Six Ball Over: Shane Deitz

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The World Cricket League Division 4 tournament is underway in Malaysia, with the second round of matches in progress. Keen followers might recognise one name in particular: Shane Deitz.

The former South Australia Redback ‘keeper-bat and current Vanuatu coach, is channelling his inner Ryan Campbell and turning out for his adopted nation.

Mind the Windows caught up with Deitz late last year as part of our JLT Cup series. Here’s what he had to say:

Q1The JLT Cup (or whichever name you remember it by) is a competition that has always held great memories for fans and young cricketers. Going back to your childhood, what’s your favourite memory of the competition?

I remember going down to watch New South Wales play games at the SCG when I was younger. I think after a couple of hours we always ended up out the back on the road trying to play with a tennis ball and a stump – I couldn’t sit still for that long.

I remember the likes of Steve Small and a few guys older than that playing at the SCG, and getting down to watch that as much as possible – it was a bit of a hike from the Western Suburbs of Sydney!

It was a great competition in the old days – it was the McDonald’s Cup in the mid-80s when I was a kid watching it. There used to be highlights on TV and I’d watch them all the time. It was a really good comp for domestic cricket – it’s probably a shame that it isn’t on TV in Australia any more. [But that being said] now I can go on the Cricket Australia website and stream Sheffield Shield games!

Q2 — Throughout your time at South Australia, you never quite nailed down a role – in one game you’d be opening the batting, the next would be spent wicketkeeping, and then the third would be spent doing both. How hard was it, constantly adjusting your game to different roles in the side?

[It was] pretty tough to be honest. I’m never going to complain because I was very fortunate to play one game of First Class cricket in Australia [in the first place]. It did really mess with me a little bit, not knowing exactly what to train for. I worked on being a ‘keeper and that’s what I wanted to be the whole time, and then I couldn’t get into the side so I had to come through as a batsman.

Every time I started to do well as a batsman, they’d talk about me ‘keeping again so I’d focus a bit there – and then I wouldn’t perform quite as well with the bat and might end up losing my spot. So it was always up and down – nobody knew what role they wanted for me. And, it’s no secret, Graham Manou was the other guy that I was competing with. I think we both really struggled to know what we were doing, and both of us couldn’t really improve our games to the extent we wanted to if we had more defined roles through that period.

I don’t really think, deep down inside, that I believed I was ever going to be successful as an opener. I don’t know – looking back at it you see different things – but I always wanted to be a ‘keeper; that was what I was best at. And I probably only played a third of my games as a ‘keeper, it was definitely more as a batsman. And I definitely didn’t enjoy fielding nearly as much as wicketkeeping!

[I became an opener] when I was playing Grade Cricket with Fairfield-Liverpool. I went in as a nightwatchman against Glenn McGrath – I usually batted number nine – and I got through the night. Then the next game the usual opener was at a wedding, so I got the opportunity to open and I made 70-odd against St George – I’ll never forget it – and I was relegated to number nine the next game when the opener came back.

It was up for grabs the next year and they gave me first chance at it; I was 18 then and went from there – I opened pretty much ever since those days. I went to South Australia and the position was open in a couple of Shield games at the end of the year, I’d made some runs in club cricket, so I got that opportunity.

In four-day cricket it’s really tough [to open and take the gloves]. I remember doing one game against Western Australia. It was pretty much 45 degrees for the first two days – so pretty extreme conditions – I kept and opened and got runs, then we had a collapse just after I got out so I was pretty much on the field for three days straight. And in the second innings when I needed to get runs, I was useless. I could hardly get my bat up – I don’t think I got too many.

Over a long career I think you’d need to be a number five [at the highest], but ideally six or seven. In one-day cricket, short format, yeah, easy, no problem. But in four-day cricket and Test matches, it’d be pretty tough to be able to do that job consistently.

Q3 — During winters, you spent time over in the UK playing Minor Counties and League cricket. In 2002 you were just short of David Byas’ Yorkshire League batting record, smashing over 1300 runs during the course of the season. How different was playing League cricket in the UK compared to back in South Australia?

Obviously the standard [compared to First Class cricket] is not as good. I think League Cricket – particularly up north in Lancashire and Yorkshire – is competitive. You get a lot of supporters. There’s a lot of pressure on the overseas player, which is good – it makes you focus and work on your game. You can easily go over there as a holiday and enjoy yourself, but I definitely wanted to go there and work on my game. We didn’t really have great pre-seasons back in those days, so if you wanted to play cricket [ahead of the summer] it was definitely the best preparation.

And it was pretty good money back in those days – three dollars to the pound! And in First Class cricket we weren’t getting paid anywhere near as much as they are now, so if you wanted to be a full-time cricketer you needed to do that.

I have great memories – I played for Cleethorpes for three years, and they were probably the best years I had over there. It was amazing – we got to play the Yorkshire Academy team, there were a lot of great overseas players and I met a lot of great people. And the cricket was really good – I think it went a long way to coming back and hitting the season, those first few games, being in form and getting that first opportunity at Shield cricket.

Q4 —In 2003 you returned to the Yorkshire League, remaining with Cleethorpes. In one match that season, you took 7/30 against the defending champions. Even though you were primarily a wicketkeeper-batsman, how much did you enjoy (and rate) your bowling? Were you worth more of a crack in FC games?  

No, no, not at all! Over there I was on pounds-per-run and pounds-per-wicket so I was bowling 20 overs every day trying to get as much cash as possible! As a youngster I was a bowler, and [later on] I took some wickets bowling spin in First Class cricket, but I did bowl quite a bit in England – hence why I’ve probably had the hip replacement. Usually the wickets were a bit friendly – I don’t know what I bowled that day, I don’t really remember – and I just enjoyed running in and sledging people and being competitive. That’s probably why I got wickets [that day], they were probably trying to hit me out of the park more than anything else. [My bowling] was more luck than good management.

Q5 — Following your career, you took up a coaching role with Cricket Wellington – initially age group development, then moving into an assistant role with the Firebirds First XI. How natural was the transition into coaching for you? What drew you into that area?

When I was playing for Cleethorpes in the Yorkshire League, I coached the Lincolnshire Minor Counties team for three years. In the Minor Counties competition, they played Sunday-Monday-Tuesday games and I was doing nothing, so I played as their overseas player in the C&G Trophy as it was known then. I played one game and they didn’t have a coach, so I said I’d do it for free to get some experience.

I really enjoyed it, got back and did some work with South Australia’s Under 19s, and got my Level 3 [certification]. I went to Holland and played a couple of years, and over there you’re more of a coach than a player in the club, so I was a full club coach working five or six days a week. That was my grounding to get into coaching – I didn’t have any great education to fall back on so had to do something after [playing] cricket, and I enjoyed working with people and improving their skills. I enjoy it more than playing. I feel like it’s my calling, my career – First Class cricket gives me good accreditation to be a good coach, so I think it was a natural progression for me.

A lot of wicketkeepers get into coaching, for some reason – you see a lot of the game, you have to understand a lot of the game, and it really transitions quite easily into coaching.

Q6 — You’ve been working with Vanuatu Cricket for the last three years or so. It seems like an exciting time – qualifying for the WCL Division 5 tournament and immediately earning promotion to Division 4 – alongside positives from infrastructure and grassroots perspectives. How rewarding has this role been for you, and what’s next for cricket in Vanuatu?

I’m absolutely loving it. It’s been three years now and just to see the development of the guys and the girls on and off the field – it’s a very rewarding job. They’ve got some great skills and abilities; trying to harvest that is a big challenge. The facilities and the funding is a big challenge too. We’re trying to compete with some teams overseas who have different set-ups to us and different opportunities, so it’s a challenge to work out what’s best for us. But then you see the guys play and see how good they are, and how much they’ve improved, and how much cricket has taken hold in the country…it’s great to see.

Our captain [Andrew Mansale] played First Grade in Adelaide for my old club – he made 50 on debut, so he’s going well. A couple of other guys have gone to Melbourne to play First Grade. We’re getting better, and it’s a sign that if guys are playing that level of club cricket in Australia, we can move up the ranks quite quickly if we keep working hard and do the right things on and off the field.

There’s a big difference between coaching in Vanuatu and in a more traditional cricketing country. Even though it’s probably seen as a lesser job, I think it’s harder than coaching at First Class level – you’re definitely doing more hours. Here it’s 50-60 hours non-stop, whereas First Class level is so structured that you just turn up and most guys know what they’re doing anyway. And you’ve got support around you – different coaches and facilities and money – so it’s very, very, very different, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

As an association last year, we had a five-year plan to get all teams into a World Cup. The Under-19s probably have a bit of an easier run to a World Cup. And with Twenty20, if they’re bringing in more World Cups every two years there’s going to be more opportunities for us. That’s definitely what we’re looking forward to, but we’ve got a lot of work to get to that level yet – not just playing, but also the structures and the facilities that need improving. But if we’ve got that goal, even if we don’t get it in five years but we get it in ten, it’d be a pretty cool achievement. Twenty20 is a bit like the Rugby Sevens – anything is possible and the smaller nations can really compete with the middle nations over the next five to ten years, and the bigger nations after that.

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