Hornchurch Athletic’s Rehman hoping children get same reward from cricket
PUBLISHED: 16:00 03 July 2020
Shaz Rehman joined Hornchurch Athletic in 1977 and has made lifelong friendships at Hylands Park – and he hopes his three children will do the same.
Former Royal Liberty pupil Rehman, now 57, was a mere 14 years old when he made his club debut for the 3rd and can still remember his first net.
“It’s very poignant as there were three or four others at that first net who are still around and we’re all getting towards 60,” he said.
“I met my lifelong friend Laurence Weeks, but I’m the only one still playing now as captain of the 4th XI, which is a lot of kids and few older experienced players to chaperone them.
“We used to play every day in the summer, going into the nets and spending days looking for lost and missing balls in the gardens behind.
“The Royal Liberty head was very serious about cricket and I broke into the 1st XI when the teacher Colin Brennan took a liking to me.
“We played one match at Westcliff Grammar School when Mick Glover scored a hundred but I went in with two overs to go and hit a six into the bushes. My boys are now at Westcliff Grammar!”
Rehman made a good and quick impression for Athletic and, in only his second summer at the club, found himself playing in their first team.
“There was a fascinating 2nd XI match in 1978 when Carreras batted on a boiling hot day and got 299 from their 40 overs. I’d never known a score that high!” he added.
“Their opener was run out for 199 in the last over of the innings going for his double hundred and I ran him out!
“I got my first 50 in the same match. I batted well with a wonderful old guy, Ken Ferris, an ex-RAF, Battle of Britain pilot. We usually batted four and five and would sit talking while we waited to go into bat. That doesn’t happen now with mobile phones.
“There was a lot of familiarity and closeness with the team in those days, you’d engage a lot more and know more about each other. Technology is great, but some aspects are lost.
“I’d scored lots of runs in the thirds and the next year I was in the first and promptly got a golden duck. A wily old bowler on a low flat pitch brought me back down to earth!”
Rehman admits he was always interested in cricket, given the fact his dad – who played hockey at a high level and is now 94 – enjoyed the sport so much.
“My brother and I got into it as we lived round the corner from Edgbaston and would spend summers watching county games,” he added.
“We’d freely mingle with the players and Warwickshire had a star-studded team, with Dennis Amiss, Rohan Kanhai, Bob Willis and Alvin Kallicharan. They were quite inspirational and we’d run on the pitch and get autographs, then watch them playing in Test matches!
“We moved in 1975 when dad got a job here, started going to the Oval Test as 16-year-olds and we’ve gone most years since. Cricket is timeless and we still talk about those days and we’re nearly 60. We’ve not developed much maturity!”
Rehman went on to play for Athletic’s first team for the best part of 25 years and admitted: “I used to be able to bowl fast, in quick, short spells, but was erratic. It was anyone’s guess where the ball was going.”
He was a handy batsman, who would be used in the middle of an innings to ‘get on with it’ and got runs against good bowling, but never had the opportunity to get big scores.
“I could still play in the twos at 57 but my fielding doesn’t look too elegant! I’ve had loads of 50s I’ve lost count and I got a ton in the fours. I’m playing more for recreation now in the fours, bringing the kids through.
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“The whole club is in a much better place with some fantastic kids. We want to keep that going as it only comes once in a generation. We expect some of them to be in the first team in two to three years.”
There might even be a Rehman or two – or three! – amongst them in future, with 17-year-old Omar, 15-year-old Azeem and 12-year-old Mia all following in dad’s footsteps.
“Omar can sling it down and is much quicker than last year,” said Rehman. “Both boys have put on several inches and were looking forward to playing this year.
“Azeem is an all-round sportsman, a good goalkeeper, leg-spin bowler and batsman. He has got the concentration and we expect big things of them and their peer group. There’s a good eight or nine boys.
“My daughter Mia plays too. We take her to nets to keep her interested and has good opportunities at Brentwood School. The club is making a big effort to get young girls involved thanks to Chris and Simon Martin, old-timers from the 1980s, and Stuart Whittaker.
“I was hoping to get some 14-year-old girls into the fours this year. The trick is keeping them interested in games instead of just practising. It can be daunting as some of the men in the fours can be very serious, but that’s the aspiration.
“We’ve got good three and fours, all four teams were promoted last year and we even had a fifth team out with some surplus players.”
The same could not be said for a certain club playing in the North Staffs League in the 1980s, when Rehman was studying at Keele University.
“I had a knock on the door one Saturday morning and didn’t want to get up. I was a student, I just wanted to sleep,” added Rehman.
“Then a voice says ‘I’m the captain of Norton Cricket Club and we’d like you to play in a match this afternoon. We’re a very famous club and there will be Test players playing’.
“Dilip Doshi, the Indian spinner was one of them and I went straight off and played several games for them. They were very distinguished, it was quite an experience.”
Naming Jeff Thomson and Imran Khan as two cricketing heroes from the 1970s, Rehman also has fond memories of going on ‘fantastic tours’ with Athletic.
“In 1985 on tour in Suffolk and Norfolk I played the quickest bowler I’ve ever faced,” he said.
“A West Indian professional with Vauxhall on a fast, fairly unkept pitch. He flung it down and I could hardly see it. He had rapid pace and I quickly got down the other end. But the journey I had to make from Keele, as a student, involved every bit of transport possible, from hitch-hiking, a coach and spending the night at Norwich station trying to avoid the depot manager!
“There were no mobile phones, things were a lot less organised but a lot more interesting. I’ve been stuck and lost on many occasion driving late at night in Essex, looking at a map. The world has changed a lot, much of it for the better, but there was an excitement in not knowing!”
A lengthy involvement with Athletic – aside from a brief spell at Bournemouth while working in Dorset and some time away from the game following the death of his mother – has allowed Rehman to score 5,132 runs in 281 games and get to know some wonderful players and characters, alongside those lifelong friendships.
“My first-team captain when I was 15, Clive Lancaster, was a teacher and very thoughtful and interesting man,” he said.
“He took cricket seriously, a real win at all costs character, but the best cricketer at Athletic I’d say was Londis Lewis.
“He was a very quick West Indian bowler and fantastic hitter, a really nice chap who is now settled with three daughters in Manchester, where he runs a pet shop.
“Then there are the old guys who have recently packed up like Laurence, John Thomas, Patrick Corera, Paul Kimble the leg spinner who took much of the flak in very good spirit. We went to his 60th birthday recently and saw a lot of people at the club’s 75th anniversary (in 2011).
“Athletic is more than just a club, cricket gives you stability in life, something to fall back on. It’s wonderfully relaxing for most of us and teaches discipline.
“It forms character, we can learn a lot from elders around us. It’s a lot less formal now, the youngsters are more relaxed around us. I hope the kids see it as more than just playing cricket.”
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