PEARS left armer Jack Shantry has been forced to hang up his bowling boots this week at the tender age of 30 because of a persistent back injury.
Observer sports editor Rob George pays tribute to the man with the unique bowling action, a true county pro and the inspiration for one of the most addictive, and at times hillarious, social media get togethers cricket lovers on Twitter have ever seen.
“WHILST I am incredibly disappointed to be retiring at the age of 30, I am immeasurably grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by Worcestershire CCC over the last ten seasons.
“I feel lucky to have shared a dressing room with the players I did, and happy to have achieved more in the professional game than I thought I would.”
The words of Jack Shantry on Monday morning confirming the news he was hanging up the bowling spikes on medical advice but already reflective on a career well spent, a one county man who was given the chance to repay the faith and did so in buckets.
Whatever the sport, there’s always a sadness when a pro has to walk away from their calling early and the same is true for Shantry – he may never have been express pace, played for his country or even been feared by batsmen but Pears fans cannot say he didn’t give it everything when he crossed the boundary onto the field.
Shantry was the nagging English county bowler; rarely off line, bowling maiden after maiden and using the tool of his trade to almost goad batsman into going after him knowing a nick to the waiting slips or wicketkeeper would probably be their fate.
Type Jack Shantry and Justin Langer into a search engine for the story of what Australia’s current coach thought of Shantry’s bowling. His reported comments are far too rude for a family newspaper such as the Observer but needless to say Shantry dismissed him soon after.
The 30-year-old’s bowling action could never be described as textbook yet it worked. Shrewsbury born Shantry ended his career with 266 first class wickets at an average of 29.25 plus 92 List A and 92 T20 victims.
He will always have a place in Worcestershire folklore for what became known as ‘Shantry’s Match’ – the final game of the 2014 season.
Shantry produced an all-round performance of Ian Botham like proportions in scoring a second innings century and then completing a 10 wicket haul in the game to rescue a lost looking cause against Surrey.
Victory sealed promotion for Worcestershire and Shantry became the first player batting at number nine or lower in first class cricket to score a hundred and take 10 wickets in a match.
He finished with 56 first class wickets that summer and the following year in Division One had a total of 67 scalps at 21.73.
Shantry scored a second first class hundred in 2016 against Gloucestershire at Blackfinch New Road – another magnificent display of hitting which was his trademark as a lower order batsman.
He was also inadventertly responsible for #ShantryFacts on Twitter – a hashtag which took on a life of its own and portrayed the Pears bowler as an unlikely hero achieving impossible feats.
Yes, some were rude and disrespectful but they were outshone by the many fans including myself who enjoyed the comedy it provoked but would have stopped had the man himself been genuinely offended.
One of my favourites still remains this one “Jack Shantry walks across the River Severn #ShantryFacts”
While is ability to traverse it remains a mystery, the respect from many of his team-mates shown in the tweets they sent show Shantry was popular on and off the field.
His retirement statement read: “I have many memories to last me when I leave Worcestershire, and though I had hoped to make many more I will watch with joy as our new young crop of fast bowlers come through, and trust they cherish their careers as much as I did mine.”
I hope the likes of Josh Tongue, Dillon Pennington, Pat Brown and others follow in his footsteps and make the most of their talent. Both Worcestershire and England will benefit hugely if they do.
I’m glad the club are retaining him as an ambassador for the rest of the season and hopefully he will visit the New Road press box to share his thoughts too.
It’s also refreshing to see he is aiming to become an umpire, our county game and maybe even the international game will be all the better for having him out in the middle.
Hard-working, dedicated, a never say die attitude and a career well spent on the fields of Worcestershire and beyond.
Now those truly are #ShantryFacts.