In late July 2004 Warwickshire’s attention was heavily focused on the County Championship. They had been top of the table since early June and were doggedly remaining there. Six weeks later, the Bears would win the title for only the sixth time.
Their limited-overs cricket, however, had been moderate. So a two-wicket National League defeat to Lancashire at Old Trafford on July 27 evoked few headlines beyond captain Nick Knight’s irritation at a six-run penalty for a slow over-rate which cost his team the match.
But the game was more significant than it appeared at the time. It was Dominic Ostler’s last for Warwickshire.
A first-team career which began in 1990, brought eight winner’s medals, 18,150 runs, sustained brilliance in the slips and a place in folklore as part of the great side of the mid-90s, was over.
I did 15 years with the Bears and I am very grateful for that. Not many players stay that long with a county these days. I scored nigh on 20,000 runs and caught almost everything at slip. I’m happy with that.Dominic Ostler
Increasingly affected by injuries, Solihull-born Ostler knew it was time to call it a day on a career which had delivered so much at county level – and, many felt, should have received a chance in international cricket.
It was time to move on. And move on, Ostler did – in a couple of directions he did not expect but, 14 years later, is still pursuing and finding thoroughly rewarding: coaching youngsters and running Berkswell CC.
“By 2003 I had reached the stage where my knee problems meant I couldn’t play four-day cricket,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to be the sort of player who sloped away and played 2nd team cricket for years. I wanted to say ‘thank you, I loved it, I’ve loved playing for Warwickshire – it’s my time to go.’
“I was part of the mid-90s success and will always treasure that. It was an unbelievable time. My career batting average is only 35 but that’s partly because, at that time, we had a team which won everything because we played unselfishly. If you had to go in and whack it and not get many, that’s what you did.
“I remember when I was about 24, Dennis Amiss said to me: ‘You’re a bloody good player but you don’t get enough hundreds.’ At first, I thought, ‘so what? We are winning everything,’ but then I thought I do get a lot of 50s and if I could change a few of those into 100s then my career becomes really good.
“So I started to cash in and got a couple of double-centuries, against Yorkshire at Edgbaston and Surrey, and a big hundred at Scarborough. I was picked for an England A tour to Pakistan in 95/96 and, after being ill for the first two Tests, played the third and got 70-odd and then did okay in the one-dayers. But then the next season, ’96, I started off poorly. I didn’t have a great season and that was my probably my chance. Should I have played some one-day stuff for England? Maybe, but I needed to hit the ground running in ’96 and I didn’t.
“But I did 15 years with the Bears and I am very grateful for that. Not many players stay that long with a county these days. I scored nigh on 20,000 runs and caught almost everything at slip. I’m happy with that.”
And Ostler’s exit from Edgbaston transpired to be far from the end of his story in cricket.
Ahead of him lay two paths which were to bring, and continue to bring, a lot of satisfaction: coaching the next generation of cricketers; and reinventing Bekswell CC.
“I stumbled into coaching really,” he said. “I was running the bar at Berkswell when a friend, Anthony McAllister who worked at King Henry VIII school, asked me to go along and do a bit of coaching. I wasn’t sure and went down and stood at the back, not saying a word, but then got involved and suddenly thought ‘actually, I quite like this.’ I ended up working at the school for five years before leaving to do more with Complete Cricket.”
“My main focus now is working with Complete Cricket which David Smith and Jamie Spires run and has grown and grown. It has become my main work and I really enjoy it. A lot of other former Bears have got involved, great guys like Darren Maddy, Ian Westwood, Ateeq Javid and Alan Richardson, and we work closely with Paul Greetham and the coaches at Edgbaston because we are all striving for the same thing, to improve young cricketers for Warwickshire.
I moved to Balsall Common in 2003 so joined my local club and ever since then it’s been a brilliant adventure. From where we were, in the depths of the Warwickshire League, we’ve done so well with a steady progression up the leagues until we won the Premier League in 2016.Dominic Ostler
“For the last two years I’ve also worked with Sarah Ginn and the Bears Under 17s girls team which I really enjoy. I love coaching, though I never thought I would. When I finished cricket I thought I’d try something completely different.”
Ostler also does some part-time work for Woodworm, looking after the local professionals who use their bats, while at Berkswell he runs the two most important parts of any cricket club – the first team and the bar.
“I moved to Balsall Common in 2003 so joined my local club and ever since then it’s been a brilliant adventure,” he said. “From where we were, in the depths of the Warwickshire League, we’ve done so well with a steady progression up the leagues until we won the Premier League in 2016.
“We are a tiny club surrounded by some much bigger clubs but people are attracted by success and that’s what we have achieved over the years. It’s brilliant really and we finished third last year so are sustaining it. We’ve sent Tom Milnes, Grant Thornton, Tom Lewis and Ryan Sidebottom on to Warwickshire so hopefully can keep that conveyor-belt going too.
“I still play and still enjoy it, though the older I get the further down the order I drop – I went in at seven or eight last year. And I dropped a couple of catches which makes me wonder!
“But I still love the banter, love captaining and watching the youngsters play and improve.”