Late in 1997, his excellent playing career – 15,305 first-class runs at an average of 40.70 – having come to an end, it was time for Andy Moles to look ahead.
The curtain had come down on a fruitful and fulfilling Warwickshire career. The opening batsman possessed two county championship winner’s medals and had been an integral member of a squad which, for two years, dominated domestic cricket across the formats like no other ever had or has since.
Moles, 36, had been a mainstay at the top of the Bears’ batting order since 1986 but the latest in a succession of injuries in recent years had proved the final blow.
I remember one time, towards the end of my playing career, Bob sat me down and said ‘what are you going to do after you finish playing?’ I was selling fire-extinguishers at the time but he said ‘with your character and strengths you should go into coaching.’.Andy Moles
On August 14, 1997, his half-century helped Warwickshire to defeat Sussex in a NatWest Trophy semi-final at Edgbaston. Fifteen days later, 11 days before the final, while batting in a championship match against Essex at Chelmsford, Moles went for a quick single and ruptured his achilles tendon.
That was that. Retired hurt 20. And, in terms of his playing career, game over.
His career in cricket, however, was far from over. It transpired that it had hardly begun. Twenty-one years on, it is still going strong with Moles now into his fourth year in the Afghanistan coaching set-up.
“I have been very lucky to coach in some great places,” he said. “And I owe so much to the people I played with and under and learned from at Warwickshire. Bob Woolmer most of all.
“I remember one time, towards the end of my playing career, Bob sat me down and said ‘what are you going to do after you finish playing?’ I was selling fire-extinguishers at the time but he said ‘with your character and strengths you should go into coaching.’ Hearing that from Bob made me think I could do it.
“I started off coaching at Free State when Hansie Cronje was captain and A.D was playing. I soon discovered that I loved working with young players and helping them make the most of themselves.
“I had learned so much from so many great people at Edgbaston, like Bob Woolmer and Bob Cottam and Neil Abberley who worked so hard for the Bears and had such a massive impact on so many of us. They gave me the tools to be a coach myself.”
Moles’ first assignment with a national team arrived in 2001 with Hong Kong at the ICC World Cup. He then coached Scotland and Kenya before a successful spell as head coach of Northern Districts, whom he steered to the state championship, in New Zealand saw him appointed national coach there in 2008.
The most intriguing appointment of all followed in 2014 when he was appointed batting coach for the Afghanistan team. Within weeks he was promoted to head coach and, four years on, though based in Cape Town, he remains a big part of the Afghanistan set-up.
It is an interesting role, if complex. With their country still so volatile, Afghanistan’s teams have to play “home” matches in India. But it’s a job which Moles thoroughly enjoys.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had a really enjoyable playing career with Warwickshire and then coached all round the world for all these years,” he said. “I’d certainly have settled for that when I didn’t hear back from any of the counties as a 22-year-old would-be cricketer!
“I now coach Afghanistan’s Under 18s, 19s and 23s and love it. I spend a couple of months a year in Afghanistan when the players are there. Other than that we play a lot in India and we have some really talented guys coming through and it’s brilliant working with them.
“I think I can pass on a lot thanks to my own experiences, not least how hard I found it to break into county cricket in the first place. Now, as a coach, I’d look at a player and if he’s getting towards 25 and hasn’t been picked up, you wonder why. But there are always exceptions – and I was one. It’s something I am always telling young players: You fight so hard for opportunities you have to take them when they come along.
“Cricket is massive in Afghanistan. Kids play it in the streets all the time. The interest is definitely there and now they have a structure in place with six different provinces and a good under 19s set up so they are in a position where they will have players coming through over the next few years. It’s great to see a couple of Afghanistan players signed by English counties for the T20 in 2018.
“The players just need a bit more exposure to top-level cricket. The talent is there, that’s for sure. I think the future looks very promising.”
But what of the future for Andy Moles? The former Kenilworth Wardens player (strangely, the c Moles b Halford, a fine low slip catch from a ball which turned three feet, for Wardens in 1981 has slipped from his memory) has travelled far. But almost certainly there is another adventure or two in his locker yet – perhaps even one in England.
Now, as a coach, I’d look at a player and if he’s getting towards 25 and hasn’t been picked up, you wonder why. But there are always exceptions – and I was one. It’s something I am always telling young players: You fight so hard for opportunities you have to take them when they come along.Andy Moles
He’d quite like that. It does seem strange that his colourful, globetrotting coaching CV does not boast a single entry from his home country. There’s still time though.
“I’d love to work in England,” he said. “I have applied for loads of jobs over the years but have never got the nod despite getting down to the last two plenty of times. Maybe it will happen.
“I am 57 now and I think I’ve got two or three years as a coach left in me. As you get older you get wiser and I think I’m probably a better coach now than I was five years ago. It would be great to land a coaching role in England at some point but I’m not worrying about it. I’ve got a job I find very fulfilling and have work in so many great places. I’ve been very lucky.”