Bermuda is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and more than 300 mysterious shipwrecks. One doesn’t usually associate this archipelago nation with cricket; but in the Cricket World Cup 2007 played in the Caribbean, the Bermuda cricket team got the opportunity to play against the ‘big boys’.
The team played three matches in the first round of the tournament and faced heavy defeats against three Asian cricketing stalwarts — India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. But the team had its moments of brilliance. In the match against India, David Lloyd Hemp made 76 not out, and shared the limelight with Dwayne Leverock — who took that famous one-handed slip catch about which David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd said “the Earth shook.”
Yes, before venturing into the coaching role, Hemp was a cricketer, an elegant left-handed batsman with over 15,000 first-class runs under his belt. “It started out watching my dad play on a Saturday. That is where the interest in the game came from,” he says.
Hemp played first-class cricket for Glamorgan, Warwickshire, and Free State. He toured with England’s A team to India and Bangladesh in 1994-95 and rubbed shoulders with future English stalwarts — the likes of Mark Ramprakash, Michael Vaughan, Dominic Cork and Nick Knight were part of that touring squad.
In the second unofficial Test against India A, played at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta, Hemp hit the winning runs but fell short by just one run to reach a personal milestone — he remained not out on 99. England A won the series 2-0.
“The experience of playing in India and Bangladesh was excellent for several reasons, especially the learning opportunities it provided,” he recalls. “For example, playing in different conditions than the UK, both climatic and playing surface, playing against players that approached the game in a different way as well as being challenged by the quality of the opposition.”
It’s been almost three months since David Lloyd Hemp joined the Pakistan women’s team as its coach. The squad’s work ethic has already impressed him. But who is this man the Pakistan Cricket Board has great hopes from?
After playing for Glamorgan for almost nine years, Hemp moved to Warwickshire in 1996, but returned to his old county in October 2001. In 2006, he took over the club captaincy reins from Robert Croft. “It was a privilege to captain Glamorgan. There are many fond memories, but I particularly remember the games that we won,” he says.
Choosing between two countries can be a tough call for a cricketer but, when Hemp was at a crossroads, he was quite clear-headed. He made an all-important decision of his professional life and moved to Bermuda. He made his ODI debut for his native country against Kenya in 2006 in Mombasa.
“Playing for Bermuda, the country of my birth, was not a tough decision to make. The opportunity to play international cricket was again a privilege and an honour. Anyone who has been to Bermuda or has seen pictures of the country will appreciate that living there or spending time there is not difficult, thanks to the surrounding natural beauty,” he says.
In the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2006, in a four-day match played in Pretoria, South Africa, while replying to the Netherland’s score of 378, Bermuda put up a mammoth total of 620 runs on the board. Playing for Bermuda in this drawn match, Hemp made his best first-class score of 247 not out.
“The wicket was very flat, easy-paced, and with little spin, so, it was very batter friendly. The game ended in a draw as the wicket was too good but, from a personal perspective, it was naturally a pleasing performance,” he recalls.
Hemp, now 50, has a powerful coaching curriculum vitae. He is a qualified ECB level-4 coach and coached the Melbourne Stars for five seasons in arguably the world’s best women’s T20 league, the Women’s Big Bash League of Australia.
No wonder then that when he took over the coaching reins of the Pakistan women’s cricket team in October 2020, the head of the women’s selection committee, Urooj Mumtaz Khan said: “Hemp has a wealth of experience and knowledge. He is a perfect fit for the role we were looking for.”
Hemp succeeded Mark Coles, the New Zealander who coached the Pakistan women’s team from September 2017 to October 2019 (Iqbal Imam worked as interim coach).
When asked what made him associate with women’s cricket, Hemp says, “I had been living in Australia for a year when I was offered the opportunity to be the head coach of the Victoria Women’s State Team and the Melbourne Stars women’s team. Personally, I saw the roles as great learning opportunities to coach cricketers, and not necessarily coach women.”
It’s been almost three months since he has joined the Pakistan women’s team and the team has already been able to impress him. “One thing that has impressed me so far is their work ethic, which has been excellent. Additionally, the players’ willingness to learn has been very encouraging,” he says.
The Pakistan women’s team is currently on tour in South Africa (Jan-Feb), which will be followed by the World Cup Qualifier and then the main event — the ICC Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2022.
Coaching the Pakistan cricket team, let alone the women’s team is not for the faint-hearted. Expectations from foreign coaches are perhaps higher in the Subcontinent’s media than in the rest of the cricketing world, but Hemp is fully aware of the goals and upcoming challenges.
“Goals are aligned to improvements in performances from both the team and individual player perspectives. Ultimately, we want to see an improvement in current ICC rankings as well, and challenge for the World Cup semi-final positions,” he says.
Women’s cricket began in England in the 18th Century. The first recorded match was played in 1745 between two village teams in which teams were discerned by the colour of their hair ribbons. Surely, it has come a long way, but Hemp believes there is still a lot to be done to bring it to a certain level, if not at par with the men’s game.
“The women’s game still needs constant and significant investment,” he points out. “It has seen rapid growth over the last few years, but where it will be in 10 years’ time? That will depend on how many countries actually continue or begin to invest in the game’s infrastructure. As has been evidenced, the product is getting better and better but, overall, too few countries are putting enough resources into the female game.”
For any foreigner visiting Pakistan, our food is one of the biggest attractions and Hemp is no exception. He has already developed a taste for some local gastronomical delights. “I do like curry as long as it is mild, so chicken makhani and pasanda masala are my preferred options,” he says.
In his downtime, Hemp says he likes to watch a movie or a TV show. About music, he says, “I don’t have any particular taste in music, but anything from the 1980s brings back fond memories.”
The writer tweets @CaughtAtPoint
Published in Dawn, EOS, February 7th, 2021