the coach of the England Under-19s team that won the World Cup. Ironically it was held in South Africa where I was born and left because of Apartheid, emigrating to England when my dad Cec was offered a post as professional in the Central Lancashire League.”
Not surprisingly, the coaching role is one John would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who is thinking of getting involved.
“Do it, without hesitation. In cricket you deal with good people who are involved in a game with great values and traditions. Not only do you develop players and help them build an enjoyment and love for the game, you grow as an individual and learn from them.”
It is a role he has found very rewarding for himself over the years. He added: “It challenges you as a person dealing with all types of personalities and abilities and having to adapt. It tests your observational and analytical skills, and your knowledge of the game.
“You will be asked questions that you don’t know the answer to, and you owe it to yourself and your charges to find it out. Working with other coaches you will learn from them and they from you. The mutual development is very rewarding.”
And this explains his second favourite coaching moment to go alongside seeing his charges win the Under-19s World Cup: “Another great memory in totally different circumstances was in the winter of 1989, teaching the basic skills to a group of young adults with Downs Syndrome.
“The confidence that they gained through little wins and successes in developing their skills over the length of the course was heart-warming.”
He believes the game is in a good place – despite the hiccup of the current lock down – and is in a good place to come back stronger.
He said: “Fielding is improving all the time. Batting is becoming more innovative and bowling has had to respond.
“The women’s game and junior cricket are getting the attention they deserve and are also improving.
“Last season (2019) was probably the best in terms of achievement, success, the quality of the cricket and the excitement of matches. The game will evolve, improve and hopefully attract more and more people, playing, watching and coaching.”
Looking back on his career with Lancashire, he picks out two former team-mates who were total opposites as the favourite cricketers he played with – Harry Pilling and Clive Lloyd.
His favourite memories in cricket go back to that Under-19s World Cup, and Lancashire winning the Benson & Hedges Cup at Lord’s in 1984.
“It was in my first year of captaincy and was an enjoyable match despite me scoring a duck and not bowling. It was capped off by Peter May awarding me the man of the match for my leadership.
“The World Cup was played in South Africa at the end of an unsuccessful tour against the home country. The multi-match experiences in the conditions contributed to individual role clarity and team cohesion, factors which helped towards the win.”
Now he is hoping there are many more great memories to come with Shropshire once we get the all clear to start playing cricket again.
If you want to find out more about coaching, check out the Shropshire Cricket Coaches Association section on the board website: www.shrop