Craig Salmon talks to top local club cricketer and former England sub-fielder Adam Parker about his life in cricket and his sporting family
You would hardly describe Adam Parker as the ‘black sheep’ of his family, but when it comes to his immediate relations, he is certainly the ‘odd one out’.
The 33-year-old former Kirkham Grammar School pupil makes up one-quarter of arguably Preston’s greatest sporting dynasty.
Yet while father Donald, mother Jill and sister Katy made their names in the sport of table tennis, their son and brother pursued a career in a totally different bat and ball game.
For the past decade or so, Parker has been widely recognised as one of the best players in local club cricket.
A left-arm seam bowler and aggressive, hard-hitting opening batsman, the all-rounder has showcased his talents as both a professional and amateur in the Northern League for clubs such as Leyland, Preston and latterly Fleetwood.
This after he spent the early part of the millennium honing his skills at the home of cricket – Lord’s – as a member of the MCC’s young cricketers’ academy.
Although he never quite graduated to the First Class game – he appeared several times for both Middlesex and Derbyshire’s second XI – his fielding skills were such that he became one of England’s specialist sub-fielders during the era of both Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan’s captaincy.
Not bad then eh...for the fourth best table tennis player in the Parker family!
“I would back myself to beat my dad at table tennis and my mum although they are both in their 60s now,” Parker joked as he paid reverence to his parents’ sporting achievements, which saw them both represent England on numerous occasions during the 1970s and 1980s with mum Jill famously becoming European individual champion in 1976.
“I probably would not be able to beat my sister Katy though. In fact, I definitely wouldn’t,” added Parker as he reflected on his sibling’s table tennis exploits which saw her represent England at the age of 12 and compete at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester five years later.
“I naturally played a lot of table tennis when I was younger.
“I remember my grandfather making me a stand which I could stand on when I was four or five so I could reach the table.
“I played for England when I was younger, but then after a decade of playing table tennis, I found that spending my Saturdays in a sports hall was not for me.
“That’s when I started to take cricket a little bit more seriously when I was about 12 or 13.
“I would say it takes me a good hour to pick the game back up if I play now although not to the level where I left off.
“But table tennis has been really valuable to me in relation to my cricket in terms of the hand eye co-ordination which it helped develop when I was a really young lad.”
Parker first donned his whites as a junior player for Dutton Forshaw Cricket Club before switching to the revered junior section at Vernon Carus of the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield.
It was, though, while playing for his school team that he got his big break.
“I was in my last year at school when a fixture was set up against the MCC,” Parker recalls.
“I think I scored 80-odd and took five wickets which put me forward to MCC trials.
“Once again I managed to do well in the trial game against Oxford University and I ended up getting awarded a contract.
“At that point in my career I was a bowler, who could bat a bit and I remember bowling particularly well in that trial game.
“It was a great experience to be part of the MCC squad.
“I ended up playing alongside some really top quality players.
“People like Ross Taylor, who was captain of New Zealand, Darren Sammy who was captain of the West Indies, Will Porterfield – the Ireland captain.
“I also got to play at the biggest grounds in the country and to a certain degree in South Africa and Australia.”
As a promising player on the groundstaff at Lord’s, Parker could have expected to go on and enjoy a long career in the county game, but it never quite worked out.
“It was certainly the hope of mine that I would play county cricket – certainly when I was at the MCC,” Parker said.
“You have to remember these were the days before academies and the MCC was the only academy around at that time.
“I did have aspirations, but unfortunately I never quite played that First Class game.”
Although his county ambition remain unfulfilled, he did manage to make several international appearances.
“The highlight of my career is doing 12th man duties for England,” he said.
“The selectors picked the best fielder who wasn’t playing First Class cricket and that turned out to be me.
“I did that for the best part of two seasons – following the England cricket team around the country.
“I fielded against teams like South Africa, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and I ended up playing unofficially in an England A game against Sri Lanka in Chesterfield.
“To get the chance to play alongside the best players in the country was fantastic – you learn so much.
“I fielded in one game under Nasser Hussain but Michael Vaughan was the captain I played under the most.
“He was a really good guy and made you feel part of the group. There was Andrew Flintoff, the bowlers were Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard. You were definitely made to feel part of the team.
“I remember going out for dinner with them all at Trent Bridge. I would stay in the same hotel and have breakfast with them every morning. It was a great experience.”
Parker never actually snaffled a catch when he was on the field, although he came close on one memorable moment.
“I remember fielding against Sri Lanka and Simon Jones was bowling,” he recalled. “Sanath Jayasuriya hooked one to me down at square leg. It would have been the best catch I would ever have taken, but unfortunately I ended up parrying it for six!”
After his time at the MCC came to an end, Parker decided against going on trial at various counties trying to earn a contract.
Instead, he opted to move to Melbourne, Australia, where he played Grade A cricket at the weekends and studied – and sunbathed – on the beach during the week.
He returned home to forge a fine career in club cricket in the North West, becoming a stalwart in particular at Fleetwood CC.
In six seasons at Broadwater, Parker scored more than 5,000 runs and took over 200 wickets, helping them win the Northern League title in 2011.
However, over the winter, he decided to return to Vernon Carus, where he hopes to lead his boyhood club to their seventh league title in 11 years.
“I played at Vernons from the age of 11 to probably up to the age of 20,” said Parker, who admitted he loved every moment of his time at Fleetwood.
“A lot of my mates play here – my dad is the chairman of the sport club. I feel like I owe the club lot.
“I really didn’t have much choice,” he added with a laugh.
Vernons was also the place where he met his wife Victoria and the couple are now proud parents of sons Teddy (5) and William (1).
“Richard McCutcheon – the ex-Vernons’ captain married my future wife’s mum and that is how we got introduced,” Parker said. “So it all boils back to Vernons.”