So you want to play professional cricket.
Congratulations on setting your goal. Now the work starts.
This guide will talk you through the practical and philosophical basics of becoming a professional cricketer. Your location will vary the specifics slightly, but the basic principles still apply wherever you are in the world. 90% of what you do to become a cricketer in India or Sri Lanka is the same as in Australia, England or anywhere else.
There are also some helpful links through the article to give you some more reading and advice. So get stuck in and get to the nets.
Make the most of your chance
The first thing you need is honesty: Are you really good enough?
There is no getting around this one I'm afraid. You need a basic semblance of ability to make it to the top. While there are many ways to maximise what you have (see below), you need something special too. Be realistic with yourself and your talent and set smaller, more achievable goals at first, even if your big ambition is far away.
You don't have to be amazing right now - although it helps if you are - but you do need to think that you might be amazing at some point. If that's true, then what?
- Practice all the time. You know the law of 10,000. It's not hard and fast but the idea that you need to put in a lot of practice is true. The earlier you start the better you can play and practice. There is no substitute. For drills, check out PitchVision Academy online coaching.
- Be pushy. If you are working hard at your game and producing results you deserve to be noticed. If that isn't happening you can push yourself into the limelight. Ask your coaches what you need to do to get to the next level and keep coming back to them when you have done what they asked. Jut do it in a polite way.
- Get mentally tough. Cricket can be won and lost in the head probably more than any other game. It's essential to learn the techniques to make your mental toughness and will to win as well developed as your cover drive (or googly). Study and practice this element relentlessly until it is part of your make up. You need to be able to bounce back from failure, win ugly and ride the wave of success in equal measures. That takes time but you will be playing so much you have plenty of games to hone the skills.
- Find a mentor. A mentor is an uncommon thing in cricket but it can make a big difference to whether you can make it or not. Mentors can not only help you (and how much they help is up to you), they can also argue your case for moving to the next level. Find someone you trust and admire and be confident enough to ask them their opinion. Most people love to talk about themselves so listen to what they say and see what you can learn.
However, most importantly, there is one thing all aspiring professional cricketers should do: Subscribe to PitchVision Academy. It's free and packed with advice every week. As you are going to have a lot of weeks before you make it, you have plenty of time to take it all in.
Pathways to the top
Every country has a "pathway" to professional (and international) cricket. If you want to become a cricketer, it helps to understand what you need to do to move up through the system. The best way is to ask someone in the know in your local area. Adminstrators will tell you all about it. But to illustrate, here are some pathways in the English system:
In the UK, cricket is run by the ECB. There are 18 fully professional county clubs that can take you on.
Below the county level there are local leagues. The best of these are called Premier Leagues and clubs are run semi-professionally. As you move lower down the levels, fewer players are paid until it it totally recreational.
Most clubs are affiliated to the ECB and players join the clubs (usually at a junior age). If you are good enough at your junior level your club can put you forward to play at a higher level. This usually means representing your region within the county at ages 10-18. If you are good at this level you can represent the county at age group level.
The best players are mostly playing first eleven club cricket and regular representative cricket by age 16. These are the guys who will look to get into County Academies: The youth scheme all professional counties operate. Once you are in that system you are well on your way.
Older players can still make it though.
Good performances at senior club level or in the minor counties (non-professional representative cricket) can be rewarded with a county trial well into your twenties. The older you get the less likely this is to happen. That said, there are outlier cases of players making a professional debut even into the late 30s. Don't bank on this. The earlier the better.
Additionally, there are many clubs who employ players on a short term basis as player coaches or paid professionals. Not many players can make a career of this but there are opportunities for good players not quite good enough to make it at first class level. You generally need to contact clubs directly to be considered and you will need a substantial track record at club level to have a serious chance.
School and University cricket
School cricket is less popular than it used to be, but many schools have a fine tradition of cricket and if you attend one of these, such as Millfield, you have access to cricket coaching and personal development that is extremely good for your game. However, most people in England don't get a lot of school cricket and rely on the club game to develop.
The good news is that whatver your cricket at school, you could attend a University that has been allocated as an MCCU. Currently these are Cambridge, Oxford, Loughborough, Durham, Leeds/Bradford and Cardiff/Glamorgan). Naturally, you need enough academic ability to get on a course, but once in place you can play a high standard and get spotted for a county through the University competition.
It's worth reiterating here that the English system is unique but not so different from other countries. Everywhere with a professional level has some form of club cricket and some level of representative cricket where you are picked based on ability. If you get runs and wickets consistently enough at one level, you can move forward to the next on merit, and that should be your take home point.
Becoming an "overseas professional"
If you want to play professionally in the UK and you are based in another country it's a lot more difficult. You will need a work permit and to play county cricket that means having played at International level for your country of birth (although there are some loopholes).
More realistically is working in the UK as an overseas player for a recreational club. There are many clubs looking for good overseas players but most go though agencies like CricX for them. If you are of professional standard in your own country consider contacting a decent agency as that is the fastest route in.
Ther is also the backdoor of University cricket.
This article has given yo a lot to digest and you are probably feeling motivated yet overwhelmed. You are thinking, "What should I do next to become a cricketer?"
The simple answer is to go about taking some wickets and scoring some runs. Cream will rise to the top, whatever the system.
To start that domino process, you can do some more research. This article is the perfect place to begin. Then put your name down for the free PitchVision Academy newsletter to stay on top of the latest tips and advice to improve your game. Finally, hit the nets, play some cricket, have some fun and let me know when you make it.
I have faith in you.