Nick Evans playing cricket in Barbados Nick Evans playing cricket in Barbados
When sports people start talking about a ‘new era’ it can often mean that their club have endured a period in the doldrums. But while that may often be the case, it is certainly not always true.
And that’s very much the story at Cheltenham Cricket Club, a club that are embracing a new era even though the players and their supporters were popping the champagne corks at the end of the previous campaign.
The celebrations came at the end of a season which saw them win the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire Premier Two title and with it promotion to Premier One, the top flight in the West of England Premier League.
A place among the cricket region’s elite had been a decade-long ambition of Will Simmons, who took over as captain after the club lost their place at the top level 10 years previously, and soon after realising his dream he decided to step down as skipper.
Step forward Nick Evans, one of the club’s batting mainstays over the past couple of seasons, who will lead the 1st XI in 2019. “It does feel like a new era,” said Evans. “It’s a new start in a higher league, it’s massive. Everyone is buzzing to get started.”
And ‘everyone’ includes wicketkeeper/batsman Simmons, who is determined to play his part as Cheltenham go toe-to-toe with the likes of Clevedon, Bath and Downend this season.
Simmons and player/coach Luke Sellers are likely to be the only two older heads in what is essentially a pretty young Cheltenham team and as such they will be available to assist Evans during any tough times during the campaign.
Evans will be hopeful there aren’t too many of those – he’s aiming for a top-half finish in the 10-strong division – but although he’s played cricket at a very decent level for many years the soon-to-be 28-year-old admits he’s had very little captaincy experience.
He was a vice-captain when he was a pupil at King’s College Taunton which gave him the opportunity to lead the side on occasions but he has never captained a side at university or club level.
But his Cheltenham team-mates obviously think he is the right man for the job – Keiran Smith is his vice-captain – because they voted him in unanimously earlier this year.
“I like to think I’m a quick learner and I’m looking forward to it,” said Evans, who was born in Barbados.
“I was a bit shocked when Simmo said he was standing down but taking on the captaincy is something I see as a project as well as a huge opportunity.
“I’ve been at Cheltenham for two years and we’ve always played competitive cricket.
“I want us to continue to play competitive, consistent cricket and to play cricket in the right way.
“What we’ve got to do is adapt to playing cricket at the higher level.”
Evans says he doesn’t know much about Premier One – “I was still at college when the club last played at this level,” he said – but he is confident that the players are up to the challenge.
“We’ve got an exciting squad,” he continued. “I’m one of the oldest, we’ve got quite a few players who are at university or have just finished university. We’ve got a lot of talent.”
Evans will be hoping to weigh in with his fair share of runs of course – he was happier with his first season at Cheltenham than his second – and expects to bat at five in 2019.
“The challenge for me is to self-improve, to adapt my game to see if I can still score runs while being captain as well,” he said.
And there’s no reason to think that he won’t.
“I’m a bit of an accumulator of runs,” he said. “I like to take my time at the start of an innings but I can up the ante when necessary.
“I adapt quite well to situations, depending on where I bat I can be coming in at 150 for 2, or 5 for 2 in the first over.”
Evans is delighted that South African leg-spinning all-rounder Josh Breed is returning for a second season.
“He was fantastic last season,” he said.
Breed learned his cricket overseas just like Evans himself.
“I learned my cricket in the Caribbean from the age of six, that’s when I fell in love with the game,” said Evans.
So if the West Indies should meet England in the final of this year’s World Cup, who will Evans be supporting?
“The West Indies every time,” he said without a moment’s hesitation. “I always support the West Indies when it comes to cricket.”
The World Cup final is scheduled for Sunday 14th July by which time Evans will hope that he has helped Cheltenham to become well-established in their new era.
Author: Roger Jackson