Emilio Gay is a self-confessed workaholic, but it’s an affliction that has thus far only yielded success for the youngster.
The 20-year-old from Bedford has just signed his first professional terms with Northants, a two-year deal his reward for a stellar season with the second team, bat in hand.
A 186 not out against Warwickshire in May tops the highlight reel, while Gay also racked up an eye-catching 202 at the end of June for club side Northampton Saints.
But despite the fact that his talents are writ large for all to see in his scores, Gay credits the 10,000 hours – many of them antisocially timed – with his progress, as opposed to any sort of ethereal gift.
“It’s just been hard work,” he explained.
“I’m quite a workaholic: I get up at three or four in the morning sometimes to go to the nets. I’ve never thought I was that talented compared to other boys, just that I had to work harder than everyone else.
“I’ve always been very confident, so it’s a case of working hard and not cutting any corners.
“My dad comes with me to the nets, he’s there any time: 4pm, 4am – it doesn’t matter. He encourages it but doesn’t push me.
“Without that support I don’t know where I’d be, but I wouldn’t be signing my first deal for sure.”
Like most elite athletes, Gay excelled in a number of different sports before eventually settling on his chosen discipline, balancing football and cricket until a trip to the West Indies in 2007 coincided with a certain World Cup.
Immersed in a culture of cricketing obsession at the perfect moment, it would have been hard to ignore the lures of the sport, especially when a chance encounter truly inculcated Gay’s preference.
“Going to the West Indies and that World Cup just pushed me towards cricket, it gave me that love for the game,” he continued.
“I watched a lot of the West Indies when I was younger, because I’ve got a lot of family out there. Dwayne Bravo, because I was very much an all-rounder back then, and then Brian Lara were my heroes.
“We were staying in the hotel next to theirs and my parents found out, so they went in there to get an autograph. Somehow, my mum managed to get us in there and Bravo took me into his room and gave me a signed shirt!
“I’ve still got it in my bedroom today, still hanging up, framed. It’s a reminder of how I got into the game.”
And while Bravo’s shirt represents the days when Gay strived to hone his talents with the ball, it is Lara that the youngster is more clearly reflected in, all borne out of the youngster’s tireless work ethic.
“I played for Bedfordshire when I was about eight or nine and was in the team as a bowler – would bat 10 or 11 – and felt a bit embarrassed by it,” he added.
“I just wanted to get better at my batting and loved it so much I carried on practising. I had a couple of injuries that meant that I couldn’t do much bowling, so my batting had to go up a couple of levels, so I just focused on that for a season or two and then all of a sudden, I’m a batsman.
“I want to play for England but want to be one of the best batsmen out there, the Roots, Williamsons, Kohlis, Smiths – that’s always been my goal.”
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