On an early English summer’s day in 1994, Matthew Mott turned up for a home game at Porthill Park Cricket Club clutching a brown cardboard box.
He’d arrived at the North Staffordshire club a month or so before as a quiet, fresh-faced Queenslander looking to enhance his fledgling cricket aspirations with a stint as an overseas professional in the UK.
Mott had quickly won the affection of his new team-mates with the manner in which he scored his runs – attritional, gritty and frequently batting through – along with a willingness to muck in with club life.
Landing a job at Newcastle-under-Lyme’s most popular bar, ensuring they all got served on a Friday night before the rest of the punters, also helped. On this particular Saturday, though, the Australian opened the box and attempted to undo a century of Porthill’s cricket history.
“For as long as anyone could remember, the club colours had been maroon and green with a tinge of gold,” explains Mott’s former Porthill team-mate David Cotton. “For some strange reason, Motty came up with the idea we should wear these incredibly bright yellow Aussie-style one-day caps.
“Porthill is a very traditional club but, despite his age, he somehow persuaded us to adopt these canary yellow caps, embroidered with the club badge. He sourced them all himself and we wore them for the whole season.”
Mott left Porthill that October, after his 21st birthday, having developed a penchant for Tia Maria and bacon-cheese oatcakes. The left-handed batter, who had also made a league-record 1,130 runs during his stay, returned down under to make his first-class debut for Queensland a month later, alongside his close friend, the late Andrew Symonds.
The cap story left an impression on Cotton, though. It reflected the personality of someone who, even at a young age, thought deeply about team culture while still carrying the weight of individual expectation.
It was the kind of gesture which would resonate with players during his head coach stints with New South Wales, Glamorgan and Australia’s women.
And it is a story that gives an insight into the man who has become England’s white-ball coach.
Education in the blood
Mott was born in October 1973 in Charleville – a typical Queensland outback town surrounded by crimson red earth where water often had to be sourced from boreholes – before his family moved to the Gold Coast.
His father Bill, who had Irish ancestry, had played rugby league and was principal at the school his son attended – Palm Beach Currumbin High School – where his mother Robyn also taught. One of his sisters, and his older brother, are also teachers.
Education was in his blood, and given the warmth with which Australia women’s captain Meg Lanning discusses Mott’s pastoral style, it is impossible to ignore the feeling she could be talking about her favourite school teacher.
“His coaching is built on relationships and building trust,” Lanning said. “I think that is what allowed him to be so successful – the fact that he was able to know players at cricket but also away from cricket.
“That allowed him to get the connection and challenge us on the field when he needed to. Our group could be a little sceptical at times about things, so his ability to build trust and relationships with all the players, and staff, is certainly a massive part of his coaching.”
It is a sentiment echoed by former Glamorgan captain Mark Wallace, who flourished with the bat in 2011 under Mott – becoming the first wicketkeeper at the Welsh county to score more than a 1,000 first-class runs in a season.
“He is not the kind of guy who, if you’re playing badly, wants you to train more, or net more,” Wallace said. “Motty would be much more likely to give you time off with the family to reflect.”
‘The apprentice of Bayliss’
In the mid-2000s, Mott’s playing career was winding down. He was sitting in the London Tavern pub in Richmond, Melbourne with his Victoria team-mates at an end-of-season shindig when New South Wales chief executive Dave Gilbert’s name flashed up on his mobile.
Mott had an eye on becoming a cricket development officer back on the Gold Coast, but instead accepted a player-coach role with the NSW Second XI.
Mott became Trevor Bayliss’ de facto assistant coach before eventually succeeding him, winning the Sheffield Shield in 2007-08, his first season in sole charge.
A straight-talking, light brushstrokes approach is straight out of the Bayliss playbook, and England’s players can expect a similar style.
“Motty is quite a fun person and brings some good energy. He is very relaxed, and allows everyone else to feel relaxed,” said Lanning, who has played the majority of her 100 one-day internationals and 115 Twenty20 internationals with Mott as coach.
“He will sort of throw jokes out there to try to lighten the mood a bit when we are perhaps getting a little more serious.
“I don’t really recall any disagreements or big blow-ups. He gave us a couple of stern talking-tos across his seven years. He’s pretty calm and collected most of the time.
“England’s players will find he’s really big on allowing them to take ownership. I think before Motty came in we were waiting to be told what to do and how to do it most of the time. He will have a lot of player input into the way forward for them.”
Innovation, expression, freedom and belief
Mott was just as likely to post a joke in the Australian women’s team WhatsApp group, as offer technical advice to the players.
He’s willing to give “thousands of throw downs in the nets” according to Lanning, but also sees the value in heading to a bar to learn what makes a player tick over a beer. During a stint helping Ireland before the 2015 World Cup he spurned a training session and took the players for a walk on the beach.
Mott consolidates the basics, but is not frightened to innovate. Australia women’s wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy found herself in a spiral of self doubt, with a batting average that was little to write home about. Sensing her potential in 2017, rather than her stats – an average of below 16 from 41 innings – Mott promoted her to open and she has averaged in the forties since.
“Sometimes you need to have tough sessions and other times you need to pull back and take a breath,” said Lanning.
“His greatest strength is understanding where individuals are at with their game. He would try some new things to make sure that we’re staying ahead. A ‘back yourself and don’t play within yourself’ message, which I think quite a few of us were doing.”
Ex-Glamorgan skipper Wallace recalled how Mott gave him the belief with the bat to ditch a conservative approach. It was out of kilter with what previous coaches had said, but the left-handed Wallace was told to accept the risks of hitting through the arc on the off side – his strongest attacking shot – rather than simply playing close to his body.
“I actually had my best season under Motty,” he said. “Some coaches are quite overt – we must be positive, you must be positive – but he’s not like that. He gives you that sort of everyday self-belief.”
Mott also showed his innovation with the bowlers. “When Simon James came back to Glamorgan, Motty used him to bowl in the middle of the one-day innings,” said Wallace. “That’s not revolutionary now, it’s pretty standard.
“But back then your fast bowlers bowled at the top, your spinners bowled in the middle then you closed out the game. He realised how to solve a problem with the resources he had.”
Transitioning from Morgan
Given captain Eoin Morgan’s significant part in England’s white-ball revolution since 2015 and, despite what he says publicly at least, there may be a reticence to walk away from a job he still relishes despite diminishing returns with the bat.
His retirement from international cricket could become the elephant in the room if he struggles for form before the T20 World Cup in Australia, by which time Morgan will be 36, especially with Jos Buttler a capable successor.
Mott has a four-year deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board and is not a short-term appointment. He is currently house-hunting in Cardiff, where he plans to base himself with his wife Taryn and two young children. It may ultimately be managing director of England men’s cricket Rob Key’s call to make, but Mott has the experience to set the agenda.
“Motty will know he has to transition a few players, realistically,” Wallace said. “He will have a three or five-year plan with Rob Key to move on from Eoin Morgan.
“For England it’s not just about going out and doing what they have been doing for the last two or three years.
“It’s about getting the right players to maintain those standards and go on. How do you eventually replace Adil Rashid, for example? It’s going to take a skilled coach to do that.”
Someone for Key and McCullum to lean on
Mott first met Key at Kent while on a coaching exchange in 2007 and worked with England Test coach Brendon McCullum at NSW and in the Indian Premier League with Kolkata Knight Riders.
Those two personalities may appear pre-eminent in England’s new holy trinity, but Mott will bring his influence to bear on McCullum, who made a stellar start as England wrapped up an incredible last-day victory over his native New Zealand in the second Test.
“Brendon is an inexperienced coach in multi-day cricket. Rob Key is an inexperienced managing director,” he explained. “Then you actually have someone like Motty who is a super-experienced coach who knows the game inside out. To put his knowledge into that mix of three is really shrewd.
“I actually think Motty is the most influential of the three of them. He may be more influential in conversations than Brendon McCullum, albeit he has more status and people know who he is. However, I can see them both leaning on Motty’s experiences from various angles.”
England’s ‘legacy’ coach
McCullum said he “wasn’t really interested in a cushy kind of gig” when asked why he took the job as England Test coach – although Wallace challenged that.
He said: “The appointment of the England white-ball coach is actually far more important, and a tricky appointment, than the Test coach. If you are the Test coach there are obviously a few things which need to be improved and you just tinker with them and you may get improvement.
“The white-ball team are so dominant it is going to take a really skilled operator to maintain that dominance and improve it. The step for them is to be a legacy team, to go from a good side to a great one.”
This notion was surely uppermost in Key’s thinking when he turned to Mott. Australia’s women had a core of great players, the best women’s domestic competition, and were well funded. Lanning felt Mott was able to push them further, to become an all-conquering side which won the Women’s 50-over World Cup this year after back-to-back successes in the T20 equivalent in 2018 and 2020. They have held the women’s Ashes since 2015.
Lanning said: “In the last couple of years we’ve had some incredible success, but if you look at the early stages of his role with us, we lost the first two World Cups. We struggled early on and we certainly weren’t playing to our potential.
“Motty was really good in challenging us to keep trying new things and building. I guess England’s men are at a similar stage to us in terms of they need to keep evolving and getting better because everyone else is chasing them. So I think that’s what he’ll probably talk to them about. How can they keep getting better, and making sure that they are able to continue being successful.”
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