Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Match report: Steve Kirby, 11 Dec 2019

Steve Kirby - December 2019
Steve Kirby is clearly not a man who is easily nonplussed. Having surely been uncertain whether he had walked into a local pub function room or the well-stocked warehouse for the nearby tinsel shop, he showed neither nerves nor diffidence as he launched straight into the evening. He spoke without notes, which is a skill I admire, but with both verve and passion – characteristic of his playing days. 

Steve did not have the easiest introduction to professional cricket, almost ruled out by an early back injury necessitating a remodelling of his bowling action, then a period using annual leave from work in search of a sustainable way to play. A break came in 2001 when he was called up for Yorkshire's Ist XI to replace Matthew Hoggard, who had been selected for England. Steve eagerly rejected the day job, accepted the chance, and the rest is history. 

Steve reflected little on his stats during his talk but spoke much more about his feelings playing for Yorkshire. A Lancastrian – surely warming the cockles of Ian Sumner’s heart – Steve nonetheless wore his heart on his sleeve in speaking of his pride in walking for the first time into the White Rose dressing room amongst those he regarded as heroes. Of course he was nervous – he made no bones about it. His aim was to sit in a corner and keep to himself. But one by one by each of his teammates came up and welcomed him; something that marked that dressing room as special. Although it may have seemed a little less so when he was abruptly instructed by captain David Byas to remove his 'stuff' as it was in the way, whereupon he found that his coffin had been nailed down by his teammates in one of many dressing-room pranks. 

Steve Kirby relives a Brett Lee bouncer, December 2019
Asked why he had taken up coaching, Steve explained that after a shoulder injury had ended his playing career prematurely in 2014, he spent a short time in recruitment before being appointed head coach of MCC. He has clear and enthusiastic views on his new role. His four-point model involves players exploring possibilities, then moving on to practise with a purpose. Training to play puts this learning into match situations before it is finally performed for real. Steve was unequivocal that the best coaches give time to players: time to build trust and time to keep working through improvements. Passing on easy critiques then failing to follow through is not what he views as coaching. 

Steve acknowledged that he may on occasion have addressed one or two on-field words to his opponents in the friendly fashion of hard-fought competition. Frustrated at his failure to remove Chris Schofield, Steve announced to umpire Mervyn Kitchen that he was going round the wicket and that an ambulance would be necessary. A startled Kitchen shared this news with the batsman, who thus forewarned slogged the ball into the stands – only for a rebound to hit an unfortunate spectator and make good Steve's prediction. By his own account, he now tries to channel this aspect of his character, reminding himself that he has two ears and one mouth and should use them in those proportions. Still, he would never try to diminish a young player’s drive and gutsiness. 'Keep your head in the fridge and your heart in the oven,' seems to be his advice these days. 

Steve Kirby, December 2019
Now assistant coach at Derbyshire CCC, Steve highlighted Sam Conners and Harvey Hosein as youngsters to watch as they develop alongside Leus Du Plooy. To retain such players when nearby larger and more monied counties come looking, he would seek to make greater use of the loan system and also advocates the introduction of ECB contracts for talented young players. In managing spinners during a game he would give them a notional 'bucket of runs', plus an in-and-out field, then trust them to get on with the job. 

In the end of course, we had to return to 2001, to Scarborough, and to Yorkshire's first Championship win in 33 years. It was inevitable. Expecting to hear talk of high spirits and the exuberance of victory, it was a bit of an eye-opener to hear Steve's entirely earthier memories of the day. During a man-hug to celebrate winning, Craig White ran his spikes painfully down Steve’s left shin, leaving a scar that endures to this day. Then to add insult to injury, seconds later Chris Silverwood joined the male-bonding huddle and buried his front teeth in the back of Steve's head! 

With his openness, honesty and manifest love of cricket and of Yorkshire, Steve held the attention of a full house throughout, and Simon Foster expressed the feelings of us all in his eloquent and appreciated vote of thanks. 'You’re one of us,' was Simon's final verdict – a fitting tribute to the wholly positive impact made by Steve Kirby on a cold, over-tinselled December evening. 

As an aside, the only things twinkling more than the tinsel were treasurer Brian Sanderson’s eyes each time he gazed upon the electronic wonder lying on the bar counter – the new PA system. As he caressed the cables and plugs, I could no more have wrested the gizmo from his hands than grabbed the red Duke ball from Steve Kirby at Scarborough that winning day in 2001. But I hesitate to critique too easily – in his official capacity Brian did present to members a very healthy balance sheet which noted significant increases in both membership and raffle income.

[Reporter: Cathy Rennison]

Next meeting: Wednesday 8 January 2020, 7.45pm - Rich Pyrah, Yorkshire CCC Assistant Coach 

Everyone welcome - no dress code, no formalities, just a great evening talking cricket

£15 a year / £5 a meeting 

Venue: Brewery Bar, King William IV, Hallgate, Cottingham HU16 4BD, 7.45pm 

Map: here 

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