As part of the great Bears side of the 90s, Dominic Ostler was a fine batter, but is best remembered as arguably the Bears’ greatest ever slip fielder.
Ossie took 354 catches for the Bears, many of them brilliant, and it all started on a scorcher at Coventry & North Warwickshire.
Over a coffee near his beloved Berkswell CC, the Bears legend, now head coach of Warwickshire Women, reflected with Brian Halford on life in the Warwickshire cordon.
Hey Ossie, so how did you first end up in the slips?
I remember the day vividly! It was 1990, blazing hot, and we were playing Lancashire at Coventry & North Warwickshire. Andy Lloyd was captain. Andy was so much fun because he got so angry on the pitch. Joey Benjamin was bowling and a catch went down in the slips. Then another went down and another. I was at third man and Andy yelled, ‘Ostler, get in here to second slip.’ Another nick came along and I caught it. Couple of overs later, a diving catch. And from then on I lived in the slips.
Did you practise a lot?
Not really. Before play I’d have half a dozen catches and if they all went in then fine. I might need 20 minutes if they weren’t going in so well, but to me it all came very naturally. I would get into position, nice and relaxed, and absolutely loved it. I wanted to be the one, especially at Edgbaston with the great crowds, to catch the worldy. The straightforward catches bored me. I wanted to be the guy who leaps ten feet to the right and takes it one-handed.
Any favourite takes?
A couple off AD. He bowled a wide half-volley to Bill Athey at Edgbaston and it was way past me but I just grabbed it in my thumb and finger. The crowd behind me in the Ladies Stand, as it was in those days, went wild.
Another off AD was Michael Atherton in a one-day game at Edgbaston – it was always special to catch one that changed a game. That’s what I felt I could do. I didn’t bowl so it was my way of changing a game in the field. To me, dropping a catch was the ultimate sin on a cricket field. I’d rather get a first-baller than drop a catch.
Some brilliant moments but they came with many long days standing there with nothing to catch. How did you deal with that?
The days were long, 110 overs in those days, and you have to concentrate every ball, but I could switch off. I would switch on when the ball was about to be released until it was dead, then switch off. On off on off all day.
We laughed a lot in the cordon; Keith Piper, who was the best keeper in the world, Dermot Reeve at first, Nick Knight at second and me at third. Having a giggle with those great guys got you through the days. I didn’t sledge much but just listened to Dermot throwing grenades. He was brilliant at pressing the batters’ buttons.
If a game was going nowhere we might have a game of ‘chicken.’ We’d take it in turns to shut our eyes for a ball so the other two had to cover. You’d adopt the normal slip position, hands on knees, and look down, then not look up. We didn’t tell the bowlers.
Well, they’ll know now. Be prepared for some texts.
Oh, it was just a privilege to be at the other end to the finest bowlers in the world like Allan Donald and Gladstone Small. On quick wickets we’d be standing outside the 30-yard circle to AD. That was interesting, especially in April when it was a bit crisp and a nick comes at you at 100mph. That could sting the fingers, but I always wanted the ball to come to me. I loved it and just loved being part of the Bears, which I still do.
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