David Paynter became disillusioned with life as a professional cricketer but has now returned to the sport with a breakthrough sports shoe. He spoke to business reporter Ismail Mulla.
During the infamous bodyline series, which saw England’s bowlers pepper the Australian batsmen with deliveries aimed at the upper body, Eddie Paynter wrote his name into Ashes folklore.
He came off his sick bed to help Douglas Jardine’s England out of trouble in the fourth Test in Brisbane. He would go on to help England win that match with a six.
Fast forward to the fourth generation and the Paynter cricket legacy lives on but in a slightly different way.
Nestled in an office at the Leeds Bradford Airport Industrial Estate is David Paynter.
Just like his great-grandfather David too played cricket professionally, turning out for Northamptonshire.
However, playing professional cricket became stale for Mr Paynter and he bowed out to work for his father’s flooring business.
“When you stop enjoying a sport or job you’ve got to consider if you’re in the right industry,” Mr Paynter says.
It seems, though, that there is no getting away from cricket for Mr Paynter. The former batsman grew dissatisfied working in his dad’s business and is now manufacturing cricket shoes through his company called Payntr.
“I saw where it was going to go four years ago,” Mr Paynter said. “When I was laid in bed next to the missus, I had this one idea and I said this is going to be the biggest footwear brand in the world.”
The inspiration for Payntr came from his own playing days. The majority of cricket shoes are uncomfortable and dull. Mr Paynter along with many of his fellow professionals would buy ordinary trainers and send them off to the cobblers.
He said: “We used to buy a pair of running shoes and then send them away to a cobblers who would sand down the sole. It still happens today.
“They put a plate on so you could screw your own spikes in. I used to do this for years and years as a professional, which triggered the idea. I thought there’s a trick being missed here somewhere.”
Payntr has been going for over a year now and the business is already making global strides shipping cricket shoes to the most unlikely of markets. The firm is sending shoes everywhere from the US to Peru.
However, it’s the subcontinent which presents the biggest opportunity for the business and it recently struck big with a joint venture deal with Indian cricket world cup winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The joint venture with Indian sportswear brand Seven By MS Dhoni, which is expected to be worth a minimum of £30m over five years, came out of the blue.
Mr Paynter said: “It was one of MS Dhoni’s sponsors who got in touch with me via LinkedIn. He messaged me and said MS Dhoni has spotted your shoes and he likes them. Do you think you could get me a few pairs?”
The former Northamptonshire batsman had to rush a pair of Payntr shoes down to the Oval in London, where India were playing a warm-up game ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, last year.
MS Dhoni would go on to wear the shoes for keeping wicket in and was so enamoured by the them that his people got in touch with Mr Paynter to explore a partnership.
The joint venture has the potential to be a game changer for Payntr as “cricket is like a religion”, says Mr Paynter.
He said: “India has got 1.2, 1.3 billion people. I’d say a high percentage of those people know the name MS Dhoni, which is incredible.”
In fact, on the day they signed on the dotted line, the Indian superstar had a traffic bump and had to be covered up and ferried into a back-up car to avoid the streets coming to a standstill.
Despite the adulation, Mr Paynter was struck by how down to earth Dhoni is.
He said: “It was just like chatting in a dressing room. Cricketer to cricketer.”
Having played the game himself, David Paynter has had a lot of support from fellow ex-pros. The likes of Michael Vaughan and Graeme Swann have shown their backing.
The Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) has also helped by listing the business on its website.
David’s father Mark Paynter helps him run the firm. When asked where he gets his business acumen from David confers to his dad.
“You know how he was saying the cricketing talent had skipped a generation with me,” jokes Mark Paynter, “well with business it did with him up until he got this started.”
One thing is for sure and that is that Mark Paynter is just as passionate about the sport, with both father and son talking at length about the future of Test match cricket and young people taking up the sport.
Payntr has even started to ask for shoes suffering from minor design imperfections, that would normally be destroyed by the manufacturer, to still be shipped over so that they can give young children in poverty stricken parts of the world a chance to take up the game.
Running a business is a “million miles” more tougher than playing cricket, says David Paynter.
He added: “Cricket back then was a nice lifestyle. You’d rock up for training. You’d do a few hours. You got your dinner cooked for you when you come in. You’d go back out. Finish at half past two, three o’clock. For pre-season you would go to Barbados or somewhere.
“Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to be talented. You’ve got to work hard at your game. The best players are the ones that do stay the extra hour and do that extra mile.”
Mr Paynter said: “I’m pretty confident we will end up being the biggest cricket footwear brand in the world. It’s very doable.”
The brand is also looking at entering other sports such as hockey, golf and netball as well in the future.
“These are all avenues we’re looking to go down eventually once we’ve grown in the cricket market,” Mr Paynter said. “We have only scratched the surface in the market.”
What would the great Eddie Paynter have made of his great grandson’s business venture?
“I think he’d be proud,” says David Paynter.
“If he saw these he’d probably turn in his grave,” he jokes, picking up a multi-coloured cricket shoe.
The pace and style of the game and fashion may have changed but through the Payntr brand, the legacy of this cricketing family lives on.