SPANISH CAPTAIN GRAHAM HOWE TALKS TO CRICKET ESPAÑA
CE Q1-What was your cricketing background prior to coming to Spain?
GH-Luckily I attended an all boys secondary school that had a wonderful sports department. Amongst the usual sports of football and rugby, cricket was always played in the summer. I quickly realised this was my favourite sport and joined a local league cricket club , Boldon CC at about 14 years of age. Like many young cricketers in those days I spent Friday evenings playing for the Junior XI and Saturday and Sunday assisting with "the tins" while watching the first XI. It was at Boldon I was introduced to a tough Coach called Alec Coxon. Alec was a tough Yorkshireman who played many times for Yorkshire and once for England. His discipline was legendary and his talent undisputable. He saw something he liked in me a we forged a good coach and player relationship. Even to this day I try to play with his aggresion whilst still trying to maintain the standards of etiquette for which cricket is so famous. Durham were not a first class county in those days and because of this the local leagues were very strong. The Durham Senior League, in which I played at around 16 years of age, was notoriously strong with many of the Durham Minor County sides and Test professionals regularly turning out for their clubs. This resulted in tough competition and good sized attendances by the public on some ocassions. It also attracted the likes of Ritchie Richardson to play as a club pro. Playing with and against these quality players certainly made my weekends interesting and enabled me to learn the game from some good teachers. Sadly as I got older work commitments prevented much cricket until eventually I left the area entirely at around 21.
CE-Q2-How did you become involved in Spanish cricket ?
GH-My work commitments eventually brought me to Spain in 1996. I discovered in a local newspaper that there was cricket at Alfas del Pi. I went to visit the ground and was made very welcome and decided to try and play the game again after some 12 years of not playing. I regained my interest in the game and have remained interested ever since. Cricket is a wonderful way to meet new friends as I still believe the social side of the game is just as important as the playing of the game. I have been privileged to meet many of my current friends through cricket. I became involved with the Spanish National side by chance. The National Coach was a gentleman called Peter Birtwisle and I played against Peter in the Northern Leagues when I was a boy. He was a fantastic player who I respected a lot. We met and chatted and he invited me to help him train the first ever Spanish Indoor side in 2000 as the tournament was to be held in Spain. I attended the tournament as the Manager and loved every minute of it. We competed well and the National Team was on its way.
CE-Q3-When did you first play for Spain ?
GH-I first played for Spain in the European Affiliates tournament in 2001 in Vienna. It was a wonderful experince as it was the first time Spain had taken part in an outdoor tournament.
CE-Q4-What is your most memorable moment whilst playing for Spain ?
GH-I have two favourites. One must be making the first ever century for Spain in an official tournament in 2001 against Finland. Secondly, Spain were invited to attend a 20/20 tournament at La Manga which included very strong Cricket Conference sides as well as a celebrity side and a couple of teams made up of Surrey and Middlesex County Cricketers past and present. With a very young Spainish XI, we played a team that included John Batty, who was at that time Captain of Surrey, James Benning of Surrey, Monte Lynch, ex England , as well as many good quality cricketers. Fortunately it was our day and with some exceptional fielding and a little good fortune on my behalf we won the game. It was later in that tournament I was lucky enough to be presented with a MOM award for a 50 not out in that game. The award was presented by one of my heroes Alec Stewart. It is however most memorable for the team spirit shown in that match and what can be achieved if you fight together and do the basics well.
CE-Q5-How does it feel to be the captain of Spanish cricket ?
GH-It is a great honour to be captain of Spain. Obviously I was born in the UK but have lived here for some years and love the country and it´s people. I hope as captain I can encourage and teach some of our younger Spanish players to learn the more subtle and tactical side of the game. One day in the ideal world we will have a Spanish born captain. We have a selection of good youngsters at the moment, I see this happening in the not too far distant future and I hope I can play my part in assisting this
CE-Q6-Are you involved in the selection process, and if so do you think that is a good thing ?
GH- I am involved in the selection process. It is imperative that as Captain I have my input. It is only on the field you learn the mental strength of players. Some can be glorious in the nets but have no character in the heat of battle and vice-versa. As captain I like to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of my players, that way you can use certain players to influence games at certain times. At the European tournament in 2005 when we finished third , every player contributed at some stage of the tournament. These are experiences you can not simulate in the nets. You find out who has the stomach for competition by being alongside them in a match. That is why I believe the captain is in a great position to assess people and as such should help select a team.
CE-Q7-Finally, what are your thoughts on Spain's chances in this summer's tournament in Antwerp ?
GH-Following our third place finish in Antwerp in the last tournament , I see no reason why we cannot do better this time. We were a very new squad last time and we now have some interesting additions this time around. The competition for places has never been stronger and if we manage to get together our strongest squad, I believe we can still surprise a few people and succed in this tournament.