(Photo: Getty Images)
By Andrew Lawton
AS a young up-and-coming leg spinner spending the winter perfecting his craft in Australia, it hasn’t taken Derbyshire’s Matt Critchley long to draw comparisons with Mason Crane.
Twelve months ago, Crane became the first overseas player since 1985 to represent New South Wales after impressing for Sydney grade cricket side Gordon CC.
Now Crane is part of England’s Ashes squad while Critchley is in his second season of Sydney grade cricket having recently linked up with the Lions in Brisbane.
The 21-year-old, who is spending the winter playing for Fairfield Liverpool CC, spent time with former Australian leg-spinner Stuart MacGill as part of the link-up.
And while Crane’s example shows how quickly players can move up the ranks, Critchley believes he offers Derbyshire and England something different.
Derbyshire endured a winless 2016 season in the Championship but picked up a trio of victories this year and Critchley is determined to hit the ground running come the British summer.
“Obviously he (Crane) is a tremendous talent, a good bowler and completely deserves everything he’s got. He works so hard,” he said.
“I am a bit different because I bat and can progress as a genuine all-rounder, then it’s harder to ignore you.
“It gives you more options if you can bat six or seven. That’s the challenge for me at training to progress every aspect of my game. It’s going alright so far, I keep getting starts – a few 30 and 40s and a 60.
“I need a big score but I feel in good touch. I will try and hit the ground running when I get home.
“We made progress with Derbyshire last year and that’s the main focus; progressing again and myself scoring runs to be the main man in the team helping them win games.”
Critchley isn’t the only English spinner currently plying his trade in Australia with Delray Rawlins, of Sussex, and Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson also in Sydney and linking up with the Lions.
And time in Brisbane with ECB spin bowling coach Peter Such and a Test match bowler who has more than 200 Test wickets was extremely useful for the Derbyshire spinner.
“It was really great because you get some good players to bowl to, have a chat with and you can see what the Lions boys are doing,” he said.
“I was in the gym, with Stuart MacGill and club training so trying to get everything covered.
“Obviously he is a big influence, it’s my second year here, and his knowledge and passion for leg spin is huge, you can speak to him, see what you like and don’t.
“He works through it well, anything you need he will help you.”
Critchley has surpassed 50 twice in five first-grade innings for Fairfield Liverpool, the home club of Aussie quick Doug Bollinger, and is the club’s second leading wicket taker with nine victims. He also has six catches and a run out to his name, placing him inside the top 20 in the league, despite his club sitting in the bottom half of the NSW Premier Cricket standings.
And as an overseas import, part of the ECB’s International Pathway programme, Critchley is fully aware of the need to keep scoring runs for his new club.
“The Australians are a bit more vocal, they like to tell you grade cricket is like Test cricket, they like to tell you it’s good cricket; it’s a very good standard and they are not afraid to get into you,” he added.
“It’s not a shock really, you get to ten and they soon shut up. You are always going to get it from your own team as much as anyone but it toughens you up as a cricketer.
“It’s something you have to get used to. There’s no better breeding ground and finding a way to work on it when you are on your own.”