BIG INTERVIEW: Craig Salmon talks to rising Preston-born Lancashire fast bowler Tom Bailey
Don’t give up on your dream!
That is the message to any young aspiring cricketer fromrising Preston fast bowler Tom Bailey.
The 23-year-old Lancashire star is the perfect example of someone who has kept the faith when it appeared his prospects of becoming a professional player had gone.
A player who struggled to stand-out as a junior, Bailey is the first to admit that he had all but consigned himself to a life as a club cricketer doing the rounds in the local leagues.
However, a growth spurt after leaving school saw the former Vernon Carus bowler’s prospects change for the better.
From a diminutive youngster, he became mean and lean – towering well over six feet in height.
His greater physical prowess worked wonders for his bowling action and after gaining selection for Lancashire Under-19s – the first time he had ever gained county recognition – the ex-Our Lady’s High School pupil has never looked back.
At the age of 20, he was handed a scholarship at Old Trafford and after a number of promising performance this summer, Bailey has been handed a two-year contract by the county.
It was at the end of 2012 when he made his Red Rose debut, but he has had to wait until this year before finally earning a run of games in the first team.
Thrown in at the deep end as Lancashire battled to avoid relegation from the County Championship Division One, Bailey performed creditably in the final three games of the season.
In total, he picked up six wickets, taking some notable scalps – including England one-day star Eoin Morgan and Australia opening batsman Chris Rogers.
Not bad for somebody who just a few years earlier was preparing for a life outside of professional cricket.
Bailey said: “I’ve always had a passion for cricket and always wanted to play it professionally when I was growing up.
“But in my early teens I don’t think I was ever good enough. It was only when I was about 17 or 18-years-old, I shot up in height and managed to get a trial for Lancashire Under-19s.
“It’s all started from there really.
“Up until that point I had not been picked for any age group team with Lancashire and I kind of just figured that I would be playing club cricket for the rest of my life.
“But when I got into the Lancashire Under-19s squad that is when I thought I could do something.”
Although he was unable to prevent Lancashire’s subsequent relegation – after they finished second from bottom – the young bowler has shown he could be the man to spearhead the county’s promotion charge in Division Two next season.
As well as the County Championship, Bailey also appeared in four one-dayers – helping himself to seven wickets, including a best of 3-41 at Derbyshire.
“Personally, it’s been a good season because at the start of the year, I was struggling to get into the second team because I wasn’t a contracted player.
“I was only on a scholarship, so the contracted players were ahead of me at first.
“They received priority, so I just had to be patient and wait for my opportunity.
“Once I got games with the second team, I did well and managed to secure a place in the first team towards the end of the season.”
Although pleased with the way he acquitted himself, Bailey is still smarting at Lancashire’s relegation.
To have any chance of staying up, they needed to beat Middlesex at Old Trafford and limit the amount of bonus points the visitors accumulated.
Despite a spirited performance, Glen Chapple’s men were unable to save the season as they had to settle for a draw.
Bailey took 2-36 as the Red Rose men raised hopes of victory by dismissing Middlesex for 214 in the first innings.
After building a lead of 88, Lancashire were frustrated by Rogers’ men, who closed on 341-8 to maintain their status in Division One.
“It was good for me to play against Middlesex on a personal note,” said Bailey.
“But the most important thing was winning the game of cricket and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that against Middlesex to save us from relegation.
“I think we can be proud of our efforts in the game...we never gave up.
“A lot of people thought that the match would be over on the third day, so the fact that we managed to take it right to the last couple of hours on the fourth day was a really good effort by the boys.
“Even though I did okay, I went back into that dressing room gutted – everybody was disappointed.
“Obviously, I would much rather be in a winning environment.
“To be honest, nobody really cared how they did on a personal level in that game – it was all about winning and we were gutted that we didn’t do that. I don’t think any of us are looking forward to playing in Division Two next season – it was a shame that we could not get over the line in our final match and stay up.”
There is speculation surrounding the future of long-serving skipper Glen Chapple, who may retire from playing at the age of 40 to concentrate on coaching full time.
Bailey says he has learned so much from Chapple and he will be a big miss around the team, should he decide to end his playing career.
“I think whatever happens, Glen is going to be at the club in some capacity,” said Bailey.
“Whether that is as head coach or bowling coach – or he could just carry on playing.
“I have learned a hell of a lot from him over the last couple of years – it’s nice to have him around.
“The great thing about him is he analyses the game really well.
“With him being a bowler, it’s great for me to learn from his vast experience.
“He’s taught me different ways to bowl a ball. I would probably have to say that Glen is the best player I have played with so far in my career.
“I look at him at the age of 40 and he’s still one of the quickest bowlers in county cricket.
“He is also capable of scoring some very useful runs down the order.
“I just can’t believe he’s never played Test cricket.”
One Lancastrian Bailey would like to emulate is fellow fast bowler Jimmy Anderson.
The Burnley Express, who has 380 Test wickets – is closing in on Ian Botham’s record as England’s leading wicket-taker in Tests.
Bailey has benefited from training alongside the international great and would dearly like to follow his lead and play for England.
He said: “Lancashire managed to get Jimmy for about five games at the start of the season before he went on England duty.
“I did quite a bit of training with him and like Chappy, he’s great to talk to about bowling.
“He knows his game inside out and if you can learn off anybody, then it will be them two.
“I think any cricketer’s dream is to play international cricket and I’m no different.
“Obviously seeing people like Jimmy and what he’s achieved for England.
“I also think I’ve got a bit of an advantage with Peter Moores being the England coach.
“He was the coach at Lancashire for a few years and he knows me and knows what I can do.
“If I can play well for Lancashire then I see no reason why I can’t get picked for England.”
Before he can even think about pulling on the jersey bearing Three Lions, Bailey – who will heading out to Australia over the winter to play club cricket in Melbourne – knows he has plenty of improvements to make.
He would like to get fitter and stronger so that he can bowl quicker.
“I can bowl both ways and a big strength of mine is the bounce I can generate due to my height,” he said.
“I think I can get quicker and that’s something I will be working on for next season.
“I want to get stronger. On average I was bowling around 80mph last season,.
“I think I got up to 85mph in the last match and if I can average around that mark, then that would be good.
It was in September 2012 when Bailey made his first-team bow for Lancashire in a drawn match against Surrey in Liverpool.
“In 2012, I had a stress fracture which caused me to miss a large part of the season,” said Bailey, who is one of a number Preston-based players – including Simon Kerrigan and Luis Reece – to have appeared in the first team this summer.
“But when I did come back, the few games I played in the second team, I performed well.
“The management decided to throw me in the first team on the last game of the season.
“I think the team had already been relegated.
“But they just decided to give me a run out to see how I would do.
“I remember it rained the first two days, so I had two days of sitting in the pavilion pondering what I was going to do with my first ball in county cricket.
“So that was extremely nerve-racking – I was just glad to get my first ball out of the way on the third day.
“I managed to get a wicket quite early on – although it was my only wicket of the match.
“Last season I was in the second team all year.
“I wasn’t helped by injury again – I was out for eight weeks in the middle of the season.
“I was still bowling well, but obviously the first team were going for the Division Two title so there weren’t too many opportunities.
“I was pleased to be given a chance this season.
“They pick you for a reason and that’s because they rate you.
“You’ve just got to go out and back your own skills.
“Playing at Old Trafford is not the best place for a bowler in terms of the wicket.
“They are such good wickets that it makes it a challenge for a bowler.”
It was through his dad Peter that Bailey first began playing cricket as a youngster at Withnell Fold.
He moved on to current Palace Shield Premier Division champions Vernon Carus and spent six years at Factory Lane, before transferring to Norden in the Central Lancashire League
“I actually started at Withnell Fold – that’s where my dad used to play.
“That’s how I got started playing cricket through my dad. I used to go down there as a kid and watch him.
“But they did not have a junior side, so I moved to Vernon Carus when I was about 11 or 12-years-old.
“There is quite a good junior set-up down at Vernons and I began playing for them.
“I progressed through the ranks and I think I ended up playing there for about six years.
“Then I moved to Norden – I still play there when I get chance. “I would class Vernons as my home club though and they still give me the chance to use the nets down there.
“They were really good for me as a young kid.
“They’ve won the Palace Shield this season and I think in the two years I played for the first team, we won the league both times.
“There are some great people down there and I learned a lot from some of the bowlers like Paul Hayton and Richard McCutcheon. I used to look up to them – Cutch for his pace and Paul for the way he puts it down on a line and length.
“If you could merge them two together – that’s the bowler I would like to be.”
Australia opening batsman Chris Rogers is Bailey’s biggest scalp so far, although he is not the best batsman he has bowled at – that accolade goes to West Indies great Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
“Chanderpaul is the best player I have bowled at,” said the former Myerscough College pupil
“We came up against him a couple of years ago in the second team at Lancashire.
“I don’t know why he was playing second-team cricket on that occasion, but unfortunately he took a particular liking to me.
“I felt like I was bowling a decent line and length, but he just kept launching me to the boundary – it wasn’t good.”