Club Cricket Conference

Sunday, 21st July 2024

Bashir puts positive spin on club cricket

Richard Edwards

27 February 2024

When Shoaib Bashir was first picked for England’s tour of India in December, the main reaction was ‘who?’’ 

For the club game in this country, though, it was a cause for celebration and another example of the impact that the recreational game continues to have at all levels across the sport.  

He may have re-started his cricket education at Taunton, but Bashir’s lightning rise to the England side owed as much to Guildford Cricket Club as his time with Middlesex, Surrey, and Berkshire.  

“He has magic in his fingers,” says Somerset’s head coach, Jason Kerr. “I think there have been a lot of influences in his career, and he his route to the top hasn’t been the usual one. But it tells you everything you need to know about him that he has taken all these experiences and turned himself into the cricketer he is. I don’t think you can ever underestimate the impact that the club game has in this country.”  

Kerr should know. Somerset is a county with close links to the Devon club scene, with the likes of Craig Overton – not to mention his twin brother, Jamie – and Tom Lammonby all playing regular club cricket in the county.  

Bashir himself grew up in Working, playing junior cricket for both Middlesex and Surrey. But his entry to the sport came, not at Lord’s or the Oval but at the rather more humble surroundings of Guildford City’s ground, just off the A3. It was there that the young off-spinner watched his uncle Saj play and there where he discovered his love of the sport.  

“He would take me when I was in my nappies with my brother and we would just sit and watch him play at a club called Guildford City, where he was a wicketkeeper-batsman,” Bashir told The Guardian shortly after he had received his call-up from Brendon McCullum. 

“He told me that I’m living his dream by playing cricket because he didn’t really have the support behind him. He dedicated his whole life to me. So, to see me do well was his dream and I’m living his dream at the moment.” 

Bashir’s experience is hardly unique. Thousands of kids become hooked on the game as a result of watching family members playing club cricket. The first class game remains the pinnacle of the sport domestically, but the village green remains the bedrock of English cricket. 

In Bashir’s case, it has also provided a safety net. He was released by Surrey before gaining a full contract at the Oval. He then spent a year playing club cricket alongside turning out for National Counties’ outfit, Berkshire. He was eventually spotted by Somerset after taking five wickets against them in an under-18 game. His first professional contract followed shortly after. 

His progress has been both dizzying and also, in many ways, refreshing – a player who hasn’t come through the traditional route, and a spinner who has experienced the highs and lows of the journey from grassroots cricket to the Test arena.  

“I take things small steps at a time and whatever is written will happen,” said Bashir. It’s a boy’s own tale, but one that plenty of other cricketers at the top level can relate to. 

Mark Wood is another member of this England bowling attack who has every reason to be thankful for the influence of his club side, Perhaps England’s quickest ever bowler, Wood came through the youth system at Ashington before being spotted by Durham and working his way into the county’s set-up. 

“He was tiny,” says his former coach, Steve Williams. “He had this terrific action but if you had told me he would one day be one of the fastest bowlers in world cricket I would never have believed you. He was just someone who loved cricket. He still comes down to the club now, he’s just one of the boys.” 

Wood played for Ashington during his comeback from injury in July 2022, taking five wickets in an explosive spell against Lanchester CC. He had turned out for the previous season too, going wicketless in four overs. 

Jimmy Anderson, meanwhile, is still often associated with Burnley Cricket Club, while England skipper, Ben Stokes, is synonymous with Cockermouth.  

These are clubs that still hold a special place in these players’ hearts. And clubs that offer a timely reminder of just how important the club game is – at every level.