Jim Hindson profiles former Notts spin bowling coach and former teammate Andy Afford.
“Spin bowling is all about going out there and expressing yourself.” That was an early gem I gleaned 20 years ago from left arm spinner Andy Afford, while walking around the boundary at a Notts Second XI match at Steetley Cricket Club. As a promising left armer myself, I was trying to make my way in the game and ‘Aff’, as he is universally known, had kindly volunteered to wave an allocated rest day with the first team and begin a mentoring process, that still continues today.
"I soon realised that Afford was the sort of cricketer who was comfortable with his position at the county, and actively embraced newcomers into the club."
I soon realised that Afford was the sort of cricketer who was comfortable with his position at the county, and actively embraced newcomers into the club. In professional sport, there is often suspicion of new blood, and how they may affect one's place in the team and subsequent earnings. This can manifest itself through an abrasive and uncomfortable dressing room atmosphere - but Aff would have none of that. Even in later years when I briefly took his place in the Notts first team, Aff still proved a fantastic ally, supporting my first tentative steps on the daunting first class stage.
Afford retired from Nottinghamshire in 1997, following a 14-year career in which he took 468 first class wickets, and helped the club to the County Championship and NatWest Trophy double in 1987, then win B&H Cup in 1989 and the Sunday League in 1991. On finishing a degree in Human and Education Studies – ‘Psych and Sociology’ - the Crowland-born slow left armer became a Director of cricnet.com, a content-led website with news, views and match reports from all county and England fixtures. An off-shoot of the website was cricnet magazine, which eventually evolved into All Out Cricket magazine, with Afford appointed Editor. As deputy editor myself, I had the privilege of working with him at close quarters once more. Through sheer hard work, dedication and a clear vision, Afford has overseen the newsstand publication, launched in April 2004, grow in confidence to a point where it is deservedly recognised as a major player in the marketplace.
Coaching has remained close to Afford’s heart since his departure from the professional game. He has just completed a 10-year stint as Cricket Professional at Trent College, overseeing the development of, among others, Samit and Akhil Patel, and latterly Ollie Swann, who is on the Notts Academy, and also helped draw up the spin bowling syllable on the ECB Level III coaching course alongside Terry Jenner.
Afford’s appointment as part time bowling coach is a fantastic addition to the Notts backroom staff. He is incredibly passionate about the club and is thoroughly enjoying his work back at Trent Bridge with the current crop of spin bowlers. Players can relate to someone who has experience of the highs and lows of the game, and Afford has this in abundance after an action-packed career which included selection for two England A tours and whispers of a full international cap; and also low points including injury and loss of form.
‘Aff’ adopts a relaxed coaching style, which he describes as “a common sense and basics driven look at bowling spin.” He will often be found at the back of the nets during training, preferring to stand away from the action to give his young protégés room to express themselves, just as he encouraged me 20 years ago. They couldn’t wish for a better mentor.