Having been lucky enough to have spent seven seasons playing in the UK (next year will be my 8th and 6th consecutive season) I have learnt first hand the benefits of playing abroad. My time playing in the UK has taught me so much about myself and my own game. I have also been fortunate to make some very close friends and have some epic experiences, all while my game has really improved. So I’m going to discuss a few benefits of playing a season (or 8) overseas.
When I read the article Let the batters bat, it immediately got me thinking about the benefits of playing cricket abroad as a young aspiring cricketer. The things you learn as a cricketer playing a season overseas go above and beyond anything a winter and preseason in your home country will teach you. Not only will your cricket improve but the whole experience of playing a season abroad is character building.
Something that is invaluable for any cricketer or sportsman is experience. Playing in a foreign country, where the pitches, balls, grounds, playing conditions & style of play are completely different to what you’re used to, makes players become adaptable and forces them to learn on their feet. This process fast-tracks a player’s development as they are gaining invaluable experience from playing regularly in new and often challenging conditions.
PRACTICE OR GAMES?
As an Aussie going to play a season in England for the first time I was shocked at how much cricket they play over there compared to here in Australia.
The amount of cricket played in the UK is something most young Aussies haven’t been exposed to and it is beginning to take effect in more ways than one. It seems, due to the Australian teams recent struggles, we were blindsided by the fact that standard training sessions, which often have little or no atmosphere and intensity, were better than consistent competitive games.
For any young cricketer, playing is and always will be the best way to improve. As much as a player or coach can try, no net session can ever replicate a challenging match situation which was highlighted in the article Everything wrong with Cricket Training.
For batters it may be playing on a tough wicket that is seaming around or facing high quality fast, swing or spin bowling. For bowlers it may be learning to bowl a slightly different line or length or set different fields and bowl to different plans than they are use to. Any exposure young players can get to these sorts of challenges helps their development and holds them in good stead for when they face these challenges back in their home country.
In the last few weeks, everyone has been commenting on the Australian team. From selections to the format of the Sheffield Shield, everyone has an opinion. Personally, I think people have started to noticed how crucial it is to get some overs in, especially in a match situation.
It is coming to fruition now but has Australia fallen behind countries like England, India and South Africa?
CRICKET IN UK
League cricket in the UK on a Saturday is taken very seriously and is always competitive. Every side has good players and most weeks you come up against a side with an overseas player of a similar standard to yourself. This turns into a battle between the two of you as no one wants to be outplayed by the opposition overseas player. The result of the match can often hinge on the battle between the overseas players. Learning to deal with this sort of pressure and expectation (from yourself as much as your club or teammates) is a huge part of an overseas players development and success.
While Sunday cricket is not always the highest quality, it allows youngsters to learn and develop their game in a match situation. There’s nothing better for young players than spending time in the middle and learning to make hundreds, even if it is against a retired men or teenagers. No time in the nets can replace time in the middle.
Being an overseas player comes with responsibility. It’s this responsibility and expectations from the club that helps young cricketers grow as people on and off the cricket field. Every overseas player is expected to be a leader within their club. Whether it’s a formal leadership position or not, the ‘overseas’ holds a special place in any club and is often looked up to by others within the club. One of the more important factors of an overseas development is the coaching that you may do. Coaching is often a big part of an overseas players role and the responsibility that comes with this is a great learning curve that most players enjoy and get a lot out of.
Even playing several seasons at the same club, your challenges and the experience differ each year. Each season there will be different expectations of an overseas player, the places you stay may change and new teams in the competition mean different wickets and grounds to become familiar with.
WHAT YOU NOTICE
Having been closely involved with a large number of young players who have spent time playing cricket abroad, the first thing you notice upon their return is how quickly they can adapt to different conditions and how good their match awareness has become. It comes back to the experiences that they have gained while playing overseas, which is something that cannot be taught in the nets.
Andy Delmont batting for the Australian Universities vs Loughborough MCCU
One question I always ask of a/the players is ‘how did you go and what did you learn and improve?’
Their responses always contain the phrases or words; consistency, long periods of time, learnt how to make hundreds, match winning knocks, pressure & tough situations. It was these comments that got me intrigued into club/league cricket in the UK and how I would like to be involved and help players go across and develop not only as a player but a person as well. (If you’re interested in a season overseas then please get in contact with me and I can assist you to find a club suitable for you.)
Playing cricket and living overseas is a huge test of a person’s character. It tests you mentally and you are often out of your comfort zone both on the cricket field and in general life. It’s these challenges where your willpower, discipline and self-belief are continually put under siege in a game situation, that help young cricketers improve. When they are then put under the same pressures upon their return, they know how to deal with these situations as they’ve done it before.
LEARN HOW TO RESPOND
It’s how you respond to these adverse positions that really help develop young players. Whether it’s negative criticism from club members (which you have probably never been exposed to before) or the challenge of getting yourself up mentally and physically for day after day of cricket, that improve young cricketers spending time playing abroad. Often these challenges force players to come out of it with an improved attitude and outlook on the game. If you can get all these little procedures and processes in place, then you will come back as a much-improved cricketer.
Skills are one thing but the head space and mental side of things is where cricket really makes you tick. Not only does playing overseas help you refine your skills in different conditions, it also makes you understand yourself and helps you develop a mindset that can handle all sorts of challenges and conditions.
There really are no negatives about playing cricket overseas and it does suit all levels. At the end of the day like anything in life you make whatever you want out of it. If you decide to commit to the club culture, coaching and generally assisting around the club then you will be welcomed with open arms and your self confidence will improve on and off the field.
So to any young cricketer who wants to fast track their game and experience while having fun in a new environment with like-minded people, I highly recommend you spend a season abroad. It may be what you need to take the next step in your career.