Friday 9 May 2014 

Back For A Second Season...An Overseas Pro On The Challenges Of Playing In England

Chris MacDougal is back at Valley End for his second season
Chris MacDougal is back at Valley End for his second season
© Valley End CC

All too often we focus on what happens to some of our young talent when they spend the cold English winters in hot climates playing a bit of cricket. However with the standard of league cricket continually on the rise in this country, several young overseas cricketers come to our shores to enhance their own game.

The lukewarm weather is one aspect of the potential culture shock ahead, being busy away from the cricket field is often a challenge that an overseas player may face.

Valley End’s own returning overseas cricketer, Chris MacDougal, captain of St George DCC in Sydney, pens his thoughts on some of these challenges and the variance with the Australian league cricket set-up.

Being born into a cricket oriented family made my early sporting decision very easy. I started playing under 8s when I was five and have played every summer since. I represented Georges River St George in junior representative cricket and was selected in junior NSW representative squads.

I have since played senior grade cricket for St George DCC, starting in 5th grade at 16, and slowly making my way through the grades with the past three seasons in 1st Grade, one of which we won the premiership and the most recent I was made captain.

In the hope of improving my game, I felt I was need of a change, a fresh start. Many of my team-mates had played a season abroad and often spoke of the great times and opportunities that were available to better their games.

It has always been an ambition of mine to play cricket abroad, so what better opportunity to do so once I had completed all of my study. The fact I have returned for a second season emphasises what a tremendous experience it was for me both cricket wise and personally.

A large part of this is a result of the way Valley End approaches their cricket and the culture amongst both players and supporters. With such an emphasis on positive cricket, it allows you to just go out and play and not over complicate things. A direction I think will only benefit the club moving into arguably it’s most important and exciting summer yet.

And let’s not overlook the fact the Aussies just won the Ashes 5-0. I think that calls for a return in itself.

When I’m not playing for the club, I am often coaching the youths and colts. I also make myself available midweek for private coaching along the way.

When I’m not doing this, I also assist the groundsmen in preparing the grounds for the weekend’s fixtures. They put in countless hours during the week and on match days and often go without recognition.

As an overseas player, the club expects you to improve the team, and club. Ideally, this would come in the form of runs and wickets, however, it can often be a case of work ethic and simply their approach to the game.

Hopefully the runs and wickets come, but if not I feel it’s up to me to make a difference however possible, whether it be on game day, at training with the seniors or coaching the youth.

I have been asked on many occasions how the premier league standard compares to 1st Grade in Sydney. It’s not such an easy answer, especially getting my first taste of premier league cricket this season, as well as the different styles played in either competitions as well as the conditions.

Having said that, I feel that the format played in Sydney allows further development of players looking to succeed at the next level, in that its an extra day per match (2-day cricket) and therefore requires longer spells on batter friendly wickets or stronger concentration to bat for longer periods of time.

The other main difference I have recognised is the opportunity for more players to play at the next level. With such a large player pool in Sydney, for example, there is just the one main competition in which players are recognised for the state level cricket, meaning the talent is quite condensed into the one competition.

Compare this to England’s county setup and I feel that regardless of what county competition you play in, good performances are more readily recognised as the talent is possibly further spread, meaning more players are introduced to first-class cricket and at an earlier age.

© Cricket World 2014