Jack Shantry is a medium pace bowler for Worcestershire. Two things struck me when I first saw him on television: his resemblance to Kevin Pietersen and his staggering bowling action. Indeed, describing his body as it contorts, twists and thrusts the ball toward the batsman is a job I’ll leave to Jack (the closest I’ve ever gotten to an anywhere near satisfying description is: ‘like a mental Chris Harris’). For Worcestershire the upcoming season will be an important one, with the departure of Vikram Solanki and the unlikelihood of Phil Hughes playing much domestic cricket for the side, this young squad will attempt to battle for promotion and One Day success. Jack Shantry is Worcestershire’s leading bowler in the shorter formats (where Alan Richardson is normally rested) and will be keen to work his way back into the 4-day form. He is a relatively senior player in the county’s set-up now, and the tenacious qualities he has displayed in reaching the first-class level and thriving, will be vital if the team are to have a successful season.
I contacted Jack of twitter and this is what he had to say about Michael Fassbender, Shane Watson and balls to the thigh.
What is your name?
Jack David Shantry
Where were you born and how old are you?
Shrewsbury. 29-01-1988. 25.
Who is your favourite cricketer?
Wasim Akram: he could swing it both ways at will and was really exciting to watch.
What is your earliest cricketing memory as a spectator and player?
Spectator- Watching my Dad play club cricket. My brother and I would have a big bottle of lemonade that would last us until tea-time and we’d play in the nets and watch the game.
Playing- Playing for Shrewsbury CC junior sides. We won the national U13 and U15 competitions, and had a couple of future minor counties players, as well as the England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
It would have been in the Birmingham League when I was 17. My first 5-for in professional cricket would have been for Worcestershire v Leicestershire when I was 22.
First painful blow from a cricket ball?
When I was 11 when I was bowling in the nets and trapped my finger against the metal stumps. I also broke my finger fielding when I was 16. And any time you get hit on the inner thing when batting is pretty painful.
Favourite ground to play at?
Lord’s and New Road.
Who is the best player you have played alongside?
Saeed Ajmal. He was unplayable, and was just as effective with red or white ball.
If someone were to portray you in a film of your life, who do you think would be best suited for the role?
Michael Fassbender/Sidney Poitier.
Good Will Hunting.
InMe, Frank Turner, The 1975.
Do you have interests outside of cricket? The arts, television, politics, etc.
I like alternative music, Science and Alan Watts videos.
Is there a batsman you see as your ‘bunny’?
Who is the batsman you most ‘fear’ bowling at?
No-one I fear bowling to. Players who can paddle sweep and hit down the ground are hard to bowl to. Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler are two of the best.
Do you remember the first time you thought: I want to be a professional cricketer?
It would’ve been very young when Dad showed me old newspaper clippings of his time playing for Gloucestershire.
Your brother’s career was unfortunately cut short by injury, how much of an influence was he (and your father) on your career? Did you come from a competitive household?
They were both big influences. Dad got me into the sport and once my brother became a professional he was someone I looked to for advice. And yes, very competitive. Adam and I would play on the driveway for hours on end, and we’d have plenty of arguments. Even now when we play Boggle at Christmas we are ridiculously competitive.
What was it that prompted you to pursue cricket in the serious manner that it takes to be a professional athlete?
I love sport. I was training twice a week with a semi-professional football team and playing for their reserves around the time I was trialling with Worcestershire, whilst also playing football twice a week for the University, along with going to the gym. Around all this I was supposed to be doing a degree. It got to the stage where Worcestershire offered me a contract after my second year of Uni, and it took about 5 seconds to make my mind up.
You went to University, where did you attend and what subject were you studying?
I did English Language at Manchester University.
Obviously you fought your way into the first-class system; I believe you had trials at several different counties while at university. What was it, in your opinion, which separated you from the many other amateurs and semi-professionals that try to break into the first-class system?
I made it very hard for them to turn me down. My brother’s advice was to just tick all the boxes that the county asked of me. I would play when asked and was lucky enough to perform well. I would avoid nights out with my friends before I knew I was going down to train. If they invited me to a two hour voluntary net with the first team on a Saturday afternoon I would jump at the chance, even if it meant a 5 hour round trip with my cricket bag on the train paid for out of my student loan. I was very aware that at 21 I wasn’t going to get a second chance, and that I was very lucky to have the possibility of making a living from cricket.
Did you ever have any doubts about the likelihood of making a living through cricket alone? Did you perhaps have any professions marked down as a potential career if the cricket didn’t take off?
All the time, I think anyone who didn’t would be lying; but allied to that I was very motivated and confident in my own ability. I don’t know what I’d have done if not cricket, probably completed my degree and looked for any jobs going like the rest of my friends.
Worcestershire has the traditional warm up game against Australia at New Road to look forward to this summer: will it be an added incentive to cement your place in the first-class line up?
Yes. Although we played South Africa last season and the coach decided to rest several first team players, of which I was one at the time, so I’m not sure what team we will put out. But that is definitely a game I would like to be involved in.
Which Aussie batsmen would you most like to dismiss were you selected?
Shane Watson. He takes the attack to the bowler and comes across as your archetypal confident, brash Aussie so I’d like to dismiss him early on.
Vikram Solanki has left Worcestershire for Surrey after 17 years at the club. I believe your first team career began under his captaincy tenure: how much of an influence was he to yourself and other younger players?
He epitomised what it is to be a professional. He would train more than most other players and always conduct himself impeccably, be it in the media or with the rest of the lads. He is someone I have the utmost respect for. He will be missed but we are all professionals and understand the decision was taken with the best intentions of the club in mind. I’m sure he will do very well at Surrey. As for us we have some exciting young batsmen coming through, and I think the likes of Moeen Ali and Alexei Kervezee will do very well this season.
Are there any young talents at the club who you think the rest of us should keep an eye out for?
Tom Kohler-Cadmore is a young batsman who is looking good in the nets this winter. If he continues to work hard and improve he could get his chance this year and he is well equipped to perform well.
After relegation from the first division last year, are you confident of the team’s chances in the second division?
Yes. We got promoted last time we were in Division Two and since then our team has matured and we have an opportunity to show how much we have improved. We are good enough to win promotion this season, and there are a few players who can push for international recognition in the near future.
What have you learnt from bowling alongside a figure like Alan Richardson: another man who took the path less trodden on his way to county success?
Richo is a magnificent bowler and one of the nicest people you could hope to meet. He talks at length about bowling and is very knowledgeable. He talks a lot about asking the batsman questions with every ball, and the more questions you ask the better your chance of getting a wicket. He is economical and prepared to work for his wickets, which is something I also look to do.
Of course, you have other things in common with Alan Richardson than a niggling off stump line: can you explain your action?
I think you have to see it. It is very difficult to explain. I have a small bound to the crease which makes it look as if I jump off the wrong foot, my head dips down and my arm comes over beyond the perpendicular, which helps me swing the ball away from the right-hander, which is unusual for a left-armer. It’s a bit like Sohail Tanvir, although I’m not sure how happy he’d be with the comparison.
Were you perhaps trying to imitate a certain bowler when you were in your formative years?
No. Until I saw myself on video I thought I bowled like Brett Lee.
How many wickets do you think your very unique action might have garnered over the last four years?
All of them!
How have you spent the off season? Work? Training?
From November we have trained 5 days a week in the gym. Since January we have been netting four times a week as well as training. It’s the first time I’ve spent the winter in the UK for a few years, I was in New Zealand last year and Australia the year before.
Do you feel at home playing for Worcestershire?
Yes. I love the club, the city and my teammates.
What are your aims for the upcoming season?
I want to keep spearheading the attack in one day cricket and make sure I’m a regular in 4 day cricket. Promotion has to be our aim in the Championship, and if we can improve on our ¼ final finish in t20 it will be a successful season.