Gary Rich

2011 jersey rich

Gary blowing to get the ball down to the other end!

‘Stan and deliver’     by Rob Batiste

 HERE are a few facts about Gary Rich which do not refer to the most obvious one, that he is, at the age of 47, by far the oldest player in the Guernsey cricket squad in Dubai preparing for next week’s World League Division Five tournament in Singapore.

1. He is unquestionably the best cricketer to emerge from Les Beaucamps Secondary.
2. He is unquestionably the best cricketer nearly to play for Electrics, his dad’s team.
3. None of his Cobo teammates when he made his club debut for the C team back in 1976, ever imagined he would not only play for Guernsey one day, but become such a key performer.
To that list, one could possibly add that when 15 and making his first steps in a Cobo career that now stretches into a fourth decade, he was the most useless runner between the wickets.  ‘Very slow and slow in thinking,’ recalled Mick Wherry, a Cobo teammate at the time, which I can vouch for.
You might also add that no island cricketer has ever got more out of his well of natural ability than Gary John ‘Stanley’ Rich.  And for that alone he deserves all the plaudits coming his way. Having played alongside ‘Stanley’ for the vast majority of his first-team Cobo career, yours truly was well positioned to see just how remarkable the strides he made in a career which started out as a promising seam bowling all-rounder, but long before the end had transformed himself into a cricketer of steel, remarkable reliability and talented off-spinner.  Cobo would not have been nearly so successful as they have been this past quarter-century without their No. 1 all-rounder.
But back to the start. ‘He was more of a batsman and I think he taught himself as a batsman,’ recalled Wherry, one of the older players from whom Gary was able to receive advice as he came into league cricket. ‘He was just the usual junior. There were several of them around at the time. You wouldn’t have expected him to be around so long,’ adds Wherry all these years later.
Bryan Preston, his old Les Beaucamps sports teacher, recalled a lad whose spin bowling was not best suited to the plastic mat on concrete which existed at the secondary school and remembers a young man who ‘just couldn’t get enough cricket’. He had lots of interest, enthusiasm and ability. If he’d had the benefit of the coaching they have today, it would be interesting to see how far he could have gone. It’s interesting, then, to hear what Guernsey’s main ‘offie’ in Singapore thinks about his own career, what his personal highlights are and why he keeps going and going, despite the almost perennial self-proclamation that ‘this will be my last tour’ By his own admission he is very much a self-taught cricketer. The inspiration to play came from watching his father Les, the ever-so-steady Electrics stalwart, send down over after over for his work’s team in the lower reaches of the Evening League.
‘In my early days Dad was my inspiration and then Bryan Preston at Beaucamps kept me ticking over and then there was the guidance from the Cobo side, gaining experience from senior players.’Ralph [Anthony] helped me out, too, with my [spin] bowling early doors, but I was self-taught to a certain extent’ Before his teen years were out, he had worked his way into the Cobo first team, bowling useful seam up and batting in the  middle order. A six-month spell playing in the Australian season toughened him up and he was an increasingly hardened and influential player through the eighties, culminating in a first island cap in the 1989 game at the College Field, most notable for Stuart Mackay scoring a century on debut. ‘I didn’t bowl, batted No. 7 and got 13,’ Rich recalled. But what turned this always super-keen player into an established island star was the decision to pack in the seam bowling and concentrate on off-spin. He never looked back.
That transition was made in 1992, the year Cobo won its first Evening League title in 21 years and saw the club embark on a pretty much unbroken spell of dominance of island cricket. Micky Fooks, who was a selector, came up to me and said Warren’s gone [retired] now and he said if you want to concentrate on spin bowling you can break into the island side that way. The Old Beaucampian [sic] did and the rest is history. The spell in Australia was important, too, he insists. ‘That was tough cricket’ he said of his season with Hilton Park in Fremantle, West Australia. ‘Out there you train two evenings a week and play 100-over cricket, batting one week and bowling the next. It mentally toughened me up. ‘It was at the tail-end of the eighties that he scored his first century and one which, for many years, seemed as if it might be solitary one. It came in an Afternoon League game against St Saviour’s and was one more than I had imagined. Until we met up I could not recall him ever scoring a century in Cobo colours until reminded that he had scored two in a week after he turned 40, but despite relatively few ‘tons’ certainly nobody has scored more runs for his club than this man for all seasons and occasions.
Don’t be fooled by his 2012 number in the Guernsey batting line-up, which is sure to be in double figures and most probably 11. In Cobo colours, at least, he had this enduring and remarkable capability for digging in when required and, particularly in the latter half of his career, playing some outrageous attacking shots when quick runs were required.
His trophy honours and special moments are too many to mention, but perhaps the best was the 2002 inter-insular when he played a key role in Guernsey ending a terrible run of 10 straight inter-insular defeats.’ I took four for 60 I’d say, and bowled 19 overs on the bounce. Since then the name G.J. Rich has been etched annually on the Guernsey scorecard, his consistent form combining with a lack of alternatives from the younger generation to ensure he keeps his spot. He would never turn down the chance to play for Guernsey, but in some ways is disappointed not to have been edged out by an emerging youngster.
The attitude of many of today’s younger generation saddens him. ‘I had to work hard to get in, but a lot of young players around today have had it too easy and don’t want it enough. ‘I was champing at the bit at their age, but do some of the really talented young players really want it?’ It is obvious he doesn’t believe they do. ‘The opportunities are there. I always wanted to play for Guernsey and it was so hard for me to get in. I didn’t play until I was 25 as it was so hard to break in with Warren and Ralph there. It is to his huge credit he retains his island place in his 48th year, but Singapore could well be his swansong in terms of international cricket. Fitness is not a problem – he works hard away from the game to maintain good levels – but he knows you can’t carry on forever. The end is nigh in cricketing terms. His dad kept playing until he was 55 but Gary does not see cricketing life beyond his personal half-century. ‘I didn’t expect to be still playing to be fair and I don’t expect to be playing when I’m 55. ‘I don’t see myself playing lower leagues. I have set myself a target of 50 but I don’t know if I will make it. My money says he does.
THE highlights in Gary Rich’s career are many. At the bottom of the lowlights was the day he was scandalously run out while tapping down the grass wicket playing for Cobo against Hambledon in the National Village competition. The disappointments, most generally, came in his early club career playing in a young and inexperienced Cobo side at a time when Evening League cricket here was king and the game a good deal harder and appealing than it has become. It is the current levels of evening cricket that disappoint the island all-rounder. The standard isn’t as good as it used to be, although I can’t pinpoint exactly why.  ‘It was competitive, hard-fought cricket. It had good intensity. ‘But the evening league lacks intensity and quality now. They should revert to what it used to be, that means play on matting and let everyone play.

 

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