General Franks pads up for second innings of his career
Mansfield-born all-rounder Paul Franks has announced his retirement from first-class cricket after an admirable 19-year stint at Trent Bridge that yielded two county championship medals and an England cap.
But he’s already tucking into his next cricketing challenge as a coach and has ambitions to lead a first-class county in the future after tasting valuable experience as assistant coach with the United Arab Emirates at the World Cup earlier this year.
“You can’t put a price on something like that,” said the 36-year-old Franks this week. “It was very flattering to be asked at such an early stage of my coaching career. Mixing with the best players in the world was something special and taught me a lot about how they go about things.”
Franks sees coaching as “a natural progression” in the sport he fell in love with from an early age when tagging along with dad John to Farnsfield Cricket Club at weekends
His education has been enhanced at the helm of Notts’s second eleven, whom he guided to their first championship success last summer since 1985, and young academy side in the Notts Premier League.
And the blow of quitting as a player has been softened by his excitement at continuing in these roles at Trent Bridge and maintaining his eyecatching progress on the ECB’s elite coaching development programme.
“I am reassured by the fact that a lot of young players, whom we have blooded, are doing fantastically well,” said Franks. “Players such as Brett Hutton, Luke Wood and Jake Ball, and others currently under the radar. The club’s future is in good hands, and it made an old man’s decision to hang up his boots much easier.
”As a coach, I am as ambitious as I was when I first started at Trent Bridge as a 17-year-old in 1996. I have some clear ideas of where I want to go, and I will work hard to get there.”
Along the way, Franks, known universally as The General, is sure to call on the influence of the star-studded array of international cricketers he has played alongside in his long and loyal time at Notts.
“West Indian bowler Vasbert Drakes was a fantastic influence on me in my early days,” he recalled. “But then there’s Stuart MacGill, David Hussey, Stephen Fleming. The list goes on and on, although the guy who has stood the test of time is Chris Read. Only now is he getting the acknowledgement he deserves. To keep producing the performances the way he does is a credit to him mentally, physically and technically.”
Read returns the compliment, describing Franks’s contribution to Notts as “enormous” and remembering that, as an 18-year-old, he was already “carrying our bowling attack”.
“He had some skinny pace -- in excess of 80mph“ said Read. “He also moved the ball in both directions and was extremely awkward to face. His passion for Notts has always remained undiminished and this has rubbed off on all the players he has played with.”
Read’s sentiments are echoed by the club’s director of cricket, Mick Newell, who said: “Paul played a major role in some of our best seasons and best performances.”
Among Franks’s best days must be the one, in his initial full season, when he took the county’s first hat-trick for a decade, removing Warwickshire trio Trevor Penney, Dougie Brown and Graeme Welch.
Also the day in February 1998, when, as vice-captain, he helped England win the U19s’ World Cup, defeating New Zealand in the final at Johannesburg.
Then there was the day in 2000 when, just before he was named the country’s Young Cricketer of the Year, he represented England in a one-day international against the West Indies at Trent Bridge, failing to take a wicket in nine overs but sharing the new ball with legend Darren Gough.
And the day in 2010 when Notts clinched the championship on an amazing last day of the season at Old Trafford, somehow reaching 400 and taking three wickets to clinch the six bonus points they needed.
“That was the highlight of my career,” Franks said. “To win in such style after playing such an important role for the team with bat and ball was very pleasing.”
Franks even had a spell opening the batting that year, and his contribution with the bat is often under-estimated. In 215 first-class matches, he scored 7,185 runs, at an average of 28, including four tons and 51 half-centuries.
They are figures that sit nicely alongside his bowling statistics of 524 first-class wickets, at an average of 33, with 11 five-wicket hauls and a career-best return of 7-56 against Middlesex at Lord’s -- not to mention 218 wickets in white-ball cricket.
There have been frustrating lows too, most notably the debilitating knee-injury that he picked up soon after his England debut, sidelined him for almost a year and possibly curtailed his international career. But living up to his nickname The General, which was given to him by a supporter recalling the old Spanish dictator General Franco, Franks overcame them to carve out a playing career that won the respect of teammates, opponents and club members alike.
“I hope I’m a good example of what can happen when you give everything you’ve got,” he said. “Thanks to everyone for their support and backing. I’ve loved every minute. Time for the next bit now.”