Marcus Charman is a man with his fingers in many cricketing pies. The Brand Designer from Oxfordshire is the MD of Affinity Cricket, has designed lots of stuff from the cover of Paul Nixon's fantastic book Keeping Quiet to the stickers for many bats including the charity project Bat4Africa, runs the #CricketFamily on Twitter which is a collective of all the cricket clubs, and has just returned from India to watch a bit of cricket whilst looking at innovative ways of producing better and safer cricket kit. He lives, breathes and eats cricket, although combines it with curry too! We caught up with the Chris Moyles look a like and discussed his latest projects. Seriously, if you are going to buy a bat for the coming season I would get your arse over to Affinity Cricket and get one of these rockets!
Fresh from being in the doghouse for turning up two hours late to meet his wife on Valentine's Day, it turns out that he met up with Paul Nixon in Leicester. Judging from the amount that both of them can talk, it was no wonder Marcus was late. Having turned up to Pizza Express for what he thought was a casual cup of coffee, it turns out that he was actually gatecrashing the Nixon family dinner and he felt like a right lemon. However, that didn't stop him from finishing off Nico's daughters pizza though!
"India was an amazing and spectacular experience" enthused Marcus. "There was everything you imagined it to be. Chaotic, with fucking thousands of people everywhere when I arrived at the airport and I had a driver who even turned up with a policeman, so basically I had my own copper with me all day. Saying that I felt at home after a few days, even though it was very different from what you get used to in the UK. The food was fantastic, I was having roti and dhall for breakfast, washed down with Masala Tea. I think I am the only bloke to go to India and come back fatter! We went to Dharmasala for the cricket and Jalandhar, where we looked at sourcing materials for pads, gloves etc. One finger injury and that is your season ruined, but with this stuff you can hit people with a hammer and you are fine"
"A hammer?" said us astonished.
"We’re (Affinity) linking up with Stretton Fox to collaborate on some really elite International level protection. We met up compared notes and then were beating the shit out of each other with bat mallets and no one gets hurt" continued Marcus.
Asked about his role at Affinity Cricket he joked, "I'm everything there. God of my own realm of nothing. I'm self important in a room full of no one"! However, the hand made bats there are making people in the cricketing world sit up and take notice, and the feedback from club to professional player has been hugely positive. "I wanted to buck the trend," continued Charman. "Cricket bats are the same as anything. All the big bat companies are saying that theirs are 'uniquely this, uniquely that' etc and they're not. There are 10,000 a day being made on big machines and we want to offer something not only hand made but with a bit of common sense... We don’t worry about edge size and perfect grain looks, we just concentrate on getting it to perform and do its job in the middle. It is a big ask to challenge to convince people to swap a name they trust for something new but so far the feedback has been amazing".
|Marcus and Alex Tudor with an Affinity Carbine|
They certainly go like an exocet. This is where Marcus got a bit technical and I sort of lost him slightly! He is a man passionate about his work. "Bats should be made for the type of wickets you play on and to suit the playing style of batsman. You have to be able to offer up something that works in the real world, if that means ignoring a trend to make something that truly compliments the type of player then that's what we’ll do. If they still want a 2.6 bat with massive edges and a profile that won’t actually work for them... then we show them the door. Lots of people are happy to take the money, I’d rather see real batsmen have a tool they can trust, not just a flash bit of kit to wave around.. the only time I want to see a bat shown off it when it hits a 50 or a ton!”
Marcus is someone who has taken the opinions of numerous people on board and taken the thoughts of ex-professionals such as Paul Nixon, Alex Tudor, Jason Gillespie, Iain O'Brien plus a host of others, have provided plenty of input.
He has a new bat coming out in March for the big hitters and you will be able to win one of these in a competition via The Middle Stump in a few weeks. "The Toro is a big bat for big hitters who go straight through the line or for the sort of player who likes to attack Fresians! A long handle and a short blade, it will bring down a Cessna! It should be available in mid March for £225.
Many cricketers who are contracted to other companies at present have been in touch with Marcus. Rumours have been rife in the game for years ever since Ian Botham slayed all comers with his Duncan Fearnley Attack which cost about thirty quid! Most of the pros prefer these hand made bats, although Marcus wouldn't be drawn on that subject.
He has also been in the national press this week for his contribution to the great cause of CricketBats4Africa. Marcus said on that, "My work was done ages ago. I designed the artwork. I met up with a young amazingly driven chap by the name of Charlie Munton and he wanted me to be part of the project that was a worthwhile cause that saw the money from the bat sales go into Street Child Africa projects rather than the pockets of an over paid international. This was a promising project and Charlie's vision and passion to help others was infectious, you get offered things like this in life and often people make an excuses not to give up their time... listen we are all busy but sometimes the feeling you get from knowing you can make a difference if you bother outweighs a pay cheque. You have to be selfless at times in life and at least try to benefit other people, don’t you want to at least try and make people smile in this life?. The great thing for those that do put their hand in their pockets is they get to know they have helped create a future for someone but also get a shit hot bat for about £250. In my eyes a bargain!" You can follow both @bat4africa & @streetchildafr on twitter.
|Marcus and Gatt discuss their love of cake!|
So what does he do in his spare time? Plays a bit of cricket for Abingdon Vale C.C and of course he runs the #cricketfamily. For those who are not in the know, the Cricket Family is a collective of clubs on Twitter numbering about 2700. It has done some great work already helping clubs who are having ground problems, financial problems and is a great way to bounce ideas around for various clubs. With over 2500 players playing every weekend in my county alone, this is a huge and worthy, non profit making cause and Marcus has plans to design wristbands so clubs can sell them on and make a few quid. "Clubs were decimated with the wet weather last year," said Marcus "so any profit they make is vital to their existence. It's a sort of Livestrong idea, without the lies" he joked.
Seriously if you like cricket, you will like Marcus Charman. If your club isn't one of the Cricket Family follow them on Twitter @_cricketfamily.
However, if you are a club cricketer and fancy hitting the ball further and harder than before then get on to www.affinitycricket.co.uk and speak to Marcus personally. I guarantee you won't fail to be as impressed as the numerous people throughout this wonderful game are, with his handiwork.
Cricket is a game we love because of the characters, and in this corner of Oxfordshire that tradition is being kept alive.