Cricket legend is a class act
When Denbigh high school was stumped for a cricket-mad PE teacher little did it know that its last-minute plea would be answered by Colin Croft, the West Indies legend.
The Guyana-born fast bowler turned controversially forthright commentator has decided to try his hand at teaching at the Luton school after declaring he needed another career.
Astonished children and parents have been queuing up for tips from Mr Croft since he answered the school's plea on the eve of Denbigh's launch as a specialist sports college.
Mr Croft said: "I was in Sri Lanka this summer commentating on the cricket when I told other commentators that I was coming to Denbigh high to teach.
"Their reaction was, 'You must be able to find somewhere better than that.'
"But I was assured by the school that it was switching to become a sports college, which gives it a visibility and responsibility for 1,100 students.
"Since they are predominantly Asian pupils, they are cricket-mad and I am looking forward to the challenge because I want to train to become a UK-qualified teacher."
Mr Croft signed up with a local teacher supply agency on the advice of a close friend who lived in the area. He started at the school in September.
The cricketing legend said: "I have been an aviation manager, air-traffic controller and I have a teaching qualification for Florida, as well as my coaching qualifications in cricket.
"I don't like being lazy. I like to keep busy and have some fun. Here, I do five hours' coaching a day in soccer, cricket and badminton. It is more taxing psychologically than physically because I am fitter than the kids."
With 1,100 students, Denbigh has a rich cultural mix that includes large numbers of pupils from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds along with black and white pupils.
Paul Hammond, associate headteacher, said: "When the kids tell their dads who their cricket teacher is they can't believe it - they come away goggle-eyed.
"Because of our new-found status, we have just had a new sports hall built with inside cricket nets, so to get these great new facilities along with a legendary West Indian fast bowler through sheer serendipity is too good to be true."
Until his retirement from professional cricket in 1982 Mr Croft was one of the cornerstones of the West Indies' four-pronged pace attack that terrorised batsmen throughout the 1970s.
Mr Croft said he was now looking around for a sports teacher-training course, which he would complete during his anticipated two-year stint at the school.
Rizwan Khan, a 15-year-old fast bowler at Denbigh high, said: "I was talking to my dad and he told me that Colin was a big legend with the West Indies and he was really happy he was here to teach me. My classmates are very enthusiastic about him being here as well. During my first lesson with him he gave me tips on how to bring my arm round more, and that has really helped my bowling."
Talkback, Friday magazine 20