Paul Hoffmann on Australia A
From Neil Drysdale, Photos Donald MacLeod
Cricket Scotland writer Neil Drysdale had a chat with former Scotland bowler Paul Hoffmann ahead of the Scotland v Australia A fixture this week.
Paul Hoffmann has always been one of life’s great enthusiasts, whether trying his heart out for the Saltires and Scotland or preparing pitches at his beloved Bothwell Castle Policies ground in Uddingston. In which light, it is hardly surprising to discover that Hoffmann has demonstrated the same unstinting work ethic and boundless determination to make things happen since he and his wife, Lynette and their son, Hayden, embarked on their own version of “Escape to the Country” by travelling to Australia a couple of months ago to test their mettle in the retail business.
Some people might not have pictured Hoffmann as a natural to enter the café business, or not without creating the danger of him gobbling up the profits. This, after all, is the man who once spoke about his pre-match rituals, which included the consumption of food on a scale which would have impressed Desperate Dan. But when I caught up with the Hoff last week, he seemed as wonderfully unbowed as ever, despite admitting he had suffered a few teething troubles after returning to his native country.
“So far, it has been tougher than I could ever have really expected, and I suppose it has been a bit like telling [Uddingston’s] Ricky Bawa to prepare a first-class cricket pitch,” said Hoffmann. “My wife and I went into the café business, with no experience of working in a café industry, and no experience of running a business.
“It is not a franchise. It is a licensed business [the Degani Bakery store, just west of the former paceman’s birthplace, Rockhampton], so we get to keep the profits. But, right now, these are going towards paying start-up costs, relocation costs and visa costs! It is only once we have paid off all these, that we can start seeing the fruits of our labours.
“I am by no means a natural in the café industry. I tend to be clumsy, so there have already been a lot of dropped plates and spilled coffees. They call me Hurricane Hoffmann because I make such a mess! But I am beginning to get better at my job, and until what I do is perfect, I will never stop doing my best to improve. We knew it would be tough initially, but we are both committed to making it a success. And, at the moment, we are staying with my parents and we will be there for the foreseeable future.”
Hoffmann might have gone back to his roots, but he is maintaining a keen interest in Scottish cricket, and has urged the new Caledonian brigade to be positive when they tackle a powerful-looking Australia A contingent at the Grange later this week. The touring squad is packed with players, who will be vying for starting berths when the 2013 Ashes campaign commences next month, and they appear particularly strong in the fast-bowling stakes, as they prepare for the four-day contest in Edinburgh. Yet, Hoffmann knows his compatriots are in transition and are nowhere near the force they were when they boasted global talents of the calibre of Gilchrist, Warne, Langer, Hayden and Lee. The key, for the hosts, in his opinion, is to concentrate on their own strengths.
“Scotland need to take the attack to these guys on their home turf, because there is just no point letting them dictate the flow of the game, or the Scots will be in trouble,” said Hoffmann, who was always one of the upbeat characters in the Saltires dressing room. “Firstly, it is going to be colder than they are used to, and they won’t be familiar with the conditions. I can also see the Aussies treating this as a bit of a hit-out, so Scotland should take the initiative and come out fighting from the first delivery.
“It won’t be easy. It never is when the Associate nations come up against an ICC Full Member. But most of the Australian party will need to wear name tags when they meet the press, because I am not familiar with quite a few of them. All I do know for definite is that the quartet of [Peter] Siddle, [Ryan] Harris, [James] Pattinson and [Jackson] Bird is a pace attack that is going to be difficult to deal with in any sort of conditions.”
Hoffmann is an ebullient fellow, never inclined to regard himself too seriously. However, when it comes to discussing the current state of cricket in Oz, he harbours genuine concerns about the dearth of potential Test stars who are emerging from the domestic ranks. Matters have changed since the baggy-green dominance of the global sport and Hoffmann is not overly confident that they will regain their former glory.
“It is in a bit of a slump and there is not enough quality coming through. We are fine in the pace bowling stocks, but we have no spinners and few high-class batsmen who can hack it at Test level,” said Hoffmann, who can detect the lack of interest in Shield matches as one of the reasons for Australia’s recent decline. “Nobody wants to watch Shield games on television, just the Big Bash on the limited-overs circuit. We have to aim to get the balance right, but we are not the only country with problems here.”
Hoffmann has been too busy in recent times to enjoy his regular fix of heavy metal music, but he managed to catch up with the American band “Tool” in Brisbane a few weeks ago. Having relished the rock, he is now urging Scotland to go on a roll.
Scotland v Australia A -Ticket Information - All tickets will be available on the gate.
A pass for all 4 days for £25 will be available with all children under 18 admitted for free. There will also be an opportunity to pay on a day-by-day basis, priced at £10 per-day.
Play will start at 11am.