Report By Brian Halford
RYAN Sidebottom reflects upon his surprise rise into Warwickshire’s first-team this year as “pretty unbelievable.”
But now the Australia-born 28-year-old, having signed a contract with the Bears for next season, is determined to make the most of his second chance in first-class cricket.
In March 2013, Sidebottom played one Sheffield Shield game for his native Victoria, against Tasmania in Hobart. It was a tough start for the seamer up against the likes of Ricky Ponting, who scored a century, and Mark Cosgrove, who became the debutant’s maiden first-class scalp when he fell lbw.
Sidebottom did respectably, harvesting figures of 18-3-68-1 and 7-1-25-0, but never resurfaced in Victoria’s first team over the next three seasons during which he was troubled by foot injuries. So, released by Victoria, this year he decided to try his luck in England.
Sidebottom, who has a UK passport as his mum was from Cullompton in Devon, signed for Berkswell and joined them in April ready to give it a go in the Birmingham League and see where it would take him.
It soon took him to Lord’s – and put his career on a whole new course which, he admits, left him pinching himself.
“The plan was just to play for Berkswell, enjoy what club cricket had to offer and learn a bit more about my game,” he said. “And Berkswell have been great. I don’t think I could have asked for a better club. I honestly feel as if I’ve been part of the place for years instead of six months.
“With having the UK passport there was a little bit of hope of ending up on a contract with a county but I wasn’t really thinking about that much. But then the opportunity came up at Warwickshire and I have loved every moment of it. Everyone at Warwickshire has made me feel so welcome which made my job a hell of a lot easier because all I needed to worry about is going out there on the field and bowling well.
“Thankfully, I took a few wickets and I was really happy with the way it went. It’s been fantastic and it’s very exciting to have a whole season to look forward to next year. I gave it a crack in Oz and loved my time at Victoria but didn’t get an opportunity to build on my one game, so now I’m really excited to have this chance with the Bears.
“It was disappointing that we went down, of course, but at the same time it’s an exciting opportunity for everyone to get their hands dirty and embrace the challenge of playing in Division Two.
“It was pretty unbelievable to make my debut at Lord’s. Just to debut for Warwickshire, a big county with so much history, was fantastic, but to do it at Lord’s, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s just one of those things where you have to pinch yourself and just count your blessings.
“It was pretty surreal. You walk through the Long Room to get on to the ground which is pretty daunting but also very special and you just have to take it in as much as you can but then concentrate on the job. I was in a similar situation when I debuted for Victoria, walking out on the ground and bowling the first ball of the day, and I probably didn’t handle that as well as I would have liked, so to take some wickets at Lord’s was great.
“I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and it helped a lot having Chris Woakes, Chris Wright and Keith Barker around me. They were very accommodating and I could just settle in and do my thing.”
Sidebottom is set to play a major role for the Bears next season after a winter spent back home in Victoria. He won’t play much cricket, but perhaps a game or two for the Northerners club in Tallygaroopna with his brothers, including Steele who plays Australia Rules football for Collingwood.
“I’ll get home in mid-October, have a bit of a rest, then build myself up and hopefully hit the ground running and get stuck in to a full season of county cricket,” he said. “I might play a couple of games during the winter with my four brothers. To have the five Sidebottom boys in one team would be fantastic.
“My three older brothers play for Tallygaroopna, though it’s a bit more difficult for Steele with his AFL commitments.
“They are chuffed for me getting my chance at Warwickshire because they know cricket has been a massive part of my life. I try to speak to them as often as possible because they have backed me 100 per cent to get me to where I am today and it’s fantastic to have that support.”