Former Notts seam bowler Jamie Hart is now a high-flying football agent. Jim Hindson picks up the story.
It was an odd experience for me as a 13-year-old, captaining a kid who was three years younger than me, but oddly also taller. Our Caythorpe Under-13’s side hit the headlines by finishing second in the National Under-13 Club Championship – a tournament that was entered by over 900 teams. One of the key reasons we got to the finals, hosted by Sherbourne School in Dorset, was an all-rounder called Jamie Hart.
The son of a professional footballer, he already appeared to be as brave as his dad Paul, who was a tough central defender, playing for Notts County at that time. Hart junior explained that cricket played a huge role in his life from an early age. “Right from the very beginning my dad made it clear that he didn’t want me to become a footballer. He was a keen cricket fan and he put a bat in my hand as soon as he could and bowled at me. He got me playing against a hard ball from a very early age so any fear was removed and he has supported me ever since.”
Hart grew up in East Bridgford and lived next door to former Notts off-spinner Bob White, who took him under his wing, spending hours throwing balls at the young cricketer.
As an East Bridgford resident myself, I also returned the favour of the lifts I had received from his mum and dad when growing up. Hart recalled: “John Birch wanted me to train at Notts and you used to drive me to pre-season as I hadn’t got a car and anyway, I was only 15!
“I was always ahead of my age group in the Notts set up but when I went away to boarding school at Millfield I almost got caught between Somerset and Notts. I got back in the system properly when I was 17 and then Mick Newell saw something and gave me a whirl in the second team. I don’t know quite how it happened but I took a load of wickets.”
Hart’s rise to first team cricket at Notts was the stuff of dreams. He was informed during a Notts Colts game to report to Trent Bridge the next day and before he knew it, this 19-year-old was making his debut in the Sunday League against Somerset. He recalled: “I wasn’t even contracted but so many of the seamers were injured. I did alright that day and felt comfortable with it. I made my Championship debut the year later against Yorkshire at Scarborough.”
Unfortunately, disaster struck when his hamstring snapped in the build up to the following season and he was never quite the same again. As a bowler, he certainly wasn’t express but he would ‘hit the stickers’ as cricketers say - which meant that if there was anything in the wicket at all, he would be able to extract it, often finding surprising bounce where previously there was none.
He added: “All of my yards were incredibly important to me and fully fit I knew that I could develop into a decent cricketer. Once I got that injury I missed the snap in my action as I couldn’t get the bite landing on my left leg, and I wasn’t a good enough batsmen just to play in that role. I did keep going for a couple of years but you know when it’s not right.”
While Hart was devastated to leave the game he loved, he managed to remain philosophical. “When I finished, I was very cut up, but that’s life. Lots of people get injured and far worse things happen. This year I’ve finally found enjoyment in watching cricket and want to get involved once more, this time in coaching.”
He will certainly have no problems in man-management as he feels his way back into the game. After retiring from professional cricket, he has since become a successful sports agent. Predominantly based in football, his role is to look after players, negotiate contracts and make sure everything is in place so that they can perform.
It is fantastic to see Hart, who was such a brilliant team-mate both on and off the field, back in love with the game that formed such a huge part of his early life. He spoke candidly about playing alongside the likes of Chris Cairns and Kevin Evans and of the energy and humour in the Trent Bridge dressing room.
And he concluded that his fondest memories are of his debut, and the last game he played in Notts colours – an incredible victory for the 2nd XI versus Surrey at The Oval. Notts trailed by 324 runs with just two wickets remaining in the first innings before Hart blasted a century to get his side back in a game which they went on to win after knocking off an incredible 383 in the second innings.
“I knew I was finished by then and went out to enjoy it. Fortunately I had a phenomenally good game and went out on a fantastic high!”