FORMER players and supporters of Devon CCC have been having fun during lockdown by picking their post-war, all-time county side, writes Conrad Sutcliffe. Dozens of entries have already come in, reviving memories of players from the past. Among the entries was one from ex-player Keith Donohue (1986-2000), who went on to serve as director of cricket between 2011-2018. Donohue was a member of the Devon side that won four Minor Counties titles and two Lord’s finals between 1992-1998. Here he reflects on those he played with and the roles they would have in his All-Time Devon XI
By KEITH DONOHUE
THE recent challenge of naming your best ever Devon team posed a dilemma for me. Having played a part in the all-conquering squad of the 90s I found it surprisingly difficult to select as many individuals of this era as I thought I would. So why was the team of the 90s' a champion group over an extended period?
My answer is that it was largely down to fate, with the perfect chemistry of individuals coming together at the optimum time to form a team whose character and collective strength were what separated us from our counterparts. Indeed I believe one of the foremost drivers of our success was the fear of losing. This stemmed from the core of that team such as, Folland, Gaywood, Pugh, Ward, Donohue, having experienced many heavy and embarrassing defeats in the mid to late 1980s. It’s not something you want to repeat when you’ve sampled winning!
Obviously the core of the 90s’ team were very good cricketers and consistent squad selection meant that when other talented players arrived such as, Wyatt, Roebuck, Townsend, Le Flemming, Bishop, White, Dawson, Rhodes, Hunt, Morgan and Read, to mention but a few, the foundations had been laid for great success.
Every champion team has to have formidable players and we had those from one to eleven. Added to that we had a handful who were sprinkled with magic dust:
Nick Folland: his infectious optimism and insatiable appetite for runs and not out’s made his team-mates think anything was possible.
Nick Gaywood: he transformed himself from a blocker to the most fearless, extravagant opening batsman who could often win a game in the first overs.
Peter Roebuck: his cricketing skills were sometimes overlooked due to his unrivalled excellence as a captain. Believe me this guy could play. I would also place Townsend, Wyatt, Tony Allin and Bishop in this elite group.
Andy Pugh and Tim Ward played significant parts in the moulding of the 90s’ team. Not only were they very good cricketers in their own right, but they were street fighters who thrived on competition. There was always something reassuring when you walked into the changing room and saw those two there.
I could recount many individual feats by those mentioned, but it is the people themselves who live long in the memory.
What I would give to experience some of that fun again; the whole changing room encouraging ‘Gaypers’ to run down the wicket the first ball of the game and smack the opposition’s quickie out of the ground; observe ‘Roeby’ orchestrate with precision the oppositions’ downfall with the odd tantrum thrown in; hear ‘Wardy’s’ larger-than-life laughter with ‘Pughie’ in tow; see ‘Folly’ and Townsend giggling in the corner of the changing room following merciless mickey taking of anyone and everyone; having ‘Rhodsie’ show you his latest piece of new kit or ‘Farmer’s’ (Tony Allin’s) inability to stay still in moments of tension, I could go on!
Devon have been blessed with arguably better players over the generations, especially in recent times, and many who have gone on to bigger things. However, the team of the 90s would have been a tough nut to crack for any opposition. For those interested I have named my best team, but have only selected from those I either played with or watched play and who played for the county more than a handful of times.
Team: Nick Gaywood, James Burke, Nick Folland, Bobby Dawson, Josh Bess, Peter Roebuck (capt). Matt Thompson (wkt), Neil Hancock, Ian Bishop, Doug Yeabsley, Tony Allin, Zak Bess.