How Dodds brightened up his game: fifties cricket star TC `Dickie' Dodds tells Paul Williams why he started hitting the ball harder.
Dodds says he had not always played like that. Opening batsmen are, after all, expected to stay in and not take undue risks. He traces the total transformation of the way he played to a decision he made shortly before being released from the army in the spring of 1946.
War service had taken him to India and Burma. As it was coming to an end, he found himself asking searching questions about the future--and his role in it. What sort of post-war world would be constructed? How would things be different from before? In India and in Burma, and on the troop ship home, he had read books on, and met people connected with, Moral Re-Armament. Their idea was that change in the world began with yourself and the way you lived personally.
Staying at his father's vicarage in Warwickshire as he negotiated to join Essex County Cricket Club as a professional, he had long talks about these things with his younger brother Arthur. Arthur, who had served with the RAF, had already decided to experiment with letting God run his life. `Sitting in a deck chair on the vicarage lawn on a warm spring morning,' Dickie recalls, `I decided that I would from that point only do what God told me to do, as far as I could understand it.
The decision took a moment in time. With it I stepped into a new world.' Soon afterwards, sitting up in bed in his hotel room on the morning of the second day of his first full county match, he had a surprising thought--if professional cricket was to be his life, he should ask God how he should play it. `Immediately there came a thought into my mind, "Hit the ball hard and enjoy it."'
It was such an uncomfortable answer for an opening batsman that he tried to put it out of his mind. What eventually decided him to obey it was the realization that he was being asked to play cricket the way God wanted. `I realized that God likes beautiful cricket. I was being asked to play beautiful shots to please a God who loves beautiful things.'
The Essex coach, Frank Rist, called Dodds `a miracle man' because he `had changed overnight from being one of the slowest opening bats in the country to one of the fastest'. He carried his new way of playing through 13 seasons, making over 1,000 runs in each of them. It remains an unbeaten record for Essex.
After retirement from the first class game, he carried his message of a way of life centring on obedience to God to different parts of the world. He spent many years in the Caribbean, working with the late West Indian Test cricketer Sir Conrad Hunte to bring new motivation to people across those islands. For the past 20 years he has done similar work in Thailand, making many visits there with his wife Kathleen.
For today's players Dodds (now 80) has a simple message: motive is everything--and it shows. `The key question all cricketers should ask themselves is: why do they play the game,' he says with conviction. `The thing that you have in your mind as a cricketer is what the spectator will get. You play the way you think and each of us chooses the way we think.' For Dodds himself the motive was to try to please God.