Earlier this week Lymington said a fond farewell to Karl Whatham who was returning home to Australia after four memorable months in England. As a token of thanks for his contribution to the club during the season Karl was presented with a painting of Lymington River.
Karl Bruce Whatham pitched up at Lymington in early May with the reputation of being a free-scoring middle order batsman, superb fielder and occasional medium paced bowler. Karl certainly proved his worth with the bat, notching up 524 runs in league cricket and perhaps double that total in all other forms of the game. He also claimed 11 catches and brought about the downfall of several batsmen with his lightening fielding and brilliant throws. But it was in the bowling department that Karl really surprised everyone. On his debut in a pre-season friendly at Hursley Park Karl looked anything but a Southern League bowler, producing a collection of wides, full tosses and gentle half-volleys that would have been more at home on a village green. On his league debut at Ventnor Karl again served up a mixed bag of deliveries, but managed to produce so much swing that he grabbed 5 wickets in the process. This set the standard for the season with Karl regularly bamboozling the batsmen with his outrageous outswing. By the end of the season Karl had taken 37 wickets, 4 ahead of nearest rival Julian Ballinger of Alton. Last Sunday Karl received the Division 2 bowling award from the League's Mike Vimpany.
Despite the award Karl doesn't think that he'll been invited bowl for his Balmain club side back in Sydney when he returns this week. I'm just a net bowler over there, he said. I'm too slow and the wickets are a lot harder for me to bowl on. And the standard of the batsmen is considerably higher in Grade cricket he added.
The amiable Aussie who overcame extreme homesickness to become one of Lymington's most popular overseas players revealed that he'd like to return to England next summer. I've really enjoyed my time at Lymington - it was the best club I could have joined. I'll really miss all the guys, not to mention the kebabs and curries. However, there was one thing that Karl won't miss when he arrives home. I won't miss the rain, that's for sure!
Shortly before he set off for home Trevor, Meg and Dom asked Karl a few questions about his time in England . . .
LCC: How did you first hear about Lymington?
KW: Tim Smith sold it to me really. I'd originally planned to play at Greenock in Scotland but the travel agent warned me about the weather. So I looked at a map and saw that Lymington was on the south coast. I figured that it must be sub-tropical!
LCC: We took you to the curry house on your first night out in England - what were your initial impressions of Bob Iles?
KW: Big, hairy and loud!
LCC: You were pretty homesick in the beginning - how close were you to going home?
KW: I definitely considered it - especially when Neil Trestrail offered to take me to Derby Road. The first few weeks were terrible. I began to wonder if the rain would ever stop.
LCC: In the changing room before your debut at Hursley Park you ate a tin of cold baked beans and a slice of unbuttered bread - why?
KW: It was the only thing that Taps gave me to eat! Actually I thought it was an important game so I didn't want to go into it on an empty stomach and all I could find to eat was the tin of beans. Then I saw Meg and Goffy drinking pints of beer just before the start and I thought to myself: Ah, this is friendly cricket!
LCC: At what point did you start to lose the homesickness and really begin to feel at home in Lymington?
KW: It was at Ventnor, I guess. It was the first serious game in three weeks cos of the rain. It was good to meet all my teammates at last. And I got runs too!
LCC: But didn't you go up to Martin Hunt during your innings at Ventnor and tell him that you couldn't concentrate on batting cos you were too busy thinking about your girlfriend?
KW: Marty wasn't supposed to tell anyone about that! Well it is true in a roundabout way.
LCC: You soon established yourself as a prolific eater. Tell us about the time you ordered a donner kebab AND a pizza.
KW: I'd never had a kebab before and I thought it was just a little bit of meat on a skewer like in the photo above the counter. So I thought I'd order a pizza as well just in case the kebab didn't fill me up. It didn't take me long to get the hang of kebabs.
LCC: What were your impressions of Southern League cricket?
KW: It was actually a better standard than I was expecting, although the bowling's a bit ordinary. Mind you, if I can take 37 wickets I guess the batting can't be any great shakes either!
LCC: How does Southern League cricket compare to your Grade stuff back home?
KW: There are blokes who play for Hampshire who wouldn't get in our Grade sides. Treags would probably play First Grade cos he's a class act. Crafty would maybe play Second Grade or even First Grade if he took it seriously. Marty Hunt's coming out to play for Balmain and he could play Second Grade if he trains hard and gets his mind in the right frame. Meg would probably carry the water.
LCC: You are one of the first overseas player to adapt to friendly cricket. Why is that?
KW: Friendly cricket's a bit weird. You want to win, but it's not a proper game. But it does give blokes like Geoff Renshaw a chance to have a game. There's no organised friendly cricket at all in Australia.
LCC: What were your best and worst performances in England?
KW: My best innings was my century against Ventnor, although I batted well against Calmore and I enjoyed my 94 not out against Easton. My worst performances always seemed to happen at Hursley Park. I had a nightmare in the friendly and in the league game there, and I was rubbish in the Twenty-20 game too. I don't think Hursley will be asking me to play for them!
LCC: Who's the best player you've played against this summer?
KW: Geoff Renshaw in the club six-a-sides (I couldn't read his flipper!). Trevor Gripper was a bit special in the Presidents Day match.
LCC: What were the best and worst grounds you played on?
KW: Canford School was a lovely setting (made more memorable by the fact that I put on 200 with Meg Gannaway). Arundel was pretty special too. And the Sports Ground, of course. As for the worst - it's got to be Easton & Martyr Worthy.
LCC: Who made the best teas?
KW: Lymington naturally! The teas are much better in England than back home. We only have biscuits and a bit of cake.
LCC: What was your most embarrassing moment in England?
KW: The baked bean incident at Hursley on my debut was pretty embarrassing. And getting stitched up by Chernoble at the Coins game.
LCC: Talking of which, you're not very good at drinking games are you?
KW: It doesn't help when everyone knows the rules except you! The amazing thing was that Meg actually explained to me how the stitch-up worked in the Copy Cat game weeks before . . . and I still fell for it.
LCC: So have you improved your drinking ability?
KW: Remarkably. I've never drunk so much in my life.
LCC: What was your proudest moment in England?
KW: Being the only batsman to hit the Speckled Hen box in the six-a-sides (with a reverse sweep too!)
LCC: Have your Balmain teammates been following your progress in England?
KW: A little bit, I gather. There was a bit about me on the Balmain website.
LCC: Now you've won a bowling award, will the Balmain captain be asking you to turn your arm over?
KW: I doubt it. It's a bit different bowling in Grade cricket. You don't get 65 year olds opening the batting for one thing! Actually, before I came to England all the Balmain guys said that I'd make a good bowler in English conditions. But I think they may have said that to get rid of me.
LCC: Honest now - what are your impressions of Neil Trestrail?
KW: Frightfully posh! Swears a lot - should be re-named Neil Tourrettes-trail. But a great bloke really. At his happiest when he's playing for his beloved MCC.
LCC: What's your best memory?
KW: Watching Phil "The Power" Taylor playing darts on TV - it was awesome. I'm definitely going to watch a live darts match if I come back next year. Attending the Saints 3-3 draw with Newcastle at St Marys was good too. And missing the ferry after the Ventnor game was funny.
LCC: And your worst memories?
KW: The first few weeks. And the Saints versus Bolton game.
LCC: Do you think Westy will ever fulfil that Hampshire dream?
KW: Next question . . .
LCC: What are your thoughts on Chris Noble?
KW: Mad! He's a silent assassin.
LCC: What will you miss most about Lymington?
KW: I'll miss all the people, the kebabs, the bakery and the New Forest Tandoori at Fox Pond - it's great!
LCC: What won't you miss?
KW: The rain and Martin Hunt's noisy nocturnal habits.
LCC: Do you think you're a better cricketer for coming to England?
KW: I think so, but I guess I'll only find out when I start playing back home.
LCC: Who would win the hedge-jumping Ashes?
KW: If Crafty was in the England side they'd win easily - he's destructive!
LCC: Back to cricket, will England beat your lot in the Ashes next year?
KW: Not a chance. I think you'll do better than usual, but you won't win. You haven't got any bowlers who can bowl 30 overs a day. Ashley Giles will get smashed, and I don't think Flintoff will do it when it counts.
LCC: Is there anything you regret about your time in England?
KW: Probably the fact that I didn't get out to see much of the New Forest and coastline.
LCC: Are you looking forward to seeing Timmy Smith again?
KW: As long as he's got his clothes on!
LCC: The lads always take the mickey out of you cos you begin every sentence with "Waughhh . . ." Isn't that a bit unfair?
KW: Waughhh . . .yes!
LCC: Finally, would you consider coming back to Lymington if invited?
KW: Probably, although I wouldn't mind being in a big city, especially if Jara comes over with me next time.
LCC: Cheers Karl - have a safe trip home.