Watson meets Jamer to chat about cricket, life and anything else that crops up!

Jamer hitting out . . .

A smiling Adam James“Ah Fraser my favourite little f**king ink slinger.”

I’d had a hunch Adam James wasn’t going to answer the phone with a simple hello. And I also knew that opening line was the closest I was going to get to a compliment.

For whether he’s on a cricket field, hurling big weights about, or plastering walls, ‘Jamer’ isn’t one for airs and graces.

Harrison-Allen – seven months on!

Notoriously uncompromising, it’s now seven months since he stole the show at the Harrison-Allen Bowl final in Cresselly. On arguably the most high pressure stage in Pembrokeshire cricket, destructive knocks of 86 and 81 proved critical as Haverfordwest overturned a 43 run deficit at tea to beat Lawrenny.

Neither innings was the type you’d replay to youngsters looking to hone their technique. It was see ball hit ball – fitting for a man who has always scowled at the prospect of over- complicating sport.

“We were in the dressing room at tea and everyone was saying what we needed to do and how we should approach things,” he recalled.

“It was doing my head in. I just said stop talking about it and go back out, do a job, and that’ll be that.

“I was put up to open in both innings so in a way the stage was set for me and it was s**t or bust time. But then I bat that way whether I come in number one or number eight.”

You may have already noted asterisks needed for two words. There’s more to come.

Following in father’s sporting steps

But that Bowl final display mirrored the way James has played sport his whole life. The type of enigma who can rock up minutes before play starts in his work gear, check who the opposition are, and then perform destructively when it matters most.

As a youngster it wasn’t just cricket. Rugby and football were also in the equation, especially given his late father, the popular Steve James, was active in both.

 “I played rugby until I was about 16 and football as well as he (Steve) coached me for a bit. But cricket was always my main sport and I enjoyed coming through the ranks.”

Receiving the man of the match award from Glyn ColeEarly start and early pressure

That he did. James started out as an 11-year-old with The Town’s fourth XI, but by the time he was 16 he was yo-yoing between the seconds and firsts. It was at that age when he was picked by Ade Griffiths for a DR Morris Cup final against Neyland - and experienced his first real taste of pressure.

An experience as it happened, which would stand him in good stead for the years that followed.

“I’d fielded all day without bowling and then with one over to go they gave me the ball. I think they needed about 8 to win and it went to the last delivery where we won it with a run out.

“But I was still up and down after that. I was scoring runs and taking wickets for the seconds but when there were cup games the firsts tended to pick me, probably because they wanted a loose cannon in there.”

By loose cannon, I assume he meant a dangerous player in the shorter format.

Scriv sets Jamer on the right course

In 2009 Hugh Scriven took over the captaincy reigns at The Racecourse. And it proved a significant moment for James and his cricket career.

“Hugh said straight away I’m going to pick you and you’ll be opening the bowling. That’s when things changed for me and I became a first team regular.”

In the decade to follow, James has become one of Pembrokeshire’s best performing cricketers with bat and ball, even if he doesn’t care to say so. Prominent in two Division 1 title wins, he was awarded the George Cole Cup in 2014 as the county’s best performing league player.

Best defined by three Bowl Final appearances

But it is the three Bowl wins with The Town which have perhaps best defined him.

The first was a comprehensive win over Cresselly in 2014, ending the notion that Haverfordwest had become nearly men incapable of capturing major trophies. I’d assumed silencing doubters was motivation for James and co.

I was wrong.

“No it wasn’t about anyone else,” he told me.

“Not for me anyway. It was the same as any final, you just have to clear the head and go out there. I always tell myself as long as I do what I need to do then what will be will be.”

Two years later, in a much closer affair with the same opponents, James definitely did what he needed to do.

A thrilling final left the hosts needing 7 to win off as many balls, with 4 wickets in hand. Adam Chandler then fell to Josh Wilmott, and James duly bowled an over of nigh on unplayable yorkers to bag three wickets for just a single run. It was cometh the moment, cometh the man stuff.

“In that penultimate over I was just standing on the boundary saying please give me something to bowl at. Then ‘Channo’ lofted one off Josh to Nigel Delaney.

“I didn’t feel nerves, I just had to rock up and do what I do. I remember thinking I’ve only got to run in and bowl now and the pressure is all on them to get it away.”

. . .And taking a vital catchDifferent background to 2019

In 2019 though the circumstances were different. The final was a game James didn’t even think he would play.

It was a fair assumption, seeing as he hadn’t touched a bat and ball in the six weeks previous.

“I had problems with my shoulder and I think a few people thought I was copping out. Potts (Danny Potter) was messaging me all the time to play and a few nights before the final I went to training to test it out. It was still touch and go after that.”

Potter opted to take the gamble, and James responded in typical fashion.

“I messaged back saying are you f**king joking?

“He said yes so I told him this was on his head, not mine.”

That gamble of course, paid off. But whilst we joke about the carefree attitude that undoubtedly served James well that day (the afore-mentioned net session was his first since 2015), there is a philosophy attached to it. And one that rings true for many.

Too much thinking puts on pressure

“I’ve no doubt people in local sport put too much pressure on themselves and it’s one of the main reasons for failure.

“Players overthink things. Take the ‘Doc’ (Simon Holliday) for example. He’s a great batsman but really into the mental side of sport and looks for reasons for everything.

“I say don’t think too much. Just go out and do it.”

But whilst you sense James will never die wondering about a game of cricket, make no mistake, he cares.

By his own admission he’s a bad loser, one there is no point trying to console. And for all the highs, there have also been lows to leave him furious.

Learning from mistakes

He played in the now famous 2014 DR Morris final which Haverfordwest lost to Neyland via a final ball six. In the same competition last year, against the same team, The Town threw away a seemingly unassailable position after James himself conceded five penalty runs for repeated bad language.

“I thought the five runs was a p**s take to a degree as no one knew what had gone on,” he said, somewhat fittingly.

“But I took that on the chin and I was more annoyed we threw an easy win away. There’s no point talking to me for days after a loss like that; I usually cope by going to the gym on my own and throwing heavy stuff around.”

Jamer in thoughtful moodNew challenges from new sport

There’s more in that latter comment than first appears. Another reason James had played so little cricket before last season’s Bowl final was his commitment to strongman competitions, an interest sparked in February 2018 after seeing an advertisement on Facebook.

“I looked at it and thought I quite fancied taking on those weights so I put my name down for Pembrokeshire’s Strongest Man. It was already full up but soon I got the call from Rory Brown saying people had dropped out.

“It was a challenge and something different and I took to it.

“It didn’t affect me when I played cricket but it was more the plastering. It was huge stress on the body and made work difficult so I had to learn quickly about supplements, diet, and stretching properly.”

He duly won the novice title and a year later, was third overall in the main event. It entailed upping his calorie intake to 5000-6000 a day and going from 15 and a half stone to 18, but it was worth the effort.

“As long as my shoulder holds together I’ll keep entering competitions. At the moment training is difficult though as SAW is closed and my weights at home are too light.”

Looking for positives

And what of his cricket future? James at 29 is now a senior player at The Town and there are talented youngsters emerging.

The trick now, as it is for so many, is to keep them interested.

“The fan base and support for local sport has dwindled over the years. Cricket is a long, drawn out day. I think us older lot tend to like the break from work and having a craic with the boys but youngsters would rather p**s about doing other things.

“I think the changes (win/lose cricket) coming in are positive though which might help.

“A couple of years ago I was batting with Chalky (Jonny White) and we were the final pairing in a game needing 40 odd to win. I went for it, he stuck with me and we got over the line – but many sides would have gone for a losing draw in that situation.

“Cricket’s a weird game and it can change quickly, and these rules could make some heroes.”

And finally . . .

When that chance comes for players of course, remains to be seen with the current Coronavirus pandemic halting cricket for the foreseeable future.

I don’t expect James will be losing any sleep over it. In fact, I don’t think he loses sleep over much. But when such a simplistic approach to sport produces such prolific results, then who’s to argue.

Before hanging up, I did ask the most pointless question of the whole interview.

“Shall I leave the swear words in mate?”

“Yeah f**king right. People know me.”

Yes Jamer, people definitely do.

Jamer celebrating his Strong Man success