GROWING up, playing cricket with a tennis ball in the streets of central India, it was almost inevitable that Aditya Adey would want to reach the top in the sport which is a religion in his home country.

Fifteen years later he has made what he hopes will be the most important move on that journey, signing for North Down and the chance to play at one of the top clubs in Ireland alongside some of the best players.

Adey should have been involved in the big match of the weekend yesterday, against Waringstown, and looking forward to a Challenge Cup first round tie next Saturday.

But cricket is on hold and Adey (Pictured below) fears it could be another 12 months before he makes his North Down debut.

“I don’t see this cricket season happening,” he says.

"I have a friend who works in the Nightingale in Belfast and she says the number of people coming into the hospital is still rising. This will not be cleared to August and so there is not much point starting a season with a month left.

“It’s really frustrating. It’s important for everyone to stay safe, but I was working hard over the winter. I was back in India for four weeks preparing for the season and back here, I was batting well in the indoor nets and feeling really good and now this happens. But what can you do?”

Adey arrived in Northern Ireland, aged just seven, a year after his dad, Anil, got a job in Holywell Hospital, so Muckamore beame Aditya’s home club.

“When I moved here I didn’t even know Ireland had a cricket team – India only played the big teams and Ireland hadn’t been at a World Cup then. I was in the same primary school as Sam Gordon, now the Muckamore captain, and we joined the club and started playing for the Under 11s.

“I broke into the 1st XI in the middle of 2015, aged 17, the year after we were relegated to Section One.”

He made such an impression that by the start of the following season he was called into the Northern Knights side for a pre-season friendly against Denmark.

“Uel Graham was the coach at Muckamore at that time and he remains one of the biggest influences on my game. I think the Knights had a number of cry-offs so he gave me a call and I played what is still my only game for the Knights side. I made a duck!”

Back at club level, Muckamore regained promotion to the Premier League in 2017 and then captain Neil Gill named him as “one to watch” in his pre-season preview. It looked as if 2018 would be Adey’s breakthrough year as, promoted to open the batting, he finished in the top 20 run-scorers in the NCU with 545 and Gill also encouraged him to bowl a lot more overs, but although now a regular on the Emerging Knights teams, he admits “it didn’t click for me last year”.

It didn’t help that he was playing in a team that won only three of their 14 Premier League games and they were relegated, due to an inferior run-rate with Lisburn.

Adey knew that Muckamore’s fate meant he would have to leave his home club, if he was to achieve his cricketing ambitions.

“I had to think about myself. I want to be more than just a club cricketer. I need to be playing Premier League to test myself. I still feel I haven’t done enough to get my name into Knights’ selection, I need to put those performances in for Emerging Knights and, now, North Down.

“North Down were in the first Premier League game I watched and even then, I said that’s one club I would like to play for. It’s a great place to play, the wickets are good and they have good players like Ruhan Pretorius, Peter Eakin and Craig Young and they’ll definitely help my game going forward, especially Ruhan who is such an experienced all-rounder.

“On paper we’ve a really strong team, Young made a big difference last year and I don’t see why we can’t push on (North Down finished just two points behind champions CIYMS). We haven’t got a missing link in the team."

And Adey has already enjoyed success playing at Comber.

“I scored my first 50 in the Premier League there, although I have never been bounced so much, by Ruhan! We still laugh at that.”

The wait for his North Down debut is no laughing matter, however. There are more important things to consider.