Felix de Grey speaks to the captain and vice-captain as the season gathers pace…
At the highest levels of university sport, it is not unusual for a pack mentality to take grasp of the group. Sportsmen and women spend so much of the academic year training and playing with each other that their activities, and victories, come to define them. Membership is a badge of honour, particularly when it comes to wearing the trappings of light blue. Perhaps then, it should come as no surprise that among these teams, so many successful friendships are built and sustained.
That is certainly the case at the top of the men’s cricket team, where captain and vice-captain manage to spend as much time with each other away from the game as they do when playing it. This season, Patrick Sadler and Paul Best head up a Blues side intent on continuing the impressive performances of the past two years. What’s more, they have a team featuring eleven returning Blues and a smattering of talented hopefuls to help them succeed.
Consequently, there are hardly any uncontested places in the first team, and Captain Sadler knows it is his responsibility to manage such a competitive group:
‘I think it can be a difficult job, in terms of the group cohesion and team spirit, but we’ve got a good group of guys at the moment. I might be captain but there’s other really experienced cricketers who have been in a lot of different changing rooms, and seen the way that a lot of professional teams work. That kind of influence rubs off on the other guys and there are always people to bounce ideas off.’
The mention of professionalism elicits a nod from Best, who combines his university commitments with a contract at Warwickshire. It is, by his own admission, a difficult balance to strike, but one that he has been doing with some success over the years:
‘Every day you have to do you work, but you’ve also got to get a gym session in. Every other day you’re playing cricket. It’s nice to be able to go back to the professional environment and see how they conduct themselves. Hopefully I can take a bit of that drive for success and put it into the Blues.’
It seems to be doing the trick. Both agree that the Blues have been training harder than they can ever remember, and the team appear to have navigated the long winter spent indoors without falling foul of complacency. In their two fixtures so far, they have recorded a narrow defeat to Cambridgeshire County and an emphatic victory over Scottish Universities. As for the old enemy, Oxford have been weakened by a few big departures, and after winning five of six Varsity games in all forms over the last two years, the Light Blues look well set to continue their dominance. If they do, you can bet that these two, bound by their love of the game, will be right at the heart of it.
Felix de Grey