Friday, June 13, 2008

spinner matures

I mentioned last month that I would tell the Matthew Gitsham story.
Who is Matthew Gitsham you ask?
In 1999 he was chosen as the very first leg spinner to travel to Adelaide as part of the Elite Wrist Spin Program co-sponsored by the ECB and Brian Johnston Memorial Trust.
Matthew, from Somerset was joined on that trip by Geraint Bowers from Glamorgan.
As far as cricketers go Matthew showed heaps of promise and was rewarded with selection in England under 17 and under 19 squads.
Because he was so gifted he never really worked hard at either his bowling or batting and so drifted along without purpose for four or five years, stacking on the weight as he cruised along . We never left him out of any of the spin programs I conducted in England during that time in the hope that one day the penny would drop.
Out of the blue he contacted Ann and I in Adelaide and asked if he could spend a summer out here playing club cricket. With one proviso we said yes. He had to lose weight.
He arrived still too heavy but we couldn't send him home.
Cullen Bailey arranged for him to play at his club, Sturt.
First night at training the coach sent him on a lap of the oval whilst he was preparing others for a net.
It was reportedy the slowest lap ever.
Chosen in the C Grade for round one he scored 6 not out before injuring his knee at training the following Tuesday.
An operation followed and his summer ended right there.
Twelve months later Matthew returned for a 3 month stint with Sturt.
It was a different cricketer who arrived in Adelaide. He had lost about 10 kilograms and increased that to 15 before he headed back to the UK.
His luck then changed thanks to a meeting with Owen Dawkins who took a shine to him. Owen worked at Lords with the Young England program until an opportunity arose at Gloucestershire.
He kept in touch with Matthew and ultimately encouraged him to try out in the County second team where he spent most of 2007.
Recently he was chosen in the Gloucestershire County first team as THE spinner and managed to take his first first class wicket.
This story is special because it gives hope to all the young spinners out there who have been discarded by counties around the age of 17-19.
I feel it is naive to think a spinner will mature in his teens. Shane Warne certainly didn't.
If Matthew Gitsham doesn't end up as a leg spinner with a 100 or more first class wickets it will not mean he has failed.
Getting there makes him a success and an inspiration to others.