Anton Ferreira reflects upon his long career in cricket very simply and humbly: “I have been so lucky.”
After playing 280 matches across the formats in eight years for Warwickshire, the man fondly known to all at Edgbaston as ‘Yogi’ embarked upon a long career in coaching and coach education back in his native South Africa.
He coached his country’s team at two Under 19s World Cups before becoming the director of coaching at the United Cricket Board of South Africa in September 2000. The governing body changed its name to Cricket South Africa in 2004 and he remained in this role as Coaching Education Manager until April 2018 when CSA policy required him to step down as he had reached the age of 63.
"Gladstone Small was my room-mate for many seasons and we became very close friends. My time at Warwickshire changed my perspective on life. It is a very special place and will always be part of me."
Ferreira still remains deeply embedded in cricket, however, as director of cricket at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg.
“If someone had said to me in 1978 that I would have 11 years as a pro in England, including a wonderful time at Warwickshire and a spell in the Lancashire League, and then a long coaching career for the national governing body, I would have laughed at them,” he said. “I have been so lucky.
“I still am lucky. I love the work I do at the school and, just recently when England were over here on tour, it was great to see some of our boys in the nets bowling to the England team. Joe Root and Ben Stokes were brilliant with them.
“I still do some mentoring work for Cricket South Africa and also have a role which has recently taken me to other countries in Africa to try to spread the cricket word there. Botswana, Kenya and Nigeria – the passion for cricket in these places is huge but, at this stage, they just don’t have the finance. It is a fantastic opportunity for me though and I really enjoy it.”
If Ferreira considers himself lucky, what he has achieved in his career is far from all down to luck. Alongside his cricket skills is a warm personality which very quickly endeared him to the Warwickshire supporters.
Modest and friendly, he was known and admired for treating everyone – gatemen, supporters, team-mates and opponents – with the same courtesy and respect. When, in 1986, news broke that he was leaving, the tears flowed at an impromptu farewell party in the members’ bar.
Many years later, emotions ran high again when, just four years ago, Ferreira and his family visited England and Yogi returned to Edgbaston – the place and the people which, he admits, shaped him as both cricketer and man.
“It was when South Africa was in isolation and my time with Warwickshire opened my eyes to a few things,” he said. “Gladstone Small was my room-mate for many seasons and we became very close friends. My time at Warwickshire changed my perspective on life. It is a very special place and will always be part of me.
“It was so special to go back in 2016. Keith Cook showed us round the incredibly impressive new pavilion and then I went through the little gate on to the field and memories flooded back. Such special memories.
“Cookie – what a champion! When I met Gladstone during England’s recent Test series in South Africa and he told me that Cookie had got an award in the New Year’s Honours List, I just thought there couldn’t possibly be a more deserving man.”
Similar, if Ferreira has been lucky over the years, few men are more deserving of good fortune. Although he played in a period when Warwickshire’s team was mostly under-achieving, his own contribution was impressive.
Ferreira was the first Warwickshire player to perform the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in the Sunday League. He was a linchpin of the Bears teams which won the John Player League in 1980 and reached the Nat West Trophy final in 1982 and the Benson & Hedges Cup final in 1984. In ’84 and ’85 there were few more effective all-rounders in county cricket. Those two seasons brought him 1,582 runs and 156 wickets in the championship.
His contributions with the bat were consistent and often match-shaping, though his highest innings for the Bears came in a game which was drawn – but with a dash of history. When Warwickshire faced India at Edgbaston in 1982, they piled up 447 for seven – their highest total against a touring team. Ferreira scored an unbeaten 112, many of them in a fun-filled flail of a partnership of 176 with captain Bob Willis, whose 72 remained his career-best.
Ferreira’s skills flourished at all the great cricket venues of England: Edgbaston, Lords, The Hawthorns…
Yes, The Hawthorns; home of West Bromwich Albion Football Club and, in 1981, the Midlands zone of the Lambert & Butler Floodlit Competition. In a ten-overs-per-innings tournament, the Bears beat Worcestershire in the semi-final then lost to Leicestershire in the final – but the idea did not ignite.
“The concept had taken off in South Africa but didn’t do so well in England mainly due to the rain and cold,” recalls Ferreira. “Artificial pitches were dropped in but the short square boundaries at The Hawthorns were a bit of a problem. More balls landed out of the ground than stayed in!”
Just one of countless happy memories for Yogi, the immensely proud former Bear.
“I loved my time at the club and met some fantastic people and made lifelong friends,” he said. “I am so grateful – and if I ever forget that I am a Bear, not that for a minute I ever would, Allan Donald is always reminding me: ‘Once a Bear, always a Bear.'”