Thursday, 3 August 2006

The hardest man in cricket

Northants fan Philip Ellis analyses the implications of Kepler Wessels' departure from Wantage Road

Although the downfall of coach Kepler Wessels has disappointed many at Northampton, the general consensus was that he had taken the club as far as he could under the current fiscal regime and that uncompromising leadership style had outlived its welcome. We know he was a hard case and revelled in that image; any player who crossed ‘Keps’ felt his roth. Apparently he was reported three times to the Players Union by bullied players. In fact the ‘alleged’ instigator of the vote was none other than the player’s rep in Ben Phillips, surprising many at the ground. David Graveny himself, along with the top PCA union rep, was at the game against Essex when he was fired to allegedly warn Wessels over his conduct. The coach, fearing the sack, was about to ask for an extended contract to force the issue.

The big poser that is Graeme Swann was first out of Wantage Rd under Keps tenure after one season too many, apparently the coach pulling him aside on day one of the South Africans reign and enquiring if it was true that he could do impressions. Swanny replied that he could indeed do some famous voices. ‘What would you like—maybe a Bruce Forsyth!’, the unsuspecting Swann did chirp. Wessels snarled back that if he ever did one of him then he would snap the off-spinners spine in half. That’s was the way Wessels ran the ship.

The now departed Jeff Cook- an Aussie Kolpak-also suffered Keplers iron fist when he finally scored a hundred for Northamptonshire on a pancake wicket at Wantage Rd-his first for three years-Wessels following him up the pavilion stairs with the death nell of ‘it it doesn’t matter how many f*****g hundreds you score for this club because you will never play for it again. The guy did not suffer wimps and slackers. But once the club was hit by a serious fraud and the income dropped, he never had the budget to buy the players that would bring us his brand of success. Ironically the club is now playing like he batted!

The player vote did happen and it was a ratio of about 3:1, although ive heard it was more like 14 to 2 for him to go. It was noticeable that on the day after his ‘amicable’ departure (he got all the money plus no tax on the remaining year and a half on his deal), the players that were against him ate their lunch in the dressing room whilst a conspicuously small table of players remained in the canteen, all murmuring with a distinct Southern Hemisphere twang!—the Steelboks versus the Steelbacks, if you like.

The ‘Capes Crusader’ (David Capel) has taken up the reigns until the end of the current season at Wantage Road, denying he knew anything about the downfall that many feel he engineered. A stonking reverse in the Pro40 against Notts, who flipped us out of the Twenty20 quarter-finals last week, started the renaissance with a superb win on Sunday, Lance Klusner taking the winning four wickets for his old boss. The administrators of the club, also facing big change when the chairman leaves next year, have tried their hardest to kill this story stone dead. Two men who have benefited are batsmen Rob White and Stephen Peters, playing like Bradman now the atmosphere has lifted.

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