Emilio Gay is a self-confessed workaholic, but it’s an affliction that has thus far only yielded success for the youngster.
The 20-year-old from Bedford has just signed his first professional terms with Northants, a two-year deal his reward for a stellar season with the second team, bat in hand.
A 186 not out against Warwickshire in May tops the highlight reel, while Gay also racked up an eye-catching 202 at the end of June for club side Northampton Saints.
But despite the fact that his talents are writ large for all to see in his scores, Gay credits the 10,000 hours – many of them antisocially timed – with his progress, as opposed to any sort of ethereal gift.
“It’s just been hard work,” he explained.
“I’m quite a workaholic: I get up at three or four in the morning sometimes to go to the nets. I’ve never thought I was that talented compared to other boys, just that I had to work harder than everyone else.
“I’ve always been very confident, so it’s a case of working hard and not cutting any corners.
“My dad comes with me to the nets, he’s there any time: 4pm, 4am – it doesn’t matter. He encourages it but doesn’t push me.
“Without that support I don’t know where I’d be, but I wouldn’t be signing my first deal for sure.”
Like most elite athletes, Gay excelled in a number of different sports before eventually settling on his chosen discipline, balancing football and cricket until a trip to the West Indies in 2007 coincided with a certain World Cup.
Immersed in a culture of cricketing obsession at the perfect moment, it would have been hard to ignore the lures of the sport, especially when a chance encounter truly inculcated Gay’s preference.
“Going to the West Indies and that World Cup just pushed me towards cricket, it gave me that love for the game,” he continued.
“I watched a lot of the West Indies when I was younger, because I’ve got a lot of family out there. Dwayne Bravo, because I was very much an all-rounder back then, and then Brian Lara were my heroes.
“We were staying in the hotel next to theirs and my parents found out, so they went in there to get an autograph. Somehow, my mum managed to get us in there and Bravo took me into his room and gave me a signed shirt!
“I’ve still got it in my bedroom today, still hanging up, framed. It’s a reminder of how I got into the game.”
And while Bravo’s shirt represents the days when Gay strived to hone his talents with the ball, it is Lara that the youngster is more clearly reflected in, all borne out of the youngster’s tireless work ethic.
“I played for Bedfordshire when I was about eight or nine and was in the team as a bowler – would bat 10 or 11 – and felt a bit embarrassed by it,” he added.
“I just wanted to get better at my batting and loved it so much I carried on practising. I had a couple of injuries that meant that I couldn’t do much bowling, so my batting had to go up a couple of levels, so I just focused on that for a season or two and then all of a sudden, I’m a batsman.
“I want to play for England but want to be one of the best batsmen out there, the Roots, Williamsons, Kohlis, Smiths – that’s always been my goal.”
The desire to establish a strong domestic competition was one of the key elements of Ireland’s attempts to secure Full Member status.
Now, on the eve of the country’s first ever Test against England, Boyd Rankin tells The Cricket Paper that those attempts are making a significant difference to cricket in the country – even if the weather hasn’t played ball so far this season.
It’s Wednesday afternoon and Rankin is travelling back from Belfast following the abandonment of Ireland’s first T20 international against Zimbabwe at Stormont. The rain is lashing down, which has been par for the course in the north of Ireland so far this summer.
“The rain has had a pretty big impact, if I’m honest, it hasn’t really let us build up any kind of momentum in the domestic competition,” says Rankin.
The fact that the former England Test bowler is now playing his first class cricket across the Irish Sea, rather than for Warwickshire, is an indication, though, of Ireland’s serious intent to establish a competition of note.
Rankin admits, however, that it will take time to get everything in place.
“The fact that the likes of myself, William Porterfield, Gary Wilson, it does strengthen it and there are young guys coming through as well,” he says. “The Ireland A side is really helping things as well – that has helped to close the gap between inter-provincial and Test cricket.
“The A side have already beaten Zimbabwe and Bangladesh so the strength in depth is there and I think that’s now showing in the first class game as well.
“There’s still a lot that can improve, particularly when it comes to things like the pitches, but there’s a good group of 40 players that Ireland can now pick from.”
Former Warwickshire batsman William Porterfield is just one of the Irish names to have made the move from English county cricket to the Irish domestic setup.
Building up that player base will be essential if Ireland are to thrive at the very highest level.
There are currently just three inter-provincial sides in the country, with the Leinster Lightning, captained by George Dockrell, playing alongside the North West Warriors and Northern Knights.
Rankin himself is playing for the Warriors, alongside his brother David. The comparatively small number of sides in the competition is one area that Rankin would like to see addressed in the near future.
“At the moment there are only those three first class, although there are four teams in T20 competition, the Munster Reds, who are based in Cork, joining,” he says. “Ideally, they would branch out a little bit and get four teams involved. The big thing for me is that we’re only playing three-day first class matches too. The next step would be to make those four-day games. I think that would make it more interesting. Three-day cricket can be manufactured quite a lot, just because of the time constraints.
“If you have four-day cricket then there’s more of an opportunity to let the game play out and go the course. I’m not too sure how far it would be away but I think it would be quite nice to get four-day cricket established.”
At the moment, Championship matches attract ‘a few hundred people’, according to Rankin. But with most matches played during the week, there is a natural limit to the numbers matches can realistically attract.
Again, that’s something that Rankin would like to see change as the tournament evolves.
“In terms of county cricket, a lot of matches start on a Sunday or maybe Thursday to incorporate the weekend,” he says. “It’s just trying to get the schedule a bit better to try and get a few more people through the gate but, to be honest, it’s not too dissimilar to county cricket, where you don’t necessarily get massive crowds for Championship matches either.
“The interest is there, though, and most of our games are streamed online so there are probably a lot of people watching from the comfort of their own homes. It is getting better, I do feel that there’s a great pool of talent there.
“It’s just trying to get those inter-provincial sides up to the point where a lot of the players are full-time. At the moment, if it hasn’t been for the full-time contract players with Ireland, there would be quite a bit of a gap between those who are contracted to Cricket Ireland and those who are amateur players, having to take time off work to play.”
Bridging that gap will be essential if Ireland’s domestic cricket is to consistently produce the kind of players needed to propel the country forward in ODI and Test cricket.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have announced that some of the nation’s leading cricketers will be available for the T20 Blast.
Many of the England players are either resting or in the Test squad to face Ireland. However, seven World Cup winners have been made available for upcoming games in the T20 Blast.
Moeen Ali who is in the Test squad to face Ireland is available for Worcestershire Rapids opening two T20 matches.
Surrey’s Tom Curran and Liam Plunkett have also been made available for the T20 Blast.
Curran, 24, is available to face Essex on July 19 whilst Plunkett will be available four days later when Surrey host Middlesex.
Hampshire pair Liam Dawson and James Vince are both available for the county’s entire T20 Blast schedule as things stand.
However, leg-spinner Adil Rashid is set to rehabilitate his shoulder and will miss Yorkshire’s first two games. He is set to return for Yorkshire’s Roses clash with Lancashire if he has regained full fitness by then.
Meanwhile, World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan will miss Middlesex’s first four T20 Blast games before becoming available to the county when they host Kent on August 1.
The rest of the winning England squad are either in the Test squad to face Ireland or have been given extra time to rest like in the cases of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer.
Several members of our World Cup winning squad are available to play in the opening round of @VitalityBlast#Blast19
Cricket and baseball have long had similarities. Long before baseball was America’s pastime, cricket was the game enjoyed by the former British colony. It wasn’t until after the American Civil War in 1865 that baseball began to overtake cricket in popularity. Although the United States is not competing in this summer’s Cricket World Cup, fans of the sport can still wager on their favourite teams as they play for the tournament’s trophy. Cricket followers can register here and bet on their favourite team to win the tournament.
While baseball surpasses cricket in terms of popularity in the US, Karan Patel learned to play the latter first. The Texas-born baseball player grew up playing cricket, a game foreign to many of the other boys who grew up in the baseball and American football-loving state. Patel’s Indian heritage allowed him to learn the ins and outs of cricket, and the game’s intricacies have helped him excel at playing baseball.
Who is Karan Patel?
In June of this year, Patel became the first person of Indian heritage to be drafted by a Major League Baseball team. The 22-year-old was drafted by the Chicago White Sox out of the University of Texas San Antonio in the seventh round. The pitcher has already made headlines due to his cricket playing and some Major League Baseball insiders believe more cricketers could excel at America’s pastime if given the chance.
Patel learned to play cricket from his father and quickly found bowling to be his preferred area on the pitch. As he got older and began to play baseball, bowling allowed him to make a somewhat natural move into pitching on the baseball diamond.
The pitcher’s fastball has been clocked at a lively 94 miles per hour. It is the movement he is able to get on his pitches that inspired the White Sox to draft him. Patel’s pitch movement and speed variations are down to his cricket playing as hitters were regularly fooled in the collegiate level.
In his final season at UTSA, Patel recorded a 2.84 ERA and struck out 104 batters in 92 innings. According to the university, he was the first pitcher in nearly three decades of baseball to post over 100 strikeouts.
A role model for future baseball
After a century of baseball being a North American sport, Major League Baseball has attempted to branch out with games in Australia and England in recent years. Games in both cricket loving countries saw positive attendances although converting people into fans is far more difficult than getting them to watch a one-off game.
Patel could be a role model for future Indian and boys of Indian heritage to begin playing baseball. In 2016, 27% of Major League Baseball players were from Latin America while the vast majority are from the United States. While Patel is from the US where he was born and raised, he will certainly carry the hopes of his ancestral home on his shoulders.
The cricketer turned baseball pitcher may have been drafted by the White Sox, but he is still a long way away from the big leagues. Patel must work his way up through the minor leagues before he earns the opportunity to pitch for the White Sox.
If his pitching is good enough, he could be the first player of Indian heritage to play Major League Baseball. Patel could also influence more baseball teams to scout cricket bowlers in the future.
In 2018, Colin Graves, head of the ECB, claimed young generations in both countries were not attracted to cricket. To some, the news was just not true as junior cricket clubs and some schools were said to be turning kids away due to a lack of cricket team space. The two contradicting views of cricket’s future in England and Wales has raised plenty of debate. Fans watching the Cricket World Cup are debating which team will win the tournament. Cricket fans can use the Betfred promotional offer to wager on the team they believe will win the trophy.
Hosting of the Cricket World Cup this summer and with excitement around the tournament, the common thought would be more kids will discover the sport. But will that happen and are young players really turning their backs on the United Kingdom’s summer sport?
Retaining young cricket players
By all accounts, cricket clubs are losing teenage cricket players. The loss of players between the ages of 15 and 17 are making it difficult to develop players for the future. While players may take part in the sport between the ages of 5 and 10, there is an issue with those teenage cricketers continuing on. Clubs nor the England and Wales Cricket Board have found a way to retain those players.
A number of reasons have been given for teenagers leaving the game. Short attention spans, money, and a lack of time have all been used to explain just why kids are not playing the sport.
Some cricket coaches and pundits believe youngsters exposed to Twenty20 Cricket cannot stand the long, repetitive nature of the overs game. Others have identified the game’s slow play in which kids spend long portions of the game sitting or standing around as the chief issue.
Dropping numbers all around
Cricket is just one of the many sports in the UK that is seeing its numbers drop. Sport England found squash participation has been decreasing for the last few years. According to Statista, in 2015-16, 53.6% of 11 to 15-years old in England played football. In 2017-18, that figure had dropped to 44.7%
All sports are losing teenage players due to more reasons than the games themselves. Yes, it is easy to dissect the sport of cricket to determine reasons for falling numbers. However, it may be more than the sport itself.
Teenagers now have far more entertainment options that weren’t available to previous generations. There have also been technology advancements and teenagers may be influenced to spend time indoors than outside wielding a cricket bat. In addition, the UK is flush with more sports, including esports, than it was 30 years ago. American football, basketball, taekwondo, and even ice hockey are options today.
The pressures of teenage life are also a reason kids give up on sports as they get older. The ages of 15 to 18 are important years in which many teenagers are figuring out their futures. Cricket and other sports can become a casualty as kids plan for their college, university, or professional lives. Cricket will always have its place in British society and sport. It will also ebb and flow with participation numbers. Facing the facts that teenagers leaving the sport is more complex may be a way to bring them back into the game.
Meanwhile, fellow seamers Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad are included. With some suggestions that England’s seam attack will only have space for one of Woakes and Broad the match could become a virtual bowl-off between the two.
Fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Mark Wood both miss out on the Ireland Test squad with side strains.
Whilst Wood is expected to be out for four to six weeks, Archer is set for a period of rest in Barbados before returning towards the end of July.
Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, who both played vital roles in England’s narrow World Cup triumph, are also rested.
On the batting front Rory Burns and Joe Denly both remain in the England squad following poor returns against the West Indies earlier in the year.
However, the big winner appears to be Jason Roy who has been given a chance to further his case in opening during the Ashes. Significantly, fellow opener Dominic Sibley is a notable absence despite currently topping the run-scoring charts in Division One this season.
The World Cup may have come around four years too soon for this Pakistan side – but coach Mickey Arthur believes that by 2023, the country will have a side that’s more than ready to challenge for global supremacy.
They eventually finished level on points with finalists New Zealand but with a far inferior ran-rate.
Speaking to The Cricket Paper, appropriately enough, from the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport, a couple of days after their exit, Arthur says that the country’s run of results towards the end of the tournament has given them fresh hope for the future.
Even though he might not be around in four years to preside over a team that was the youngest in this World Cup.
Arthur’s contract with Pakistan is up at the end of July and he is yet to enter talks with the Pakistan Cricket Board to extend his stay. Those discussions are likely to take place later this month in Lahore but with a number of jobs likely to become available in the near future, not least the England post being vacated by Trevor Bayliss, Arthur looks set to keep his options open.
“It was disappointing not to great through right at the end there but I was just happy that we played some really good cricket in that final part of the tournament,” he said.
“We froze in that West Indies game, which was hugely disappointing. Then we had that rained off game against Sri Lanka so we were always playing catch-up.
“After beating England we were really ready for Sri Lanka, that was probably the big loss for us. Then we went five days without cricket before hitting Australia and India, so it was pretty tough, pretty unforgiving.
“To win four in a row and play some really good entertaining cricket was excellent. That gave everyone a massive boost. You could see the confidence come back but by the end they were really down because we came here to win it and we really thought we could.
“A lot of people start talking about 1992 because it was remarkably similar for a time but there you go.”
Pakistan’s head coach Mickey Arthur addresses the Pakistan team in a training session.
Had Pakistan made it through then they would certainly have had momentum in their favour after wins over South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It was, though, too little too late, leaving the huge crowds that followed them throughout the tournament wanting more.
“This is a very young team and I don’t think a lot of people realised that,” he says.
“By three years, we were the youngest (squad) in the competition and that was carrying a 38-year-old (in Mohammad Hafeez).
“Our best chance is definitely coming in four years. There’s a definite amount of up-side in that.
“Time will tell (whether Arthur will still be there in four years) but I’ve definitely had a fantastic time with Pakistan. I’ve loved everything about it.”
There will be plenty of speculation surrounding Arthur’s next destination, should he decide to call time on his career with the 1992 World Cup winners, with his sensational record against England potentially counting in his favour as the ECB look for a replacement for Trevor Bayliss.
It’s a thought that has definitely crossed Arthur’s mind.
“Of course the England job would interest me,” the 51-year-old Arthur says. “But as I say I’ll sit down and talk to Pakistan when I get back to Lahore in the next couple of weeks.
“I’ll see what direction they want to go, I’ve loved my time with Pakistan.”
If he does leave then he has certainly left a positive legacy for whoever succeeds him. The emergence of the likes of Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi ensuring that Pakistan have a side packed full of youthful promise.
Indeed, in the case of the former, Arthur believes he could be viewed as the finest batsman in world cricket by the time the next tournament rolls around.
“He’s an incredible player, he’s a match-winner,” comments the Johannesburg-born Arthur.
Babar Azam celebrates during a brilliant stand of 126 alongside Haris Sohail. Pakistan w successfully chase 238 against New Zealand on a difficult surface.
“You’ve seen that at the World Cup. My foremost memory in this tournament was the win over New Zealand and the partnership of Babar Azam and Haris Sohail. I thought it was incredible.
“He’s an unbelievable player. Potentially, he’s the best player in the world – he has everything. I’ve been saying that for quite some time.”
We’ll just have to wait and see whether Arthur continues to watch his progress from close quarters or further afield.
Sport can be cruel. Those rare Hollywood type endings, like afforded to Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath, rarely happen. For Shaun Marsh, his much-maligned international career may have ended in the most luckless fashion.
Marsh, who celebrated his 36th birthday on July 9, had his right wrist broken by fast bowler Pat Cummins while batting in the nets at Old Trafford ahead of Australia’s final pool match against South Africa.
With David Warner and Steve Smith back in the fold, the left-hander was selected as a reserve batsman and – like so often during his frustrating career – Marsh didn’t grab his opportunities when picked. He made just 23 and 3 against Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively, and his World Cup appeared over as Australia seemingly found a better balance with the inclusion of allrounder Marcus Stoinis. Then it really was over when he copped Cummins’ friendly fire.
While unfortunate, Marsh’s injury seemed to be a minor blip for Australia even though the veteran is well regarded amongst the group as the consummate teammate. However, in a cruel twist, No.3 Usman Khawaja suffered a hamstring injury against South Africa ruling him out of the tournament and Australia suddenly needed a specialist batsman. Preferably, someone with the experience to handle the high stakes of the knockout stages.
Marsh, who prefers to bat in the top three in limited-overs cricket, would have been an ideal replacement. Quite clearly, it wasn’t meant to be for Marsh who most probably has played the last of his 38 Tests and 73 one-day internationals for Australia.
If this is how it ends, in a macabre sort of way, it’s fitting for a player whose career was hamstrung by injuries, inconsistency and misfortune. Perhaps Shane Watson aside, there hasn’t been a more polarising Australian player than Marsh.
Shaun Marsh walks off in disappointment after being dismissed against India in an ODI.
Marsh has long been a whipping boy during a career that has teased numerously but underwhelmed. After debuting for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield as a 17-year-old in 2000 – 2000! – Marsh’s precocious batting, where his sublime drives can cause a lump in one’s throat, made him a prodigy and naturally he was earmarked as a future star. Being the son of former Test opener and ex-coach Geoff Marsh made him even more hyped.
However, injuries and inconsistencies meant Marsh didn’t get a crack at Test cricket until 2011 at the age of 28. Instantly, he peeled off a memorable debut century in Sri Lanka before, bafflingly, enduring an embarrassing rut against the touring Indians several months later. It was one of the most humiliating efforts ever from an Australian batsman; he averaged a miserable 2.83 across six innings.
This was undoubtedly the nadir of his career. Marsh’s confidence was shattered and off-field distractions didn’t help him either. His undeniable talent was being squandered as he languished in Western Australia’s Second XI.
But then he had a timely intervention. Newly appointed Western Australian coach Justin Langer instantly made a beeline for Marsh to deliver a desperately needed pep talk. “I looked him in the face and I said ‘I will always love you but if you step out of place, you can’t be in the organisation… you can’t afford to make one mistake’,” Langer told me a few years back.
And Marsh heeded Langer’s ultimatum and has had a strong second half of his career, highlighted by being one of the very best batsmen in the Big Bash League. He was also persisted with by national selectors and there were some high points. He starred in the 2017-18 Ashes with a series-changing century in Adelaide in tough conditions and then scored a ton alongside brother Mitch in the series-finale in Sydney.
In the past 12 months, during such a torrid period for Australian cricket post ball-tampering scandal, Marsh had been the team’s top batsman in ODI cricket – justifying his World Cup selection despite a predictable chorus of naysayers. His overall average of 40 and seven hundreds is hardly shabby.
More importantly during this tumultuous time, Marsh became an important stabilising figure and much-needed sage. It was testament to his maturity, which blossomed once he became a husband and father.
Still, it’s likely Marsh will not be particularly fondly remembered. After continual inconsistencies, Marsh’s true calling seemed to lay at earning unexpected recalls. Some of the scorn was due to a belief that Marsh received nepotism considering his dad’s influential standing in the game. The truth is, it’s just so hard to discard someone who can play the most exquisite shots. Marsh was one of those rare players that you had to watch when he was on song. Maybe they should have been more calculated, but it’s easy to see how selectors were swayed by Marsh’s magic. They’re only human.
Shaun Marsh, a figure of delight and frustration all wrapped into one, plays a fluent cover drive for Australia in a one-day international match against Pakistan at Sydney.
He certainly wasn’t a great – he only averaged 34 in Tests – but you won’t forget his best innings. That should mean something in a game so obsessed with stats. Most likely, he’ll fade away from memory relatively quickly.
Derbyshire have signed Kent’s 43-year-old all-rounder Darren Stevens on a loan deal ahead of their T20 Blast campaign.
Stevens, 43, did not feature for Kent in the 2018 edition of the T20 Blast and was not a part of their squad for the upcoming tournament.
However, Kent will retain the services of their all-rounder for their County Championship match against Essex on August 18. Stevens has taken 28 wickets for Kent in four-day cricket this year, averaging under 25.
Stevens who has been at Kent for fourteen years will only be eligible for Derbyshire’s T20 matches with his availability extending to the knockout stages should Derbyshire get there.
However, in the event of Kent facing Derbyshire in the latter stages of the competition Stevens will be ineligible to feature.
Derbyshire’s Head of Cricket, Dave Houghton, was delighted to welcome the experienced Stevens to the club and full of praise for the all-rounders mentality.
“Darren has won the competition before and that is valuable experience for us. He has a winning mentality and is a skillful all-rounder,” Houghton said.
“We have a good mix of players in the squad which he will complement, and it will be good for our younger guys to be able to work with Darren over the next couple of months.”
Meanwhile, Stevens was happy at the chance to potentially play his first T20 match in 23 months.
“I’ve always enjoyed T20 and this is a great opportunity for me to contribute for Derbyshire with both bat and ball.”
Kent’s Director of Cricket Paul Downton emphasised that, despite the loan deal, Stevens remained a part of their plans in the longer-format.
“Darren has been a tremendous servant to the club since arriving here in 2005. He remains very much part of our plans in Championship cricket for the rest of the season,” Houghton said.
“However, having not been included in our T20 squad for this year, Darren wanted the opportunity to play T20 cricket elsewhere and I am delighted he will have the opportunity at Derbyshire.”