Line and length. Line and length. Three words that are drummed into young bowlers. Mike Hendrick heard, learnt and obeyed. He was the most accurate seam bowler of his day. A model of consistency, to which he added the skills of moving the ball both in the air and off the pitch, plus, with his height, he produced an awkward bounce.
It should be added that he was in addition a very fine slip fielder, though his batting ability did leave something to be desired and the combination of Hendrick and Bob Willis at the crease caused a chuckle from fielders and umpires.
Hendrick played in 30 Tests for England between 1974 and 1981, picking up 87 wickets at 25.83. Although born in Derbyshire he moved at the age of four to Darlington and learnt his early cricket there – his father was a fast bowler of some repute and an income tax man to boot.
The family moved to Leicester in 1964 and young Hendrick had trials at Grace Road before joining the Derbyshire staff in 1969. He made steady progress and in 1973 was voted Young Player of the Year; his best summer came in 1977 when he topped the English first-class bowling averages – 67 wickets @ 15.94 – and was selected as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year.
In 1980 he struggled with injury, playing in just three Tests that summer and then, controversially, he declined to tour West Indies with the England squad. He was picked for two Tests against Australia in 1981, the year when he had a record benefit with Derbyshire. His Test career came to an abrupt end with his decision to tour South Africa in 1981/82.
Ken Taylor signed Hendrick for Notts in 1982. The idea of having Clive Rice, Richard Hadlee and Mike Hendrick leading the Notts attack was a dream combination. In reality it occurred just once during that summer – the disastrous match at Lord’s against Somerset. Rice had suffered a serious neck injury in 1981/82 and this effectively ended his bowling career. In 1983 when Hendrick headed the Notts bowling averages, not only was Rice hors de combat, but Hadlee was playing for New Zealand for most of the summer.
Notts were runners-up in the 1984 Championship due to Hadlee’s brilliant bowling. Hendrick played in just three Championship games and then a serious hip injury forced him to retire. He had hoped to become a first-class umpire, but his injury took a long time to mend.
In 1992, following the retirement of Birch as Notts cricket manager, the county decided that Tim Robinson should combine the jobs of manager and captain. This proved impractical and within a few weeks, Mike Hendrick was brought in as the new manager.
His policy was to bring forward the younger players on the staff and with this aim, he did not renew the contracts of three major cricketers, Eddie Hemmings, Chris Broad and Kevin Cooper at the end of 1992. It was a bold plan, but the youngsters did not deliver the goods in 1993 as the county dropped to 7th in the Championship table and failed in the One Dayers. Hendrick was blamed and left Trent Bridge. He moved across to Ireland where he coached the national side for five years, then in 2000 moved to Scotland taking a similar role. He is now back at Trent Bridge as bowling coach. Whether he shows film of his bowling action to Notts young seamers, I don’t know, but if they can copy Hendrick’s bowling action and his accuracy, their success would seem assured.
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