Michael Roberts, 5 December 2010
Pic from Jamaica Gleaner
By coincidence as much as serendipity Brendon Nash has extended an unrelated ‘lineage’ of doughty West Indian left-hand batsmen who are accumulators of runs rather than the cavalier willow-wielders we are so familiar with. Larry Gomes, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Nash are the three I have thus constituted as a lineage. All three value/valued their wicket and have contributed to many an innings by steadying the ship.
Nash’s history, however, is as different as unique. Born on 14 December 1977 in a locality in Perth and raised as a cricketer in Cairns and Brisbane, he is Aussie in his work ethic and grittiness. His breakthrough into the top ranks of West Indian cricket demanded every ounce of grittiness: he was not only an outsider (like Gordon Greenidge at one stage), but one who was coloured and not fully black in circumstances where elements within the black majority were not averse to discriminatory action directed at local coloureds or whites as part of their backlash against white West Indian discrimination towards blacks till the mid-twentieth century.
Framed thus, this brief and incomplete history of Brendan Nash the cricketer will be of interest to Lankan readers. It is grafted on the basis of an interview with his father, Gary Nash, at Adelaide Oval during their last tour; but hindered by my reliance on notes rather than tape recorded cassette.
Paul Nash and his brothers were outstanding Jamaican sportsmen, excelling at water polo in particular. Paul Nash migrated to Perth – in part because of unsettled political conditions in Jamaiaca and in part because his wife Andreas’ family had moved there. This extended set of kin then moved to Cairns and the Nashes set up a swimming pool complex that taught water polo and swimming. In Cairns a cricketer named Errol Harris and Dave Baxter (U14 coach) were among young Brendan’s mentors. Brendan played first grade cricket in Cairns at the age of fourteen and even notched a hundred once.
Identified as budding talent, he was encouraged to move to Brisbane where he attended the cricketing Nudgee College and served as an allrounder, with his bowling left arm medium pace complementing his batting. During his years of service there in 1993/94 Nudgee College went on to surprise everyone by beating the highly rated West Australian schoolboy side that had been expected to win the all-Australia competition where the leading state college sides were pitted against each other.
Thereafter Brendan joined the prestigious North CC in Brisbane — a rich club that prided itself on a competitive spirit that did not consider winning the one and only objective of the game. Ian Healy James Hopes, Mitch Johnson and Nathan Hauritz have been among those who have emerged recently from North CC.
He was leading run-scorer in Brisbane grade cricket in the 1999-2000 Brisbane XXXX competition and even attracted a fan club. He was drafted into the ranks of the Queensland side in 2001 and in 2002/03 had a pretty good season, often as opening batsman – so much so that he secured “a cult following with a “Brendan Nash Fan Club” founded at university in Brisbane according to Wikpedia.
Brendan roomed with Mitch Johnson at one stage. It was around then that both of them – as well as Hauritz – lost their Queensland contracts. Johnson was thinking of giving up the game, but Brendan was among those who persuaded him to persevere. “Let’s train together and double our regime” was the gist of his message. The rest, as we know, is history: Mitch Johnson went one to become an integral part of Australia’s fast bowling armoury (with the odd century as extra cream).
From a diehard West Indian patriot’s point of view was Brendan helping the enemy? “Yes and No,” is the answer I suppose. Young Nash had never openly disclosed which way his loyalty leaned when the West Indians played against Australia. His parents never pushed him on this point. He was always a quiet lad and not one to chase autographs, though it is known that he admired Allan Border – another left-hander note – because of his grit and determination.
But Brendan did snaffle Michael Holding’s autograph when the latter visited the Nash home on one occasion when the Windies played in Townsville. That visit indicates an important aspect of the Nash family circle: it included West Indian migrants in and around Australia in the fashion common to migrants. The West Indian network and circuit, therefore, sustained elements of West Indianness, with a Jamaican flavour, in their thinking and embodied practices. This clustering and these sentiments, of course, were most pronounced when the Windies toured Australia and visited Queensland.
This side of Brendan’s nurturing flowered in 2007. Poor form had resulted in him being culled from the Queensland squad so he decided to visit Jamaica with his girl-friend (wife to be), during the 2007 World Cup. The patriotic fervour of that moment could be said to have captivated Brendan’s lineage identity as a proud Jamaican.
The Nash family’s business interests provided the foundation for his decision to stay on in Jamaica. Wise-heads in the Jamaican cricket circle dissuaded him from giving the game away. His quiet demeanour helped him ride the ribbing he was subject to because of his pronounced Aussie twang (northern Queensland dialect really). He was able to shrug aside the occasional animosity – racial or otherwise – that he was subject to. The Nash family, moreover, converted the tennis courts on one of their properties into cricket nets. My unverified grapevine information is that several Jamaican players utilised these nets. Brendan worked his way into the Jamaican team in 2007 and played a key role in Jamaica winning the KFC Cup, finishing the season with 422 first-class runs at 46.88 to his name in the domestic competition — at third spot in the all-Caribbean batting averages. By now, I suspect, Brendan was deep, deep Jamaican.
But not Jamaican through and through: he had that Aussie work ethic. West Indians of yester year will shake their heads and tell you that in the 1990s and 2000s the assiduous attention to the hard yards in training was sadly deficient in the Caribbean. Laid-back tendencies had spread, while some talented young men (you can guess the names!!) let their talent go to their heads and failed to consolidate their development with “hard yakka” – to use an Aussie idiom.
Brendon inserted hard yakka into his teams by dint of example rather than commanding speech. He also showed cricketing sense. On one occasion Jamaica were some 100 runs short of a 300 run target when tailender and paceman Darren Powell walked in to join not-out batsman Nash. Brendon walked up to Powell and told him “I am not going to protect you. You can bat. Let’s get 30 runs as our initial target.” They went on to win and Powell went on to inform listeners that this had been the first time that anyone had encouraged him thus.
According to unconfirmed grapevine stories Brendan Nash and his parents were equally sensible when the West Indian cricketing authorities tentatively explored the possibility of him taking up the captaincy for the Sri Lankan tour because Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, the obvious candidates, had not signed central contacts binding them to play all the Test series etc [an official claim that Michael Holding dismisses as nonsensical and invalid]. The Nashes declined the offer. Tony Cozier is emphatic in his opinion that this was a good, measured decision. Ever since white superiority in the cricketing arena within the Caribbean, the belief that only whites had the intelligence to steer West Indian teams, was overturned in the 1960s with the emergence of Frank Worrall and company, the black majority expect one of their own to be at the helm. Or rather it is understood that the coloureds and those of Indian lineage would face currents of turbulence that would not assist team camaraderie and focus, while encouraging some pockets of animosity among fans.
However, as you know Brendan Nash was made Vice-Captain for the Test series when Darren Sammy of black skin was selected as fallback Captain. The combination, as we also know only too well, has worked efficiently just as Brendan continues to sell his wicket dearly – as usual. With Brendan it is always measured service presented without fuss and with determination.