Tag Archives: gloucestershire

‘Mental health is massive in cricket’

If any young sportsman knows the importance of staying fit and healthy, both physically and mentally, it’s 21-year-old Gloucestershire fast bowler Ollie Currill.

“Mental health is massive in cricket just due to the nature of the game, it’s slower paced, and of all the team sports there are, cricket is the most individual,” says Currill.

“The sport itself is made of up of batsman versus bowler and although it’s a team sport, it can feel like it’s just you out there.”

No fear

Currill comes into the 2018 season ready to deliver on his undoubted potential, aiming to regain the first team spot that eluded him for the majority of the last campaign. Struggles with injury restricted him to a sole first-class appearance.

“My goal for this year is to solidify myself in the first team again, as well as to really prioritise staying fit.

“I was in the first team at the start of last year, had a tough first game, and then played a lot of second team cricket, got injured, and that was it for the season.”

But despite it being a frustrating year for Currill, his outlook is positive these days, citing a “no-fear cricket” approach, inspired by former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, that he and his teammates have adopted.

“No fear cricket,” the fast bowler explains, “is trying to keep that relaxed attitude, where you’re backing yourself and your teammates abilities 100 per cent.

“You’ve got to realise that we’re not robots, we’re not perfect, I can’t put the ball in the same place six times in a row as a bowler. You have to accept that you’re gonna make mistakes, and just not to worry about them.”

Tough spell

“It’s the way to be in modern cricket”, the 21-year-old believes, and it’s hard to disagree. But in a sport that is, in the words of former England international Graeme Fowler, “based on failure”, keeping a positive outlook can be harder than it may seem.

And Currill himself went through a particularly hard period in his days at age-group cricket, a battle with mental health that could have derailed his promising career.

“I did have a bit of a tough spell myself mentally when I was about 15. I’ve been with Gloucestershire since I was 11 years old, and played with the age groups until I was 14, and then I didn’t get into the county squad at age 15.

“I had this perfectionist approach to everything at that point so it actually affected me quite a lot.

“I was going to district training sessions and training and it was really affecting my play and lowering my standard, because of my mindset at the time, so it was very hard to get through.”

He credits Gloucestershire, as well as the PCA (Professional Cricketers’ Association) who are making strides in making support available for cricketers, for “making sure we’re not by ourselves” with the Mind Matters programme and 24-hour helpline.

But Currill, like so many other teenagers aspiring to make it in professional sport, did not have the same level of support during his struggles as a 15-year-old.

“When you’re at that kind of young age, it is a lot tougher to get to the people that can help. The higher up you progress, the more professional it gets and also the less people there are to look after. Going up the levels helps to shrink the player pool because not everyone can make it.”

It’s as true in cricket as it is in any other sport: every year, thousands of teenagers who harbour dreams of making a career from professional sport are told that there is no future for them.

It’s a huge setback for anyone to take, and an area where many people feel there is much room for improvement when it comes to helping young people overcome that disappointment.

“When I was having that spell, to be honest I didn’t really get any professional help from anyone else, it kind of came from sheer determination from within, as well as support from my parents.

“I was lucky to bounce back quite quickly getting back into the squad next year. I’m sure there’s a lot of others around the country that didn’t get so lucky.”

First-class ambitions

Nowadays, Currill looks back at overcoming that period as his “turning point”, and now he finds himself on the cusp of being a regular first-class cricketer. There is plenty of optimism around the Bristol County Ground with the season to begin next month, with the side aiming to better their sixth place finish in the 2017 County Championship.

“Without meaning to get ahead of ourselves, and you are gonna get this answer from people at every county, but we are genuinely all shaping up really well. We’ve been training hard this week and had a good camp and all shaped up really nicely, both bowlers and batsmen.

“We’ve recruited really well, with Ryan Higgins and Andrew Tye. They’ll strengthen the side no end with their ability and we’re in a good place going into the season.”

“Personally, all I want to do at the moment to be honest is just stay fit, and get myself into the red ball first team, and not give anyone else a sniff really. After that, it’s just to keep improving as much as I can and backing myself 100 per cent, and go as far as that takes me.”

Williams heads down under in pursuit of opportunity

Many that read this will have at one stage harboured dreams of making a career out of playing the sport that they love.

But with potential obstacles coming thick and fast, the path to success is rarely a simple one – a statement that cricketer Darrel Williams knows to be true.

The 22-year-old leg spinner, who spent his teenage years progressing through the youth ranks at Worcestershire, took the tough decision to leave his county, and indeed his home country, to head for the small city of Dubbo in New South Wales in pursuit of his dream.

After a frustrating summer with Worcestershire, where he often struggled for opportunities, the chance arose for Williams to sign on for the season with Dubbo-based side RSL Colts, who allowed him the chance to further his game in a land where club cricket is taken a lot more seriously, and typically played to a much higher standard.

“It was really hard making the decision, obviously leaving the family behind, especially the grandparents, who are getting older now and you never know when it could be the last time you’ll see them,” he told me.

“But it was something I ultimately had to do if I wanted to make a career out of cricket.”

The grind

Whilst playing for the Colts is the key part of Darrel’s progress towards his long-term ambition of making it as a professional cricketer, it’s not enough to pay all the bills at the moment.

“It’s quite tough balancing the work I’m doing with the cricket, that’s the main thing. The work is basically maintaining and cleaning around this big entertainment building, like a casino, that is owned by the sponsors of the club.

‘I didn’t want to just take the easy option and stay in England training and crossing my fingers that I’d find a club, I wanted to take a bit of a gamble and come out to Australia’

“It’s a 4am start and long, tedious work, but it pays the bills and supports me while I’m here as well as letting me have the weekends and evenings free for the cricket.

“I start at four, work non-stop until 1:30pm and then get my gear on and go straight to training, so it can be really strenous at times, especially with the heat, but it’s something I’ve got to do to keep my dream alive when I come back to the UK.”

It was a bit of a culture shock for Williams too, moving to the other side of the world and starting from scratch without knowing anybody, other than the one contact at the Colts that had helped arrange the move in the first place.

The Durham graduate continued: “Obviously, trying to play a high level of cricket in heat that I’m not used to when I’m waking up at 4am every morning is tough. But my body is slowly getting used to it now, even though some days it feels like I’ve aged about 40 years!

“I didn’t want to just take the easy option and stay in England training and crossing my fingers that I’d find a club, I wanted to take a bit of a gamble and come out to Australia to experience some different cricketing conditions, and just try something new really.”

A duck to water

Despite the struggles balancing work and play, Williams is exceeding even his own expectations and is so far thriving in his new environment. The leg-spinning all-rounder is currently averaging 67 runs per game in the Whitney Cup, a first-grade league. He’s also notched up two five-wicket hauls.

‘Hitting a six at the SCG is a proud achievement for sure, considering I haven’t even got one for Dubbo yet!’

“To be honest, it’s going brilliantly so far. I’d say it took me a few weeks to get into my stride, definitely. But once I did, I’ve started taking a lot of wickets over here now, and I’m averaging just over 50 (runs per game) at the moment.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be selected to play for the Dubbo Representative squad, which is what you’d call the district team in the UK.

“I did well for them and also got to play for the Western Zone select in a big cricket carnival last month, against other regional select teams, and ended up that tournament as leading wicket taker as well which was a big honour.”

Williams’ excellent form even led to a call-up to represent the Orana Outlaws at the fabled 46,000-seat Sydney Cricket Ground for the regional Big Bash T20 competition in early December, getting 23 runs and taking three wickets in the semi-final before coming up short in the final.

“Hitting a six at the SCG is a proud achievement for sure, one I’d never thought I’d manage to achieve considering I haven’t even got one for Dubbo yet!”

Ineligible

He’s doing so well in fact, that he only missed out on a chance to represent the New South Wales country team, the finest talent in NSW excluding players that are based in Sydney, which he calls “the equivalent of playing first-class in England”, on a technicality, having played a first-class game back in the UK earlier this year which ruled him ineligible for selection.

“That was a bit gutting, but overall it’s going really well, touch wood.”

But no matter how well he does, Williams’ intention is only to remain in Australia until the British summer time, when he plans to seek out a county side that can provide him the chance that Worcestershire failed to.

“The circumstances of me getting my scholarship to play cricket at Durham Uni just never really worked out with Worcestershire,” he said.

“I was only able to be around for half the year, and I think that hampered me a bit, I never really got the chance to showcase my full abilities there.”

New opportunities

“Come January time, I’m going to be sending off application forms to different counties and trying to find a new club, because I feel like I never got the best opportunities at the county I’ve been at.

‘”As long as I keep performing then hopefully more opportunities will arise when I get back to England’

“I’m getting a bit older now, but I still think I’ve got a few years in me to try and get a full-time professional contract somewhere. But I do feel like I need to be getting on with that now as I’m learning my game better and improving all the time.”

Of course nobody really knows for sure what the future holds, but with Gloucestershire off-spinner Jack Taylor recently receiving a 12-month ban as a result of an illegal bowling action, perhaps Williams’ next step could land him much closer to home.

And after uprooting to Australia, Williams certainly has no qualms about where he ends up once he returns to England.

“Ideally it’d be somewhere a bit closer to home, in Gloucestershire, but if a team on the other side of the country get back to me then I’d be on the move again. All that depends on how I perform out here.

“As long as I keep performing then hopefully more opportunities will arise when I get back to England.”

Darrel is on Twitter @DarrelW95