Former Exmouth cricketer coaching the Brazilian national women’s team
PUBLISHED: 11:19 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:19 23 March 2020
Liam Cook was born and bred in Exmouth, but these days, home is Bexley in South East England.
Liam Cook was born and brought up in Exmouth, but these days, home is Bexley in South East England.
However, the 31-year-old son of Exmouth Town Football Club’s Martin Cook, is currently working overseas and what a job he has, for he is coaching the Brazilian national ladies’ cricket team!
Liam learnt his cricket at Exmouth CC and says the biggest influence on his early cricketing days was his father [Martin], who was with him all the way through junior and then into senior cricket.
In a question and answer session with the former Exmouth Community College student, we asked the obvious....
“How did you end up coaching cricket in South America?”
Liam responds saying: “During the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup the Brazilian Criiio team (street cricket) came over to compete in a tournament based in Trafalgar Square.
“The aim of the tournament was to showcase different types of cricket from around the world with teams such as India, Brazil, Rwanda and Germany coming to compete.
“The president of Cricket Brazil, Matthew Featherstone, has links to my current cricket club, which is Bexley CC, Kent and while the Brazilians were in England, I spent a bit of time coaching them.
“I had the pleasure of watching them compete in London.
“We continued the relationship after they left and, when the Brazilian women’s team were given central contracts (the first nation to pay women before men), Matt [Matthew Featherstone], got in contact and asked if I would be interested in coming over to spend some time working with them, and things went from there.”
Liam’s current spell in Brazil began earlier this month and, depending on all things Covid-19, he expects to be back in the UK soon, and will return to South America in August when he will spend two months working with the team.
We then asked Liam: “When you first arrived, how did you find the facilities for cricket in Brazil, compared with what we have here in England?
He responded saying: “At home I coach for a professional club so the facilities I’m used to are indeed ‘state of the art’, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised at what I found out there.”
He continued: “Cricket Brazil, Cricket Poços and the local government in Poços De Caldas have worked very hard to fund cricket in the local area.
“They have a brand new ‘High-Performance Centre’ for women with four nets and an area set aside for fielding practise.
“They are planning to build two indoor lanes at the high-performance centre. They also have a second outdoor training facility at the local sports club.
“The women have access to strength and conditioning coaches, sports psychologists and it is a really professional set up.
“The main ground in Poços is a little different to what I’m used to, it is located next to a small regional airport in a local park it isn’t Lords, but it is in a picturesque setting and they take pride in its upkeep and have plans to improve it.”
While in Brazil, Liam has also been involved in other cricket related work.
He explained saying: “I have also been lucky enough to visit a social project. I coached some children in the local area who are the most at risk of becoming involved with drugs and gangs.
“I worked with about 30 children in what I can only describe as a barn, turned into a futsal pitch, turned into a cricket pitch!
“When I arrived, the kids were playing a 15-a-side futsal match and I saw one youngster keep the ball for almost 10 minutes without anyone getting near him!
“It turns out he was pretty good at cricket as well. Cricket Poços run social projects all across the city and in some neighbouring cities.
“The aim is to provide cricket to the children to give them a focus. The project supports the children by putting them through education whilst playing cricket.
“They have put a number of children through university who now work as coaches in their social projects.”
Next up we asked Liam if there is a difference between cricket in Brazil and cricket in England.
He said: “Cricket in Brazil has no stereotypes, there are no preconceived ideas of what a cricketer looks like, where they were brought up or where they went to school.
“It’s being used as a tool to give kids a better way of life and through that there is a genuine love for the game.
“It is providing them with opportunities that they wouldn’t normally get.
“One thing that sticks in my mind is something Matt said to me very early on that one of the players is like a celebrity in his local area, he is the first in his area to attend university and the first to leave the country as he went on to represent the Brazil national team in a competition in Argentina.”
He added: “As for the ‘type’ of cricketer they are producing in Brazil, they do have their own ‘style’ that they have seemingly picked up from watching You Tube videos and from watching cricket on TV.
“One thing that does come across is that they clearly enjoy the sport of cricket and they have the Brazilian passion and flair that you see in all Brazilian sport.”
We then asked Liam about how much cricket is played in Brazil?
He said: “The women’s national team are based in Poços De Caldas, closest major city is São Paulo which is a four-hour drive away. The team are made up of players from Poços, Brasilia and Rio.
“Cricket is played in all three cities with Poços being the main hub. There are four club teams in Poços, who all play at the same ground.
“The competition is The Poços Bash T20 competition and the in terms of national teams they have a men’s team, a women’s team and age group teams for boys and girls at Under-15 as well as a boy’s Under-17 team.
“The national teams compete in the South American Championships, which is an ICC recognised tournament.
“Their biggest rivals are Argentina, but other teams such as Chile and Peru compete. They are looking to extend the competition to include USA and Canada.”
As for the current situation and what the Brazilian women’s team are working towards, Liam says: “The women were preparing for a T20 series against Argentina, but this has been called off due to the Covid-19 crisis and, when I return in August, it will be in the lead up to the South American Championships being held in Rio.”
Next, we asked Liam what he would bring home with him as a ‘main memory’ of his time in Brazil.
He responded saying: “I have had a wonderful time; my hosts have been amazing and Brazilian hospitality is second to none.
“I have seen some amazing sights, walked up mountains, but the one memory that will stick with me is this; on day one of my Brazilian experience I was sitting outside a coffee shop in the middle of the city centre, across the road I saw a young lad walking down the street wearing a Somerset CC shirt with C Overton on the back.
“As you can imagine, I was amazed to see a Somerset shirt in Brazil, especially with a fellow Devonian on the back!”
As for what he has left to experience in Brazil, he says: “When I return in August I am looking forward to the tournament as it is being held Rio which will no doubt mean in any time off I will get the opportunity to take in things like Christ the Redeemer statue and the Copacabana.”
Last, but not least, to the topical subject of Covid-19 and what is going on in Brazil.
Liam replies saying: “There hasn’t yet been any positive cases in Poços, but São Paulo has been impacted.
“In Poços they have already shut schools and sporting venues.
“Public transport in and out of the city has been cancelled.
“They are clearly trying to put measures in place early.”