It was a sad day when Worcestershire paceman Jack Shantry was forced to retire last summer because of a back injury.
Jack served the County with distinction for a decade and will always have a place in supporters hearts for his promotion clinching performance against Surrey in 2014.
He has been granted a 2019 Testimonial Year by Worcestershire and the opening dinner, in which Vikram Solanki was the guest speaker, was a great success.
Here Jack, who has taken the first steps towards becoming an umpire, looks back at all aspects of his career in a Question And Answer Session with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: What are your thoughts now that you’ve had a few months to digest your decision to retire?
Jack Shantry: “It was a very tough decision. It was the right decision because there was no way I could carry on bowling. The advice I was given was it would be very painful to continue, and I couldn’t bowl with the action I was accustomed to.
“Also I wasn’t going to be able to bowl to my full potential which is something I’ve always done and, if you can’t give 100 per cent, then it seems pointless playing.
“I was also finding things really difficult away from cricket, around the house, bending down, so it was definitely the right decision.
“It was a weight off my shoulders when I announced the decision because it was something I had been thinking about for a few weeks beforehand.
“I knew that I wasn’t making progress with my rehab, I wasn’t being able to do what I love. I carried that around with me for a few weeks knowing, despite being in the gym and doing all the work that I could, the advice of the professionals (to quit) was the right advice.”
Question: Presumably now you will be looking forward to the rest of your life?
Jack Shantry: “Of course. I’ve had a really good run. I was commentating on the radio last season with James Taylor, who was far more talented than I was, and he retired at 25-26 with his heart problem.
“To do as much as I did was more than I thought I would achieve when I set out and I’ve made so many friends along the way and have got memories to last me and look back on and hopefully there is a bright future for me.”
Question: When you told the lads of your decision after the Championship game here with Lancashire last summer, I understand it was very emotional?
Jack Shantry: “I tried not to be but, yes, I was emotional. I didn’t really know what to say to the lads and, apart from my close family, they were the first port of call. I think a few of them had some suspicions because I hadn’t done any training for a few weeks.
“But again it was a relief to tell everyone and the feedback I had was amazing. Kevin (Sharp) said a few words and it was really nice.”
Question: Is the camaraderie the thing you will miss most?
Jack Shantry: “I think so. Everyone says that. Going back into the real world, I know it will be difficult. My brother (Adam), who was a professional cricketer for many years, has done the same thing and he is now cricket coach at Shrewsbury School.
“He has told me what to look out for. The biggest thing is not having a purpose to your day. You wake up and there is nothing to do with your day. That’s the worse thing so I am going to keep busy, whatever it is, whether it is media stuff, whether it is coaching, umpiring, making sure I am keeping busy and moving forward.
“I’ve also got my Testimonial Year in 2019 for which I’m very grateful to Worcestershire and the first event went well. I’ve got a good committee and that will keep me busy.
“It (retirement) has come sooner than I would have liked. I was hoping to have a few more years playing cricket and plan more for the year when I thought I would be retiring.
“I will be okay, I will be fine. I’ve got my long term goals and I’ve got short term aims as well.
“I wouldn’t rule out anything at this stage. I’ve got a little bit of time. Worcestershire were very generous in keeping me on as an ambassador for the remainder of last season after I announced my retirement.
“I am immensely grateful to the club and would like to put on record my thanks to Matt Rawnsley, the CEO, and also the Board and the way they have handled everything has been second to none.”
Question: I believe you are looking at the possibility of going into umpiring?
Jack Shantry: “It is a fiercely competitive job but I took the first steps last summer, officiating in a few local games, and it is definitely an area I am looking at pursuing.”
Question: You have other things away from cricket to keep you occupied?
Jack Shantry: “I was able to look at wedding venues – and one of the positives is we can now have a summer wedding! One thing cricketers can’t have normally. Sofie (Richardson) is happy about that.
“She was incredibly supportive to me throughout the last few weeks before the announcement. Obviously I was quite niggly and could get down about things and she was great helping me absorb the shock.”
Question: What would you like the epitaph to be about your cricketing career?
Jack Shantry: “If I had a cricketing epitaph, it would be ‘I made the best of my ability.’ I was always very determined, very hard-working.
“I thought about things a lot. I was a thoughtful cricketer and I knew I didn’t have the assets traditionally associated with opening bowlers. I wasn’t particularly fast.
“But I made my way with other skills. I could swing the ball and I had control and good bounce. “
Question: Going back to the very beginning, you opted to give up University to join Worcestershire. Was that a big sacrifice.
Jack Shantry: “That season (2009) I was at University while playing for Worcestershire and my studies took a bit of a hit to be honest because I was playing here, there and everywhere.
“If I had to have a choice between being academically minded or getting into sport, it was no contest. Sport would win all the time. Cricket was always number one.”
Question: You found it a battle to get into the team?
Jack Shantry: “I had the label of a ‘one day cricketer’ for a little bit and also the assumption was that as a left arm seamer that you had to bring the ball back into the right hander.
“With what I did, there wasn’t a template for that in the past, a left armer who swings the ball away.
“I did have to fight hard but in what walk of life don’t you have to fight hard? A lot was made of that but there are not many cricketers who come into the first team straight away and are automatically a first choice pick.
“All cricketers have to struggle and I was no different in that regard.”
Question: How did the unorthodox way of bowling manifest itself?
Jack Shantry: “Just years and years of bowling at my brother on the driveway in our old house.
“I had no particular coaching until I was 11-12 and by that point I had already bowled thousands of overs on the driveway with my action and it was hard to change by then.
“I always focused on the outcome rather than how it looked.
“I played for Shropshire age groups from Under-11s up to Under-21s and I was mainly a batsman up until the age of 18-19. I was a batter who bowled a little bit, a batting all-rounder.
“Then I had a growth sport and by that stage I was bowling the way people at Worcestershire have seen me bowl for the last few years.
“It was by accident (the action) but I always knew what I was doing with the ball and I didn’t want to change things because one; my body wouldn’t be used to it, two; I wouldn’t be used to it and three I wasn’t sure what the result would be if I change.
“So I decided to stick with what I had and make the best of things that way.”
Question: Do you think your action counted against you in terms of you not getting the credit you deserved for what you achieved in the game?
Jack Shantry: “Initially, yes. That changed very quickly, certainly amongst the professionals because when batters face you it doesn’t matter if someone runs up at you on one leg. You’ve got to face and deal with the ball that comes at you.
“It wasn’t quick but I put a lot of action into the ball so it would have a lot of swing on it, a lot of bounce and there were certain tests that I would give the batsmen that other bowlers wouldn’t.
“In terms of my peers, they wouldn’t think any less of me because of my unorthodox action.
“Maybe people outside the game thought differently. There were always comments on social media and stuff but that’s professional sport.
“They are entitled to their opinion and at the end of the day, it’s a results business and if you can show you are winning matches and taking wickets, then there is nothing to worry about.”
Question: Where did the ‘Angry Jack’ tag you had in the latter part of your career derive from?
Jack Shantry: “That came from the Chris Russell run out. It’s funny how certain things stick with you and I remember the incident very well. I was batting quite well in a Championship match and I noticed that point was fielding quite deep.
“After the fifth ball of the over, I wanted to keep the strike for the next over and I said to Chris if I nudge in that area we will run a single.
“I blocked the ball to point, to the fielder’s left hand so he wouldn’t have time to get the throw in quickly. I called ‘yes’ straight away and start to run, only to look up to see Chris standing in his crease resting on his bat”
“I stopped and turned around and tried to get back but was out by a long way when I thought there was an easy single there. Chris would no doubt have a different opinion!
“I was immensely frustrated and when I was walking off, I thought I was muttering under my breath but apparently the whole of the Member’s stand heard what I was saying. I think Dave Bradley came up with the nickname, and even presented me with a t-shirt with the nickname and a picture of my face. After that the Angry Jack stuck with me.”
Question: Eventually you got in the team and the wicket tally went up and up and up each year – 29, 45 and two fifty plus hauls. You became an integral part of the team?
Jack Shantry: “ It was before the 2014 season started that Alan Richardson left and there was a big gap to fill but that was the year myself, Charlie Morris and Joe Leach all did very well.
“They were good times and to back that up in 2015 with 50 plus wickets in Division One was very pleasing as well.”
Question: You will always be remembered for ‘Shantry’s Match’ against Surrey in 2014. What are your memories in that game. It looked a lost cause?
Jack Shantry: “There was so much drama. On top of it being such a huge match for us, one we had to win basically to gain promotion, I also remember that Mitchell McClenaghan’s father had died during the game.
“We weren’t sure if he was going to carry on, or if he was in the right frame of mind to play, and he heroically played through the rest of the match and we were doing it for Mitch as much as ourselves.
“I remember in the first innings being very frustrated. I had bowled well but hadn’t taken many wickets and they were 330-4.
“I remember having an argument with Daryl Mitchell (captain) because I wanted three slips but he disagreed and said ‘they are 330-4, we are not having three slips.’ He may have also thrown in a swear word or two.
“The first ball of my new spell the ball went through first slip and that was a cue for a double tea-pot from me and staring daggers at Mitch.
“I stood at the top of my mark and let off a bit of steam. He still didn’t give me extra slip but the very next ball I caught and bowled Gary Wilson and cheered up a bit. Then I had Aneesh Kapil and Gareth Batty caught in the slips in quick succession.
“I got on a roll which I did a few times in my career if the ball was swinging. I loved bowling at New Road in conditions like that.
“When I went in our second innings it was just before tea on the third day. We had a lead of less than 40 and three wickets left. I asked the umpire, Nigel Cowley, if he was planning to play golf the next day as it seemed very likely day four wouldn’t be required.
“I remember as well being given a lot of short stuff in the first innings from Dernbach, Meaker and Dunn who were all bowling sharply, especially Dunn and Meaker. I got to 20 in the first innings and fended one off to short leg.
“Bumpy (Steve Rhodes) mentioned to me after my dismissal on me working on improving my batting against the short ball in the winter.
“I made sure in the second innings that I wasn’t going to get out the same way. I came out and they had a short leg and a leg slip and the first ball I faced from Dunn, I played it really terribly and almost fell on the floor.
“I thought ‘this is not the way to play.’ Meaker came on and with his field, a short leg, a leg slip, deep square leg, deep fine leg, I thought there is only one place he can bowl – short.
“I decided I wasn’t going to stand there and fend it away and that I had to find my way of hitting the ball and that way was clearing my front leg and having a horizontal bat, almost swatting the ball like a tennis player.
“That’s what I did. I think his first over went for 16, including a six over third man, and two fours through mid on.
“He kept on with the short stuff and I kept on swatting it away from the middle of the bat.
“Joe (Leach) did very well the other end. He got two fifties in the game. He had a huge impact. We were also team-mates from Shrewsbury and lived together for a bit and I always enjoyed batting with him.
“Surrey were still well on top and had a cockiness about them in the field, but they started turning on each when Leachy and I continued to score at such a high rate.
“There was also a huge shift in the atmosphere in the ground. There was a shift to ‘we can do this’ amongst the crowd and you could sense the change amongst the Surrey players as well.
“When I got to a hundred it was fantastic. I had only got one fifty before that. It was amazing, a memory that will live forever.
“They wanted about 220 to win the game and were still going well in their second innings. But Charlie Morris got Vikram (Solanki) out just before lunch.
“The Duke’s balls that year went out of shape fairly often, and the ball was changed towards the end of the morning session. The old ball wasn’t swinging and they got to 100-1 quite easily before the ball was changed.
“After lunch myself and Mo (Mooen Ali) bowled together unchanged. We took some quick wickets and they felt the pressure. Then wickets continued to fall at just the right time for us, and before we knew it we needed one wicket to win and secure promotion.
“Mo dropped Ansari just before the end but Alexei Kervezee got the run out. It was an incredible feeling, an incredible turnaround. I was definitely aware it was one of those games that happen only once in a life-time.
“I got to a 100 and ten wickets and I was thinking ‘we’ve got to win this game now’. At the start of the season, having lost Richo (Alan Richardson) we were the bookmakers’ favourites to finish bottom of the league. To achieve promotion with a young, mostly home grown team with most players from the academy was something everyone was incredibly proud of.
“Bumpy made the comparison with what Ian Botham had done at Headingley which was very kind. It is one of those things that you don’t expect to happen but it will live with me forever.
“That is what sport is about, events like that and, when I announced I was retirement, there were a lot of nice comments about ‘Shantry’s Match’
“To be remembered for something like that, is very humbling.”
Question: You toom 50 wickets again in Division One in 2015?
Jack Shantry: “It was pleasing to do that in Division One because that was the criticism at the time – that you can just put the ball in a certain spot and the pitch will do the work for you.
“That wasn’t the reality because pitches at Worcester aren’t generally green seamers so to be written of in those terms – not just me but people like Leachy as well – and then to be successful in Division One was really pleasing.
“I’m proud my Division One record is similar to my Division Two record.”
Question: The wickets tailed off a little after 2015. Was that anything to do with the change in the toss rule.
Jack Shantry: “Possibly. The 2016 season wasn’t as good for me and the same in 2017. It’s just the way sport can go sometimes. I wasn’t happy with my performances.
“I thought I bowled well at times without getting the rewards but also could have bowled better at times.”
Question: Overall, you will look back at great satisfaction on your career?
Jack Shantry: “Absolutely. I’m really pleased to be finishing with what I achieved and I think Worcestershire will be in rude health for years to come with the bowlers coming through as well. The Vitality Blast triumph was hopefully the first of many trophies for a maturing and experienced but still young group.
“The likes of Dillon Pennington, Adam Finch with the England Under-19s, have done really well. Ed Barnard will be fantastic and have a great career. Charlie Morris has come back (from his change of action) which is great to see. Pat Brown is coming through as well and was superb in the T20.
“They are all players who hopefully can lead Worcestershire to glory for years to come.”