There are enthusiasts, obsessives and then there are people who eat, breathe and sleep their passions and Paul Hoffmann fits squarely into the latter category when it comes to his love affair with cricket.
The former Scotland paceman, pinch-hitter and personality with a capital “P”, might have turned 42 earlier this year, but he continues to resemble the Roadrunner, whizzing from one assignment to the next, whilst developing his skills as a groundsman, trainee umpire, painter and decorator and general factotum.
Some people might naively imagine that Scottish cricketers can rest up in the winter, but, if anything, Hoffmann, who has lived life to the full since being born in Rockhampton in 1970, has scarcely enjoyed a day’s rest on either side of Christmas, and there promises to be no relaxation in his schedule when his Lanarkshire club commence their domestic campaign next month, as the prelude to the Saltires meeting the Welsh Dragons and Hampshire in the CB40 competition at Bothwell Castle Policies in May.
In the past, this mercurial fellow, nicknamed “Hoffy”, has combined sport with his favourite music, whether it be AC/DC, Slayer or, ahem, Lionel Ritchie, and he is fortunate that Uddingston are sponsored by the world’s most famous caramel-wafer producers. Why so?
Because this is a man who gobbles up chocolate bars with the same relish he used to skittle the hapless Oman batting line-up in 2005, emerged as an unlikely You Tube hero after a spat with a Canadian opponent in 2007, or demolished a variety of Scottish club attacks while adhering to his philosophy there is no need to waste time running when the ball is being despatched into the car park on a regular basis.
And, oblivious to having finally retired from playing, Hoffmann, as usual, has plenty on his plate. “I will be about at Uddingston all this week, probably painting inside the clubhouse. Last month, I was outside, trying to fix the entrance door to the club. It was a Tuesday afternoon and [the club’s benefactor] Boyd Tunnock pulled up in his Rolls-Royce and came over to say hello. He asked what I was up to and I told him I was trying to complete the painting in the clubhouse in time for the Burns Supper evening that weekend,” said Hoffmann, who originally arrived in Caledonia on a short holiday, but fell in love with the place so much that he has settled here 15 years later.
“So he replied: “I will get my painters to come in and do it for you.” And sure enough, the job was all finished in time for the supper! I am now painting the upstairs, in between rolling the cricket square and getting the ground prepared for the season at BCP, where we have a total of 66 games planned for the summer. And that is not forgetting the two rugby pitches which I need to maintain as well. So, yes, I am kept pretty busy just now.
“My two-year-old son is also with me when I am working in the mornings, so having to juggle all the above jobs with baby-sitting is a fine example of multi-tasking!”
In the past, Hoffmann, who was one of Scotland’s star performers when they rampaged unbeaten through the ICC Trophy in Ireland in 2005, as the prelude to travelling to the World Cup in the Caribbean two years later, has transcended a string of niggles, strains and minor injuries, to carry on his illustrious career to such an extent that we should be wary of him announcing his retirement, but, in this instance, it does appear there will be no sign of him clad in whites over the coming season.
“I was due to have an operation on my shoulder this month, but the surgeon doesn’t want to operate now, possibly until June, so that is that,” said Hoffmann.
“It doesn’t affect my everyday life, but I can’t bowl or throw the right cross when I am punching the heavy bag, so I have taken up an umpiring course and I sit my exam on that later this week. So, while I won’t be playing, I will still be involved in one way or another and it should be a hectic summer for everyone.”
Despite hanging up his kit bag, Hoffmann has been monitoring the progress of his adopted compatriots during their recent trip to the UAE and Sri Lanka, and he was characteristically bullish in discussing the prospects of Gordon Drummond’s youthful squad at the World T20 qualifying event, which kicks off in Dubai next week.
“I think Scotland have a good chance. They have some excellent T20 batsmen, such as Richie , Calum , Preston and Fraggle [Fraser Watts]. In fact, I reckon that this is probably the most talented batting line-up Scotland have ever had,” declared Hoffmann, who was similarly effusive in assessing the qualities of such consistent bowlers as Gordon Goudie, Safyaan Sharif and his good friend, Majid Haq.
“I just hope they show their abilities when it counts, but I have every faith in them.”
With which, it was back to the pavilion, paint brush in hand, and a beaming smile on his face, as he contemplated the ongoing transformation of his beloved BCP facility into an international arena for the imminent return to creased affairs.
If there is a concern about the current Scottish personnel, it is that they might lack the devil-may-care larrikin attitude of individuals in the style of Hoffmann. But, there again, as he concluded, you can’t dwell on the past and cricket, these days, is an increasingly serious business.