Weekly Local Biography

  David Buck

The director of coaching for the Chiang Mai Schools Cricket Association is a man who has lived for cricket all his life. “That little red ball’s got a lot to answer for,” says David Buck, before launching into a string of Monty Pythonesque monologues. However, when you look at his life, cricket really has dominated it. That he admitted, fielding my questions without batting an eyelid. (Sorry about that, but an hour with David Buck does these sort of things to you!)

He was born in Southampton, Hampshire, a well known cricketing county, so the influence began early. David’s father inherited the local cinemas and I suggested that as a youngster, David must have had a wonderful life sitting in the back row of the stalls watching Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and the Keystone cops, but David told me sadly that his father leased them out and ran a car sales business instead. “I had to work washing cars!”

When he wasn’t shampooing fenders, he was playing cricket, and at an early age showed great promise, playing county representative level. In those days, there were no large salaries for sportsmen, so David had to look at doing real work to keep himself in laundry powder (whiter than white, whites are mandatory for cricketers).

He first thought about being a journalist and went off to learn the Pitman shorthand system and typing. He also found that reporting on the village fete was not as exciting as reporting on the Cup Final at Wembley, and the newspaper business lost another cub reporter (however, he will be welcomed back by the Chiangmai Mail if he ever changes his mind).

He was at a loose end, but one of his cricketing mates said he could get him an interview with British Airways, so he went along, coming out with a plane ticket to see the world as a “BA Trolley Dolly” said David, using the aviation title for an airline steward.

The sky wasn’t quite the limit, but ten years of it was. “I did it, flew it, saw it and threw it away.” The innate humour of the man was certainly coming through by this far into the interview when he recalled being asked by an American what David thought of the US as they came into Los Angeles on one flight. “You’ve got a very nice country,” said David. “It’ll be lovely when it’s finished!”

Apart from lightening up people’s lives when he was with BA, I presumed that he would have had to give up his beloved cricket, but not at all, David assured me. “I played in the Duke of Norfolk’s side. I was captain for five years,” he said proudly. This happened because flight scheduling sometimes meant that he could be in the UK for some weeks at a time.

When he left BA, he was approached by a cricket enthusiast who knew David through the game and the Duke of Norfolk’s side and offered him a sales position in his company. This enterprise sold industrial boilers, about which David freely admitted he knew nothing. His sales pitch (sorry again) went as follows, “I’m the man from the boiler company. Do you like cricket? Would you like a couple of tickets to the test match at Lords next Saturday?” He would then ring a couple of cricketing mates and scrounge three tickets, using the Old Chums Act of 1908, and had signed up the customer for new boilers by the end of the second over.

He continued to play the game himself, while coaching the local Colts side and flogging the odd boiler, but after five years he wanted to become more involved in the sport itself. He went into sports marketing and met another sports marketer, a lady who later became Mrs. Linda Buck. It was Linda who pushed him into getting recognised coaching qualifications, which are issued through the English Cricket Board, and this he did.

The next change of ends (sorry) was something totally different. They took on a derelict hotel in the New Forest. David had this idea that they could cater for cricketing tours, but they didn’t have a cricket pitch, so he pitched in and built his own. “I worked for 10 months, day and night. I think I was mentally deranged!” Mentally deranged or otherwise, he put up stumps, put an advert in the Cricketer magazine and had 30 bookings in the first week.

They worked the hotel for 12 years. “In the summer I was captain, groundsman and night bar attendant. In the winter I became head coach for Dorset (another English county), and specialist coach for Somerset and Hampshire.” I asked David whether his hotel had any similarities to Fawlty Towers? “Fawlty Towers? We were known as Basil and Sybil when we had the hotel,” and he branched out into a Basil Fawlty/John Cleese monologue. All devotees to the John Cleese classic series Fawlty Towers will know what is meant. (If you haven’t seen an episode, borrow one, and you’ll see what we mean!)

The coaching began to take on an even greater significance, with short overseas courses to places such as India, a country that has the correct sort of karma for cricket, according to David. The hotel was beginning to impinge on his coaching cricket lifestyle, and he was rung and offered a coaching job in Thailand, in a place called Chiang Mai. He and Linda came, inspected the pitch and pulled up stumps in the UK, to come here and introduce some youngsters to the game that has held David in its sway for 50 years.

Producing international cricketers is his brief, which he fully intends will happen, unlike his turn at the Cresta Run “a nutter toboggan race on a tea tray” a lifetime ambition that did not.

In between batting, bowling and coaching, David enjoys good food, good wine and music, especially Brahm’s 7th Symphony - but that’s another story for another day!