AN English cricketing dynasty is led by a doughty, patriarchal figure. NICK HAMMOND finds him good company. And not short of a story…
I LOVE it when seemingly ordinary chaps do extraordinary things.
If you read the national press, it’s easy to believe that the world is run by ‘celebs’ and superhuman, super-annuated footballers and that mere mortals need not apply. That’s why Good Murungu; A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected by Alan Butcher is such a pleasing tome. He’s an ordinary lad done good.
So good in fact that he top scored 213 in a first class cricketing career that centred on Surrey and Glamorgan and featured both one Test and a One Day International for England. And then he turned his attention to the coaching side of the game, finding himself at the helm of Zimbabwe’s cricket for three turbulent years until 2013. That’s what forms the majority of Good Murungu – a self-penned account of this rollercoaster ride in a foreign land.
Over a cool beer atop a swank café in Barnes, Richmond, Alan meets me for a chat. Engaging, amusing, down to earth and friendly, he’s a bloke who’s done stuff –but you won’t find him in glossy gossip mags.
“I’ve always been in and around the game,” he says, “and it’s all I ever wanted to do. Once I finished playing, coaching was the obvious choice, but you’re always learning.”
He coached Surrey for a while before upping sticks and heading to Harare. But as one might imagine in a land of ever-shifting politics and problems, it was, shall we say, exciting…
“You could say that,” chuckles Alan. Tales from Murungu include hellish car crashes, sepia-tinted safari recollections, World Cup preparations, national board interference and dressing room shenanigans.
But what stands out is the ongoing love affair with leather and willow which runs like a golden thread through the Butcher family, from Alan’s brother Ian and son Gary, county cricketers and now coaches; his older boy Mark, who battled the Aussies and who was a mainstay of the England Test team of the late 90s and early 2000s; and even his daughter, Bryony, who is a fearsome cricketer.
“It’s an endlessly fascinating game,” he says. “And the chance to improve someone; to watch them grow in confidence and become the best they can become – that’s what really gets a coach ticking. Of course some of them need a boot up the backside some of the time. But you need to be a man manager, have a keen eye for little details – and be prepared for anything!”
Like snakes in your garage, or a cross-dressing, nymphomaniac Thai restaurant Madam, for instance.
You’ll have to read Murungu to find out.
Good Murungu; A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected is available now from Pitch Publishing.