My best teacher

4th August 2000 at 01:00
I hated primary school. On my first day I clung to Mum's skirt, and cried my eyes out when she left. The school was only three minutes from our house and I would run back home during the day because I couldn't stand it. I had nothing against my classmates; it's just that I was shy and wanted to do my own thing. I was solitary and I'd do anything to get off school.

I failed my 11-plus and went to Archway secondary modern in Stroud. At first I just counted the days until I could leave at 16, as I wanted to do something practical. But things perked up and my dad and teachers were great. My first love was always sport and my two sportsmasters, Graham Fryer and Rick Rutter, were fantastically supportive.

They were brilliant in lessons and gave up so much of their personal time at lunchtimes and after school for all the kids, but I got more attention as it looked like I might break into the county side. They gave me every opportunity and encouragement - nets at lunchtime, nets after school, being driven by one of them to county schools trials, then matches on Saturday mornings. It was a great time for me. I was captain of our side for four years, and in that time we lost only twice. We were very proud of our record, and that strong desire for the team to win has never left me.

It wasn't all cricket though. Sport in general went really well but I also worked as hard as I could and finished with five O-levels and two A-levels. I was always a hands-on kind of guy and my best subject was probably technical drawing. My dad was supportive in this as he was a welder. He did me a big favour when I was nine by bringing home engineering drawings from work so I could sit at my little drawing board copying them out. When we did it at school I was ahead of the rest of the class as I'd had a bit more practice with a pencil and set-square.

Even though I'd landed an apprentice mechanical engineer's job at a local factory at 16, Dad talked me into staying on to get my A-levels. One or two teachers told him that if I carried on with school I could play cricket at the same time and maybe make it into the county side. So that's what Idid and I'll always be grateful to Dad for that piece of advice.

I hoped to go on to Bath University to study mechanical engineering if I got the right grades. I had to postpone my metalwork A-level when I had a phone call from the county ground inviting me to play my debut first-class match for Gloucestershire. I took seven catches and a stumping. As it turned out, I passed metalwork but failed maths comfortably, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If I'd continued my studies, cricket would have had to take a back seat and at the very least, my career would have been delayed by four years.

I was lucky to go to a school where everything revolved around sport. The skills I learned there have helped in later life with my writing and painting. Graham and Rick still turn up to at least one of my county matches each year to say hello, and I'll always be grateful to them for their support. They were cricket enthusiasts. I'm not sure you get that kind of fanaticism about school cricket now.

Cricketer Jack Russell was talking to Toby Chasseaud


1963 Born. Grows up in council house in Stroud, Gloucestershire

1974 Fails 11-plus

1981 Distracted from A-level exams by cricket including first-class wicket-keeping debut for Gloucestershire

1986 Becomes depressed after brother, David, dies in accident

1987 Begins sketching and painting

1988 Test match debut for England

1989 Named Man of the Series against Australia after batting to save Lord's Test

1995 Becomes captain of Gloucestershire. Record-breaking 11 dismissals in one Test against South Africa. Jack Russell Art Gallery opens in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire

1996 Receives MBE

1997 Fifth child, Katherine, born to wife Aileen. Autobiography Unleashed published. Forced to stop wearing favourite 17-year-old hat on Caribbean tour after ultimatum from Lord's and has disappointing series

1998 Retires from international cricket having played 54 Tests and 40 one-day internationals

June 2000 Helps Gloucestershire to victory in Benson and Hedges Cup final for second year running

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