Adams, Paul Regan
Paul Regan Adams
With an unusual bowling (pitching) style and skill beyond his years, Paul Adams gained a reputation as an up and coming cricket player in the mid-1990s. His success, however, was hard earned. In high school, opponents often laughed at Adams' method of bowling, and because he did not attend the better-known cricket schools, many refused to take the talented player seriously. But cricket player and coach Eddie Barlow was convinced of Adams' potential, and helped place him on the Western Province (South Africa) cricket team. In a short time, Adams progressed from Western Province B to Western Province A, and soon took his place among South Africa's best cricket players.
Adams was born on January 20, 1977, in Grassy Park in Cape Town, South Africa, the son of William and Anne Adams. As a young boy he played cricket at school and in the Blue Bells, a local lower division club. Although he started off as a batsman, his teacher at Plumstead High School asked him to bowl spinners (bowling is similar to being a pitcher in American baseball; a player can bowl the ball fast, or add some spin.) In a cricket match, the bowler can try to get the batsman out by hitting the wicket, so having a skillful bowling style is an asset. "When he first bowled the other team used to laugh at the way he bowled," his teacher, as quoted by Eugene Abrahams in Paul Adams, said. "But when he started taking their wickets, they were not laughing anymore." Adams later joined the SA Colts, the school's C-side team, but he was passed over when South Africa formed its under-19 team to tour England in 1995. He was also turned down for Clive Rice's Plascon Cricket Academy.
Adams' prospects improved when he met Eddie Barlow, a popular cricket player and coach. Barlow was impressed with the young player's ability, and asked the selectors to choose Adams for the Western Province team. "I have never come across a wrist spinner who has such amazing control of length," Barlow said, as quoted by Abrahams. Adams quickly proved himself on the Western Province B team in a game against Eastern Transvaal, leading to his inclusion on the A team for another match against Northern Transvaal. He played so well in the game, scoring nine wickets in two innings, that he was chosen to play on the South African A team against England in November of 1995. "Adams' parents drove all the way to Kimberley to watch the match," wrote Abrahams. "Adams dismissed two top England batsmen Hick and Thorpe, in one over." He also received the affectionate nickname Gogga—meaning insect—from Brian McMillan during this time.
Adams received a great deal of attention due to his highly unusual bowling method, referred to as the "chinaman" or "frog in the blender" style. With his head pointed at the sky, Adams released the ball with his left hand, a style that amused many of his English opponents, giving them the impression that he could not see the batsman "People think I can't see the batsman when I bowl, but I can," Adams said, as quoted by Abrahams. "When I drop my head, I can still see him in my mind's eye. It comes from practice. It is not just luck."
Despite his success, Adams frequently faced controversy. Critics often mentioned his youth and lack of experience when he joined the national team at the age of 18 (the youngest player chosen). "The youngest player to win a South African test cap has been subjected to a variety of comment about his bowling action," wrote Trevor Chesterfield in Cric Info, "and not a lot of it has been easy to handle." In 1999 Adams replaced Pat Symcox on the South African team, and many labeled the switch—from a white to a black player—politically motivated. "This is a sacrifice," wrote Geoffrey Dean in Cape Town, "that smacks of political expediency, for Adams has not been bowling well this season." Adams also received a fine in 2001 when he and several of his teammates were caught smoking marijuana in their hotel room. Adams later apologized for the incident, noting that it would not happen again.
Controversy, however, did little to sidetrack Adams' career. During his first season in 1995/96, the player that many considered "too young" scored 43 wickets in eight matches, the second highest in a debut season by a South African. "He has become a more confident bowler," Hansie Cronje told Chesterfield. By 2000, Adams had become a central player on the South African cricket scene. "He has his control back and we are learning all the time," said Cronje. "He has really come along and is now an integral part of our bowling attack." Although an injury to his knuckles temporarily sidelined Adams in 2000, causing him to miss a tour of India, he soon returned to the playing field. "This summer…we have seen a more confident Adams emerge from the bowler who many thought would not break through after his extraordinary debut summer four seasons ago…" wrote Chesterfield.
In 2002 Adams scored 100 wickets, becoming the seventh South African to achieve this distinction. The same year he was named—along with Steve Elworthy, Andrew Hall, Graeme Smith, and Martin van Jaarsveld—one of the outstanding cricket players of the 2001/2002 season. "The five were chosen for their spirited and impressive performances," noted a United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) Media Release, "in a year during which the South African team suffered heavy defeats.… Adams, Hall, and Smith were chosen specifically because they sparked a turnaround against the Australians after coming into the national team midway through the home series."
Adams continued to excel as a player in 2003. In October of 2003, he collected a career high seven-wickets against Pakistan in the First Test, leading to South Africa's victory in the match. "A lot of people back home had written me off as an international," Adams told the Birmingham Post. "They also questioned my inclusion in the team for the tour, so I feel really good about my performance today. I just stuck to the basics." With his distinct style, even temper, and ability to bowl and bat, Adams' future in cricket looks bright.
At a Glance …
Born Paul Regan Adams on January 20, 1977, in Cape Town, South Africa; son of William and Anne Adams.
Career: Professional cricket player, 1995–.
Awards: Named Outstanding Cricket Player by United Cricket Board of South Africa, 2001/2002.
Abrahams, Eugene, Paul Adams, Viva Books, 1999.
Birmingham Post, October 20, 2003, p. 26.
Birmingham Evening Mail, October 20, 2003, p. 42.
Cape Town, January 2, 1999.
Cape Times, January 13, 2005.
"Paul Regan Adams," Cric Info, http://usa.cricinfo.com/db/PLAYERS/RSA/A/ADAMS_PR_03002234/ (January 3, 2005).
UCBSA Media Release, October 7, 2002.
—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.