Glamorgan captain Mark Wallace began his benefit year with a curry and quiz night at the Museum of Welsh Cricket on Friday night. The event also featured a question and answer panel session with Wallace’s former colleagues, Steve James and Adrian Shaw, and current team mate Dean Cosker.
After brief introductions from Dr Andrew Hignell, museum curator, and Ian Williams, chairman of Mark Wallace’s benefit committee, the evening got underway. It consisted of four quiz rounds – the first focused on Glamorgan’s 1997 County Championship-winning side, the second a general sports round, then a general knowledge round and finally the obligatory picture round – broken up by a couple of video clips from the 1997 season and question and answer sessions with the panel, during which members of the audience asked the panellists a wide range of questions.
The 1997 side was a popular topic of conversation. Steve James, who averaged 68 that summer, said there were a number of factors behind the team’s success: “We had a good side who had been maturing for a number of years and several players had their best ever seasons. The signing of Waqar Younis was also very exciting – that was something we had been missing. Duncan Fletcher’s fielding drills also brought a real energy to the team.”
Dean Cosker, who was only a youngster at the time, added: :”It was a fantastic bowling unit. I was a bit in awe of them. It was only my second year and it was a great learning curve. Duncan Fletcher took the younger guys in the squad under his wing but he left the senior guys to get on with it. His man management abilities went unnoticed but they were really important.”
There were also fond recollections of the day the championship was clinched at Taunton. James, who hit the winning runs, said: “We needed 11 to win and I should have been out twice! I didn’t even know how many we needed when I clipped the ball to the boundary. I turned round and half of Wales was on the field!” He also explained how he had his bat and a souvenir stump taken from him in the ensuing pitch invasion, although the former was returned to him following an appeal in the South Wales Echo a few weeks later.
Adrian Shaw said while the first few hours following the victory were pretty euphoric he later had a bit of a comedown: “I had an anti-climactic moment about 11 or 12 o’clock. It was a bit strange really.”
Shaw also had some interesting views on modern cricket, and particularly the amount of money paid to young players nowadays: “I believe money corrupts everything. Money has gone up astronomically and there’s an impatience with committees now for players to develop. People now don’t understand the development of players – we’ve been getting rid of players at 19, 20, 21, which didn’t used to happen.
“I’m wary of the money that’s floating around in county cricket – there’s too much being paid to players who don’t deserve it.” Shaw made it clear he was not against paying top money to proven international cricketers, for example new Glamorgan signing Dirk Nannes, rather the idea of young, unproven players landing lucrative contracts from the start of their careers.
Another controversial issues also discussed was the idea Glamorgan had previously developed the SWALEC Stadium for Test cricket at the expense of the team itself, something which James and Shaw both agreed with.
James said: “I disagreed with Glamorgan going to Test level. The side got neglected after 2004 and all the focus was on the Ashes Test.” Shaw added: “We overreached ourselves. We should have looked to be a successful middle-tier county. I always held reservations about the idea that when everything was up and running it would be fine.”
It was refreshing to hear former professional sportsmen speak so openly and honestly, but there were plenty of positive comments as well, particularly in relation to the beneficiary himself. All three panellists paid tribute to Mark Wallace, with Shaw calling him “an all-round good egg”, “a consumate professional” and “Glamorgan’s best-ever wicketkeeper-batsman”. The fact Wallace received such glowing praise from his team mates, both former and current, spoke volumes about the esteem in which he is held.
The evening concluded with the awarding of some bottles of wine to the winners of the quiz and a few words from Wallace. He thanked the panellists and Dr Hignell and presented them with small tokens of appreciation before finishing with a few positive words about the team ahead of the upcoming season: “We’re a better team than a lot of people think we are, which is a good position to be in. It’s certainly better than being a worse team than people think you are. We’re quite excited about what we can do this season.”
For information about future events in Mark Wallace’s benefit year click here.