Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Dougie Brown: We rehearsed running out Inzamam-ul-Haq for three months - and it nearly worked

The current UAE cricket coach recalls the time he helped Namibia's policemen, bankers and doctors took on the game's greats at the 2003 Cricket World Cup

Current UAE coach Dougie Brown, left, was seconded to the Namibia cricket team's coaching staff for the 2003 Cricket World Cup on the advice of Warwickshire coach Bob Woolmer, right. PA
Current UAE coach Dougie Brown, left, was seconded to the Namibia cricket team's coaching staff for the 2003 Cricket World Cup on the advice of Warwickshire coach Bob Woolmer, right. PA

Bowling for run outs is not a regulation ploy in cricket. The very suggestion is usually only made as an aside, when a pop-gun bowling attack is being savaged by merciless batsmen on a featherbed wicket.

When Namibia arrived, not so much unheralded as barely-even-heard of, at the 2003 World Cup, they knew they were going to have to fight the heavy artillery of the sport’s biggest-hitters with little more than pea-shooters.

An amateur side of policemen, teachers, investment bankers, and a doctor who would later that year also play at the Rugby World Cup, were going up against the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Shoaib Akhtar, Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan.

Their coach was a 33-year-old Scotsman, seconded to them during his off-season from playing county cricket at the recommendation of his own county coach.

And he had a cunning plan.

“We were realistic enough to think we were probably not going to out-bowl people in the World Cup, and we were probably not going to out-bat people either,” Dougie Brown remembers of his winter job 16 years ago.

“We were playing against the world’s best. But I thought we potentially could have been one of the best fielding teams at the World Cup.

“We used that as a focus for everything we did – which sounds a bit funny, because realistically you are not going to win if your batting and bowling is not up to scratch.

“It was going to be difficult to match Wasim Akram, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Andrew Flintoff. So we had to motivate, enthuse and inspire our team in a different way.

“The one thing I wanted us to do was, the minute the opposition disrespected us, we were going to use that do our advantage.”

Brown had played a bit. By this stage he was 14 years in to an 18-year first-class career. He had played for England five years previously.

And if Bob Woolmer, the master coach who recommended him for the Namibia job, reckoned he had a promising coaching career ahead of him, then that was a pretty strong endorsement.

Brown left the English Midlands soon after the county season ended in September, and joined up with his new charges on tour in Zimbabwe.

He arrived loaded with ideas for how they might fell the giants at the World Cup five months later.

“I devised a little story that Inzamam would be on strike, and he would not push us hard in the field,” Brown said.

“He would walk his singles, so the whole thing was about running him out. We came up with this play, and we rehearsed it and rehearsed it and rehearsed it.”

Inzamam was always the imaginary figure in this simulation, though it could apply to any dawdling batsman.

He would run the ball down to third man, and stroll through for a single, unaware of the fact the Namibians were planning a rapid, relayed throw via their wicketkeeper to try to catch him short of his ground at the non-striker’s end.

“We were playing at Kimberley,” Brown said. “Inzamam got the ball down to third man, and walked up the wicket. I thought, ‘Brilliant, this is happening.’

“The wicketkeeper called it, everybody got into position, the keeper took his glove off, threw at the stumps. Inzamam realised a bit too late, stretched – and the ball just missed the stumps, when he would have been out by about a foot.

“That was three months of practice around a specific instance, and it almost came off.

“It just goes to show that, even if you are not world class at elements of your game, you can still plan and prepare as if you are. We planned, prepared and rehearsed it - and nearly pulled it off.”

Rudi van Vuuren, the general practitioner who would play fly-half for Namibia at the Rugby World Cup in Australia a few months later, had taken five wickets against England at the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Reuters
Rudi van Vuuren, the general practitioner who would play fly-half for Namibia at the Rugby World Cup in Australia a few months later, had taken five wickets against England at the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Reuters

That was not the only “nearly” moment for Namibia in their World Cup debut, either. Against England, they were well placed in a run-chase.

Rudi van Vuuren, the general practitioner who would play fly-half for Namibia at the rugby World Cup in Australia a few months later, had taken five wickets. Then, at 139-2 chasing 273 to win, Namibia had been tracking well, only to lose out by 55 runs in the end.

Brown admits to mixed feelings. “It was funny,” he said. “Part of me obviously felt it would have been amazing to get across the line.

“It would have been a huge story, huge for us, because I knew the players had sacrificed so much, with regards to time away from their families. I wanted them to go and make history.

“But it was balanced by the fact that England is still a team you want to see do well in the World Cup.”

JB Burger of Namibia in action during the 2003 Cricket World Cup Pool A match against Pakistan at De Beers Diamond Oval, in Kimberley, South Africa. Pakistan won the match by 171 runs. Getty Images
JB Burger of Namibia in action during the 2003 Cricket World Cup Pool A match against Pakistan at De Beers Diamond Oval, in Kimberley, South Africa. Pakistan won the match by 171 runs. Getty Images

In the end, class won out against his team of part-time cricketers, as Namibia lost all six of their games at the only World Cup they have played at to date.

Which is unsurprising, given the pedigree of opposition in a tournament that is memorable for the fact Akhtar and Lee were both recorded as bowling at 160 kilometres per hour.

Namibia played group matches against both. Brown acknowledges there was trepidation among players that had had to find time away from their day jobs to prepare for the competition, but that they were up for the fight.

“When you are sitting there watching the game unfold, you are excited about going out there and being part of it,” Brown, who is now the UAE coach, recalls of the game Namibia played against Inzamam and Akhtar’s Pakistan.

“As a batsman, you ask yourself, ‘Can I actually deal with it? Am I good enough?’

“At Kimberly, you can see along the pitch from sideways on. You were sat there thinking, ‘Oh my God!’ Shoaib’s bowling was ridiculous.

“He was bowling on a length, and the ball was going through to [wicketkeeper] Moin Khan above his head, every single ball.

“I was thinking, ‘Would I want to be out there facing this?’ Probably, because that is my nature, but there was still some hesitancy, and the batsmen, naturally, felt nerves.

“It was phenomenal to watch. I was lucky to play much of my career with Allan Donald, and he was rapid. But I had never seen so much pace consistently across a tournament.”

Updated: May 21, 2019 12:32 PM

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