That a special bond connects all former Warwickshire players is clear from the warmth and camaraderie at any event held by Warwickshire Old County Cricketers Association.
The mutual respect and affection among Former Bears shines through – and it applies whether a player made hundreds of appearances for the club or just a handful. In fact, the input of the smaller contributors to Warwickshire’s great history are integral to its richness.
"“I bowled okay, beat him a couple of times and rapped him on the pads, and when he took his helmet off I saw it was Dennis Amiss."
The genius Kumar Sangakkara passed fleetingly through in 2007. William Holbeche played one match in 1910 and sadly died of wounds in Belgium four years later. In 1980, the great John Snow popped in to help the team to John Player League glory.
In 1970, Tom Jameson, brother of John, scored 31 and 32 against Cambridge University at Edgbaston – and never represented the Bears again. Collins Obuya played just two championship matches in 2003, but recalls his time at Edgbaston as “one of the best of my career… Warwickshire were so friendly and welcoming.”
The list of Former Bears is a rich tapestry indeed – and everyone on that list adds value to it.
Like Obuya, Steven Monkhouse played just two championship games for Warwickshire (albeit pretty memorable ones, against West Indies pace ace Tony Gray on a disintegrating Oval wicket in 1985 and against Lancashire at Edgbaston the following year when Dennis Amiss scored his 100th 100). But any qualms he had about joining the likes of Amiss at WOCCA events lasted only seconds – the time it took for him to locate Geoff Humpage in the bar.
“When I first got involved about 15 years ago I was a little bit reluctant because I only played a couple of games,” Monkhouse said. “But at that first event, I went in the bar and Geoff was there and said ‘Hello Monky, how you doing?’ and that was that. I was made really welcome.
“Although I played more games for Glamorgan, my first affinity is to Warwickshire, perhaps because I played for them first but probably more because they are such a welcoming bunch. Whether you have played a handful of games or 200 there is no one-upmanship. You are just all former Warwickshire players. That is the bond and it is a group I am proud to be part of.”
Bury-born Monkhouse was a 22-year-old left-arm seamer playing for Ramsbottom in the Lancashire League when he was contacted by Warwickshire cricket manager David Brown in 1985.
“David asked me to come down during a Somerset game for a trial.” he recalls. “So I did and bowled in the nets to someone, I couldn’t tell who because he had a helmet on. I bowled okay, beat him a couple of times and rapped him on the pads, and when he took his helmet off I saw it was Dennis Amiss. If I’d known it was him I’d have been a bag of nerves. Then I bowled at David Thorne and bowled him a couple of times.”
Monkhouse had impressed – and before returned to Lancashire got a glimpse of the calibre of foe he could soon be facing.
“I was in the players’ dining room and Viv Richards came back in,” he said. “He’d got 50, and said to Ian Botham ‘Beat that.’ Botham went out and annihilated the bowling. He got 100 off 50 balls!
“I went back home and a week later David got back in touch to say could I play at The Oval the following week? I was surprised because I hadn’t even played a second-team game but found myself travelling down to London with Dennis Amiss and Alvin Kallicharran.”
A strange match ensued. On a pitch which, according to Wisden, ‘disintegrated alarmingly,’ Surrey amassed 413 for nine then bowled the Bears out for 147 and 63. Their attack was led by 6ft 6in Trinidadian paceman Gray, who was fresh from blowing Yorkshire away with eight for 40 at Sheffield.
“It was no minefield when they batted!” said Monkhouse. “I took my first wicket, Alec Stewart, though it was never out in a month of Sundays. I didn’t appeal because it was going down leg-side and probably wouldn’t have hit another set but Geoff half-appealed and dear old Cecil Cook gave it out. Geoff said to me ‘you can appeal, you know’ and I said ‘I will if I think it’s out.’ Alec wasn’t too pleased.
“Monty Lynch hit us to all parts but then everything changed when we batted. I went in to face Gray and the first ball snorted up and brushed the peak of my helmet. I’d played against some quick bowlers in league cricket but nothing like this. Next ball I gloved into the gully and set off for a run but Dean Hoffman was leaning on his bat at the other end. He was going nowhere!
“They rolled us out for not many, then even less second time round.”
Chris Old and Gladstone Small returned for the next game and a year elapsed before Monkhouse’s next call-up. In 1986 he signed a summer contract with Warwickshire and did well for the 2nds. At Hull, he impressed against a Yorkshire 2nd XI which included Geoffrey Boycott (Hoffman got Boycott but Monkhouse dismissed up-and-coming pair David Byas and Richard Blakey). Figures of 40-13-75-4 against Worcestershire at Griff & Coton and six for 63 in the match against Someret at Studley earned him another championship appearance, against Lancashire at Edgbaston.
“That was special for me, coming from Lancashire and having trained with them and played for their Second XI,” he said. “It was a rain-affected game which petered out into a draw but Dennis scored his 100th 100 on the last day. ”
Monkhouse delivered a respectable 10-4-34-1, removing John Abrahams in Lancashire’s only innings (he is the only Warwickshire bowler in history all of whose victims for the county were number three batsmen lbw). But Tim Munton came in for the next match – and, for Monkhouse, with the Bears, that was that.
He was to play nine first-class matches for Glamorgan in 1987 and 1988 and one Nat West Trophy game for Staffordshire in 1989. Then it was back to Ramsbottom for whom he had taken 259 Lancashire League wickets (at 21.04 apiece) when he retired in 1990.
“Warwickshire had a big clear-out in 1986 and I was part of it,” he said. “I remember sitting in the Sir Harry’s pub and some of the lads were saying I’d been a bit unlucky to get released. But there’s no bitterness at all from me – I probably wasn’t quite good enough. I’ll always wish the club well and it’s just great to keep in touch through WOCCA events.”