A Budding Bradman in Mecklenburg - Vorpommern, Germany

Fri, Dec 14, 2007 11:52 AM

Late one evening recently, in the depths of winter, the villagers in Kothendorf, Mechelenburg Vorpommern, population 120, were astonished to see one of their number, Herr Ziems, on the road outside his house repeatedly throwing a ball to his young son, 10 year old Janek, who was engaged in fending off the ball or hitting it away with a wooden bat.

What were they doing? - 'Practising cricket' - they told the inquisitive passers-by. 'Cricket? Never heard of it', came the reply; and after watching for a while, the villagers went off puzzling about what the world was coming to.

One of the well-known stories associated with Donald (Don) Bradman as a boy on an outlying farm in Bowral, NSW, Australia, is that he helped set himself up for future greatness on the cricket field by throwing a golf ball against a corrugated water tank and hitting the ball, as it came off at different angles, with a bat made from a gum-tree branch; and then, on other occasions, for fielding practice, throwing the ball against the cross-pieces of wooden fence quite a distance away and retrieving it when it bounced back. Self-help, then was the Bradman watchword.

Jenek Ziems will not yet have heard of Don Bradman, but at age 10, he already knows about self-help. And cricket.

It all started with a kwik cricket set sent to his school, the 'Padagogium' Gymnasium in Schwerin by the DCB, where his sports teacher, Bernd Schwarzwald, wanted to introduce cricket as a subject in the school.

Jenek tried out cricket and was immediately bitten by the cricket bug - he couldn't wait for the cricket lesson to come around each week. He also took on the role of disciple, explaining cricket laws and tactics to his school friends and urging them to join in.

Six weeks later the chance for a league game came along when in the Schwerin Indoor league, Güstrow 'one-short' asked him to fill in. Though they were 17 years old and he only 10, he obliged and impressed everyone with his enthusiasm and newly-won ability. There followed an invitation to play for his school in the U15 division a week later.

And this is where self-help and dad came in handy. Not having any cricket equipment at home to practice with, Jenek, determined to hone his skills by constructing his own: a piece of board and a sawn-off broom handle produced a bat and with an old tennis ball, away they went into the road. They didn't stop practising until bad-light stopped play.

It is, of course, not new for kids in many countries to improvise cricket equipment: the beaches in the West Indies, or waste pieces of ground in Asia will provide many examples.

But it is a good sign for European cricket on the Continent when children are so keen on cricket that they are prepared to take the initiative, produce make-shift equipment and practise the game on their own or with friends apart from organised coaching sessions where everything is laid on for them.

In all honesty, it's a bit much for a young German cricketer, aged 10, to be linked, however loosely, with Don Bradman. But who knows?? Maybe there is cricket magic in the Krothendorf air.

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