May 142020

Steve Wundke was professional from 1984-86 and played a huge part in the club winning the double in 1984. Up to Sherwin Campbell in 2016 he held the record for the most runs in a season by a Heywood player, and he is considered one of the most talented all rounders ever to play league cricket.

To highlight his all round brilliance, in his debut season in 1984 he took an astonishing 125 wickets, and in his final season set the club record for runs with 1,471, beaten only in 2006 when Campbell made 1,479.

He looks back on his time at Crimble:

1. What do you remember of your Heywood debut?

It was 1981 and I was regularly 12th Man for Leicester, not something I wanted to be but Roger Tolchard thought I was best at doing it and I loved fielding – Agnew, Andy Roberts, and others were rarely on the field.

At weekends I was allowed to Pro at Farsley in the Bradford league on a pittance, on a game by game basis. Kevin Sharp (Yorkshire – played there). Bob Cooke, who was Heywood pro was injured and he rang around all the county clubs and couldn’t get anyone to cover him. He finally called Ken Higgs 2nd team coach at Leicester and asked. Ken said, well we have a guy here, no one knows him but he can do everything and I think he could do a job for you. Bob offered my £40, I rang Farsley and told them I was injured and accepted the job.

Bob picked me up from the train station, told me how it all worked and we were playing at home. I was incredibly impressed with the field, it was a proper ground, not like the mickey mouse grounds in Leeds, the pitch looked good and if my memory serves me right I didn’t get many runs but I did get 6 for and we won.

My geography of the UK wasn’t that good in those days and I hadn’t realised how close the two clubs were, nor the publicity in national papers that the CLL got so Farsley were furious when they read of my success for Heywood; they had lost, I clearly wasn’t injured and I got in to a lot of trouble. Cost me a lot more than Bob paid me. However I didn’t think I would be coming back to the UK again so I wanted to say I had played in one of the two best Leagues in the UK – which it was and I had.

2. What was your favourite game for Heywood and why?

Tricky one. Winning things for the club was far more important than anything personally so I guess it was winning the Wood Cup as that was a single game and not the league which is a whole season. Pro’s are important but to win leagues and cups everyone has to do something, no matter how small, a run out, 12 runs when we needed them, 1 wicket that changes a game, a brilliant catch and we were a team who all fought for each other, all the time. Of that I was most proud to be a part.  I was also proud of my own achievements against the best pros, like Franklyn Stephenson and Ezra Mosely and beating their teams on the day was always special. I think I measured up against most of them OK.

3. What was your favourite away ground?

It definitely wasn’t Crompton or Castleton Moor – I hated Hyde because it was too small, I don’t think I had a favourite. The problem was we were already playing at the best ground in the league, by miles, so everything else was second best. I liked Rochdale as it was at least level and I hit 5 sixes and a 4 on a proper ground in one over there, which was nice.

4. Who was the best professional you played against?

Ezra was the best I played against as his team loved him, he was a gifted athlete, he could bowl 90mph out swingers to Right handers and he was OK with the bat but most of all he really tried hard. It was a shame he had to go to South Africa to play “illegal tests” at the height of his powers but the West Indies missed a good-un there.

David Hookes was the most gifted batsman and cricket brain I have ever played with or met. Bit of a bastard as a bloke at times and hard to get to know but so talented. He did things batting back in 1984 that people didn’t try again until T20 started some 20 years later. He invented almost every shot you see. Take a look at his 100 in 37 balls against Victoria on the Adelaide Oval in 84. No-one had ever seen shots like that played before. Sadly the camera work doesn’t really do it justice.

This is how clever he was as a cricketer – they had to change the rules because of him. He was batting with a tail ender in a shield match and the field was on the fence when he was facing. So he would hit the ball behind square, run for two but he would only run himself about 14 yards and then turn and of course he would always get back to his end. The umpires would call one short and he would get a single and keep the strike. He did this 14 times and then it was tea. The umpires came in to the dressing room and took the runs off our team and said it was ungentlemanly conduct – they didn’t have a rule for it and he knew it. Cricket Genius.

5. Best amateur you played with and against?

That’s a tough one. I will restrict it to CLL. Best amateur I played with was probably Ian Tansley at Stockport. Very talented batsman, could do it all. However I had nothing but admiration for guys in our league then who week after week took on genuinely fast, test bowlers on regularly substandard pitches and found a way to survive and adapt. Incredibly brave guys, who did it for nothing more than fun.

Colin Wroe and Alan Starmer opening for us were exceptionally brave and never shirked the issue, even once. Bob Cooke was also amongst the most amazing cricketers I ever played with. His love for the game was unbelievable and his belief in his own ability and his will to win was staggering. An inspiration and I was lucky to have learned so much from him both on and off the field, over the years.

Against is even tougher. I think we managed to nick them out or score off most of them at some stage so I don’t remember elevating anyone above any others. I loved Cec Wright at Crompton – what a guy.

6. Best memory on the field?

Nolan Hall throwing the ball flat from the outfield on the longest boundary at Crimble over the bails to see the batsman stranded less than half way down the pitch. I think for those of us who had never seen his arm before then and this little skinny bloke do that was jaw dropping brilliance.

7. Best memory off the field?

The scene in the changing rooms at home when we won a big match and Derek Page led what could only be described as Trinidad carnival around the dressing room for ages. It was a very special moment.

8. Anything else you remember?

Yes- It is sad that we will never see the likes of that cricket ever again. From 1981-1996 the CLL and LL were the two best leagues in the UK. The calibre of processional, the amateurs and their dedication and bravery, the amazing support at every ground and the way the cricket team was an integral part of the community, was something very special to have experienced and I thank everyone associated with Heywood that I was lucky enough to have been a small part of something incredibly special.

A word for John Rhodes as well. For all the people on the field without people like him Clubs simply don’t exist. He went over and above what most ever do to do their bit for their community and Heywood during those times owed him a big debt of gratitude.

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 May 14, 2020  Add comments

  3 Responses to “Crimble Memories – Stephen Wundke”

  1. Great to hear from Steve – one of the best and most talented professionals we ever had.
    I can hardly remember a game where he didn’t make a significant contribution – If he didn’t get runs, he’d get you wickets and if he didn’t get wickets he’d get you runs. Always upbeat. Surprised he doesn’t mention the “wasted day” award, which I think he instigated with his dry sense of humour.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. One of the best times for HCC when Bob Cooke was pro and then captain we had lots of close games most of which we won in last over Steve was one of our best pro,s

  3. What a great “interview” with Mr Wundke.Cricket at Crimble was brilliant in every way in those days.

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