Despite cricket being postponed, it has been a busy period with the Cricket Leinster youth players working remotely and undertaking masterclass work, producing some very interesting feedback, giving the coaches a different insight into the players’ thinking.
As we were sending out the Steve Waugh masterclass to the squads, it brought back some very fond memories of his coaching clinic for Cricket Leinster Youth back in 1998. After making calls to some players who attended, it became clear their memories were vivid, the messages and example he set were ones the players still remember to this day.
Steve Waugh’s time in Ireland shows again the hard work put in by so many to help raise the profile of cricket on the island. In 1998, Dr Ali Bacher, a leading figure in South African cricket and with close links to the ICC’s Development programme organized for Steve Waugh to spend time in Ireland both in a playing and coaching capacity.
Thanks to the support of the Independent Newspapers Group (Tony O’Reilly), a series of games for Ireland were arranged against the strong Australian ‘A’ team, with several coaching clinics held for promising young cricketers to support ongoing development.
John Davy, a left arm seam bowler from Pembroke was a huge fan of Steve Waugh and played in all the fixtures that summer against Australia ‘A’. Commenting recently on his memories, he mentioned specifically how Waugh put huge emphasis on his preparation for games. ‘I remember he was very keen on preparation and practicing with the same intensity as playing in a match. He also focused on keeping it simple and mental resilience. He got quite annoyed one day when he felt certain players were not preparing properly. We played a match at Downpatrick on a ‘green top’. It was fun seeing Waugh play against a charging-in Andy Bichel, Brendon Julian and Jason Gillespie. He struggled to get bat to ball. He decided to have a go as he knew he could not survive long on the green wicket. Fun times they were and a privilege to have played with my idol’.
One of his early coaching commitments involved a training session with the Leinster u15 squad held at Pembroke CC. On entering Sydney Parade, he commented to his driver David Williams ‘This is a lovely ground - do Ireland play matches here?’ One young participant that day, 14-year-old Niall O’Brien had particularly fond memories of the visit. ‘Steve Waugh was my hero well before he arrived in Dublin. I loved watching him play on the TV in the middle of our winter in the cold and dark and when I was invited to the Leinster training session at Pembroke CC, I was so excited.
‘He was wearing his Aussie ODI hat and I was wearing an Aussie tourist hat and he asked me where I got the hat from. I told him a family friend brought it home for me from Sydney and his response stunned the entire squad of players. The legend told me – ‘At the end of my time here you can have this cap’......
‘When Ireland played Australia ‘A’ at Waringstown, myself and my dad sat on a bench watching the teams warms up when I heard a voice .... ‘Hey mate, you’ve got to earn that cap you know’ and he invited me onto the outfield to give him some throw downs’.
‘I had died and gone to cricket heaven.... that cap is on my wall, framed with a picture signed by Steve himself of me and him in Pembroke, which was taken by Richard ‘The Wiz’ Hastie’.
‘Over the coming years I got to spend and see Steve and Mark Waugh lots of times when I was playing and living in Sydney and even when I was in Port Elisabeth training in 2002 and went to meet both the brothers at St George’s Park’.
‘I was really, really nervous around Steve as he was, and still is, my cricketing hero whereas I was totally relaxed around Mark and Brett Lee who was a pal of mine from Mosman Cricket Club’.
‘During my work at the 2019 World Cup doing my media hosting pre-match and post-match shows, I got the pleasure of working professionally with Steve and it was a real highlight for me and we also got to chat about his time in Ireland’.
Steve’s visit was part of outstanding efforts to advance the game in Ireland with Mike Hendrick at the time playing a major role in developing the national team. The Ireland experience was later shared by Steve’s brother Mark, the 1996 World Cup batsmen of the tournament, and of course, by Hansie Cronje, who in 1997, was part of the famous win over Middlesex at Castle Avenue.
It is hoped further opportunities can be created for our young cricketers to be placed around leading international players when international cricket does eventually return to Leinster.
Photos: Richard Hastie