He was a legspinner himself – until early retirement was followed by a shadowy existence – but he will be remembered as the man who harnessed the talent of Shane Warne writes Gideon Haigh
TERRY JENNER remembered all 24 of his Test wickets. Warning Shane Warne that he should not risk looking back on his career with similar regrets turned out to be perhaps his greatest contribution to cricket.
But for his 20-year relationship with history’s greatest wristspinner as friend, familiar and technical adviser, Jenner might have slipped into obscurity, if not ignominy. When a weakness for gambling caught up with him in 1988 and he spent 18 months in jail, he seemed destined to be a tale of sporting tragedy; as it was, he ended his life a symbol of redemption.
As a cricketer Jenner had spirit and ambition. He had all the tools a legspinner needed, and a fiery glint in his eye; he hit the ball crisply, and more consistently as he got older; he caught cleanly in the gully. Up against Tony Lock and Tony Mann in their native Western Australia, he and his friend Ashley Mallett moved to Adelaide in the winter of 1967. They would represent club (Prospect), state (South Australia) and country together.
Jenner skirmished with John Snow the first time they met. By hitting a recoiling Jenner behind the ear with a bouncer during the 1971 Sydney Test Snow brought down the crowd’s wrath, and their empty beer cans, on his head. When England left the field briefly in protest, Jenner flirted with the idea of being a Test match winner by (another’s) default.
For all his salty brashness, however, ‘TJ’ lacked confidence, never forgetting the Australian selector Neil Harvey’s gruff remark that he could have handled Jenner one-handed: “He probably could but I wish he hadn’t said it.” Only four of his nine Tests were consecutive. He top-scored for Australia in a tight corner at the Adelaide Oval in 1975, making a virile 74 from 115 balls, and promptly lost his place.
Jenner quit too young, aged 32, piqued by being overlooked as Ian Chappell’s successor to the South Australian captaincy. His formal education having ended at 14, he drifted, passing through, by his estimate, more than 40 different jobs in his lifetime, from railway clerk to towbar salesman. He was given a suspended sentence for bilking one car-yard employer to fund his gambling; he was not so lucky the second time, being sentenced to six years’ jail.
Jenner’s old captain, Chappell, became a visitor and correspondent and helped him back on his feet when he was released in early 1990. Jenner was still on parole when invited to take a look at 21-year-old Warne, then a likely lad at the AIS Cricket Academy, and immediately sensed his potential: “You don’t teach someone like that how to bowl. But you can help them better understand exactly what they’re doing and why.” Warne reciprocated his regard, calling him the “best spin- bowling coach around and daylight is probably second”.
Jenner had less success as a coach with other charges, such as Cameron White, and it is hard to imagine that Warne would not have prospered regardless of help. But at a crucial stage in Warne’s career, soon after his Test debut, Jenner’s challenge rang in the young man’s ears: “What sacrifices have you made for cricket?”
The spin doctor’s appearances around Warne thereafter were talismanic and Warne would repeat his catchphrases, such as ‘spin up’ and ‘arm high’, like mantras. News of Jenner’s death came five days after Warne called time on his career, with some regrets no doubt, though none to do with cricket.
Terrence James Jenner was born on September 8, 1944 and died on May 25, 2011, aged 66.
Gideon Haigh is an author, historian and Australia’s leading cricket writer