By Josh Richards
Dom Sibley’s first few months at Warwickshire proved something of an inadvertent whirlwind, but the county’s new vice-captain said he would not have had it any other way.
Last summer, the top-order batsman turned down a three-year contract at Surrey, who he first represented at Under-9 level, and agreed a move to Warwickshire for 2018, who, according to Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart, gave him written guarantees he would bat in the top three across all formats.
Reeling from the news and unwilling to match such an offer, Surrey suggested Sibley move immediately on loan and he therefore spent the final two months of the season at Edgbaston.
In that short time, he experienced the highs and lows of county cricket.
Relegation from Division One followed an appearance at t20 Blast Finals Day, where the Birmingham Bears suffered a 22-run defeat to Nottinghamshire Outlaws.
The business end of the season was coupled with sporadic 120-mile journeys back and forth from Surrey; in-between bedding down at new teammate Colin de Grandhomme’s abode.
Over the winter, Sibley had time to catch his breath and make the Midlands home – albeit via a stint in Perth, where he captained Midland Guildford under the watchful eye of coach Neil ‘Noddy’ Holder.
And the 22-year-old, named Warwickshire vice-captain to Jeetan Patel for 2018, insists that baptism of fire was in fact the perfect way to begin.
“If I had my time again and had a choice in it, I would take exactly what I got,” said Sibley, a former England U19 international.
“It was good to get in there straightaway so I didn’t have a full winter of not knowing anyone.
“I’ve experienced some highs and lows and got to know the boys.
“I’ve got a place to live, last year I was living with our t20 overseas player Colin de Grandhomme and travelling back and forth from Surrey. I never unpacked my bag.
“Now I’m settled here. There’s no regrets.”
Surrey’s ‘bitter disappointment’ at Sibley’s departure is perhaps no surprise when you consider his potential. Sibley was playing for the seconds at the age of 15, and is the youngest person to hit a County Championship double century, doing so in just his third innings when he made 242 against Yorkshire – while he was studying for his A-Levels.
And he believes the early introduction to top-level cricket has made it easy to command some authority in a dressing room which houses a plethora of experienced campaigners, including former England duo Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott.
“At Surrey we had overseas players, and experienced international players, so I’m used to it,” added Sibley, the second-youngest player to score a first-class century in English cricket.
“We’ve got the likes of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott who are hugely experienced and respected, but they’re very open and approachable and I feel like I can pick their brains.
“They’ve been very welcoming and respectful of me. We’re all trying to achieve the same thing ultimately and that’s success for Warwickshire.
“We want to get back into Division One. With the white ball it was great to be involved in Finals Day, I didn’t expect that so soon, and it would be nice to go one better, but the red-ball game is top of the agenda.
“Anyone that didn’t have hopes of being promoted at this early stage of a season would be silly.”
And with England’s batsmen having struggled for runs Down Under all winter, can Sibley instantly fulfil this potential and catch the eye of the selectors?
“I just want to contribute as much as I can in all formats and hope Warwickshire win games of cricket,” he flat-batted.
“I haven’t had a 100 in a while, I had an unbeaten 92 and a few 50s. So that’s something I want to get off my back.
“I think it’s a bit dangerous for any cricketer to look too far ahead, but if I get my head down and do all the right things for Warwickshire then I suppose you never know.”