Once upon a time! well isn't that how most fairytales start?
And so Guernsey enters the qualification process for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. A small Island in the English Channel more famous for its cows, tomatoes and vibrant financial services sector than its cricket. However, here we are on the world stage as cricketers.
Our famous sportspeople include former England footballer Matt Le Tissier, who as an 8 year old I remember seeing his debut hat trick, I'm a big Saints fan! I'm trying to stay positive! World Touring Car champion, Andy Priaulx. World Bowls champion Alison Merrien, Olympic athlete Dale Garland, junior tennis starlet Heather Watson (watch out for her!), and I'd better include Lee Savident, the only Guernsey born cricketer to play 1st class cricket. Our Island definitely punches above its weight on the sporting front! time for cricket to really step up to the plate!
A little bit about me. Firstly I'm not a real Guern (gasp!!!), having been born in Epsom, Surrey, I grew up in Romsey, Hampshire attending the Mountbatten School. I played my club cricket for Sparsholt CC in the Southern Premier League and went through Hampshire's development structure from U13's up to 2nd XI, where I first experienced the pleasure of having Lee Savident as a room mate, before moving on to Gloucestershire. In 2001 when a career in cricket was increasingly looking like coaching rather than playing, a job came up in Guernsey to coach.
And here I am now, married to a local P.E teacher, full-time Performance Coach looking after all of our teams from U15's through to the seniors and very much feeling like a local. That said, as my wife reminds me 'You can never be a real Guern'.
The first step in becoming a Guern, which to be fair I now pass with flying colours, is to develop a distinct dislike of losing any game against Jersey. Therefore our preparations on one side of the coin have been less than ideal having been on the end of four defeats against Sussex and Jersey (2 each). However, we have a great relationship with the Crapauds (affectionate term for a Jerseyman) and I admire the way they have gone about their cricket (cringe!!!).
On the other side we have used a lot of our young players who will not feature in WCL this time round. The highlights for me seeing 3 of my once fringe U17's put in some solid performances in the senior side. Including my personal highlights of 16 year old Tom Still pegging back Sussex opener Dominic Thornley's off stump with the new ball as he shouldered arms, and Adam Martel who batted at 8 for the U17's in 2008, opening the batting and walking at Jersey's opening bowler and reverse paddle sweeping him to the third man boundary. One of those occasions you stand at the non-strikers end and wonder 'did I really just see that?'
Generally though preparations have gone well, and have been nicely complemented by the opening of Indoor Cricket Guernsey. A nine lane indoor cricket centre less than 5 miles from the door step of all of our national squad. Gym memberships have been fully utilised as a number of the squad have really piled in to their fitness. Those that are a little off the pace at the time of writing are fully aware of the work left to do.
On a personal level I feel I'm doing all the right things, and beginning to move in to player mode and out of coach mode. Whilst having not made a 1st class career out of cricket I've always prided myself on maintaining high standards and challenging myself to be the very best I can. I need to say a big thanks to Gray Nicolls who have looked after a few of us fantastically with some awesome bats (thank you Wilts) and our new playing kit arrives this week, thanks to James Kirtley and MKK.
Our domestic competition (GCA Championship) started on 24th April and we have a full round of fixtures over each weekend before the tournament, in addition to the bish bash bosh of the Barclays Wealth Evening League, where batters' front legs generally remain 'out of the way'. The grounds staff, who I think it is appropriate to thank in advance, have been superb in getting us some good surfaces to practice on. No doubt they'll be manic during the tournament but I know every team will enjoy playing on our grounds and without the grounds staff there would be no tournament. Thank you Alan Hamilton and co! Thank you also to Mark Latter for his work in organising the tournament. He is currently dealing with all sorts of logistics and can here him furiously typing away another note as I write. We'll be reintroducing him to his wife on 25th May.
I hate clichés in sporting dialogue because generally they mean nothing, but I know I use them so I've listed below the ones I know I've used the most in our preparations, to get them out of the way now. If you read them or hear them from me, complaints on a post card to the Guernsey Cricket Board.
Good luck to everyone in the tournament - 'cricket will be the winner' and 'may the best team win'.