Mark Alleyne captained Gloucestershire during their reign as the best one-day side in the country, winning eight trophies between 1999 and 2004. He has recently been appointed MCC head coach, where he will run their Young Cricketers programme. Here he talks about his new position and where it all went wrong for Gloucestershire last season.
What will your role as MCC head coach entail?
The object is to prepare young cricketers, who are mainly between 17 and 20, for professional cricket life, with all the skills you need to cope with a first-class and, hopefully, international career. A lot of it is about technique, but I think you’d be doing them a disservice if you’re not preparing them mentally and physically for the rigours of first-class cricket. This year they will be playing in the northern division of the 2nd XI championship. The structure will help the guys get used to the regularity of a competition.
How does the Young Cricketers programme differ from county academies?
The MCC YCs were up and running well before the counties’ academies, and it effectively was the first academy for young cricketers in England. Players from all over the country used to aspire to be part of MCC Young Cricketers. Now it’s a bit tougher, because counties have their own academies and they want to look after their own talent.
MCC are really keen on regaining that premier academy status, so that the best talent in England is thinking, “Shall I go to Lancashire, or shall I go to the MCC”. At the moment they’re not making that choice, so I’d like to give them food for thought.
Can you have more of an effect on a player at that early age?
I think so. I’ve always championed the idea that the best coaches should operate at academy level, and I’d like to see that supported in most counties, because it’s a really important learning age for a cricketer.
Your previous position was coach at Gloucestershire – what went wrong last year (the county finished bottom of Championship Division 2 and didn’t win a game all summer)?
It’s hard to know. I left in February last year, so I wasn’t that close to what was going on. They tried to be innovative, but it looked as though they didn’t have any real leadership for the ’08 season. They took a punt on not replacing me, and I think they used Jack Russell in kind of a ‘mentor’ role – only they can explain what that means. I think it might be a coach without the responsibility for results, I don’t know. It clearly didn’t work and it ended up with Jon Lewis resigning as captain.
Was it a mistake not appointing a coach for last season?
Oh yeah. I think they lost a bit of ground that year, and I don’t think they should have been allowed to sabotage the season like they did really.
Do you feel any bitterness about leaving?
I’m not bitter, my contract was due to end at the end of that season. I was finishing my level 4 coaching qualification, finishing my MBA, and the summer allowed me to really get stuck into that. I got a couple of roles with the England Under-15s and some other specialist work, and it actually served as a real stimulus to me as a coach. So actually, looking back now, far from being bitter, I’m kind of thankful.
Can Gloucestershire regain the heights?
It’s very possible. They have got some good personnel there, and some match-winners. Alex Gidman has been appointed captain, and he’s a good choice; but leadership is not a standalone job, it’s how you deal with the people around you. So the Gidman-[John] Bracewell relationship needs to be quite tight – because if you leave gaps, you get found out.
What was your career highlight?
I would say my performance in the first Lord’s final, in 1999. Being there was special as Gloucestershire hadn’t done it for 22 years; and then I had a personally good day – I got a hundred, won man-of-the-match, and we won the game. So what I was looking forward to as a special day actually just got better, and that doesn’t often happen.
Do you think you should have won more than 10 ODI caps?
Yeah, I often think that there should have been a lot more. I never got in a one-day squad in England – I played on the subcontinent, I played in Australia, South Africa, and to be honest I would have been more effective in English conditions. One of the most disappointing things was, after getting man-of-the-match against South Africa in one of my last appearances, we had a one-day series against Zimbabwe which I was looking forward to, to try and cement my place. I didn’t play in any of those games and I don’t really know why. I think a couple of good performances in that series could have led to a more consistent place in the team.
Could you have played Test cricket?
I was good enough to, ability-wise. I had a couple of really good, high-quality years in the ’90s. However, I probably wasn’t prolific enough for my county. My bowling was never going to get many wickets at Test level, and I think that would have worked against me.
Finally … where does your nickname, ‘Boo-Boo’, come from?
Just before I came to Gloucestershire my elder brother was trialling there, and they saw it appropriate to nickname him ‘Yogi’. I used to tag along with him to all his trial games, and I guess it looked as though he was just dragging his little ‘Boo-Boo’ around with him. That’s how it stuck.
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