From Don Bradman’s portentous flinch at a short ball at the Oval in 1930 to Glenn McGrath treading on one in the Edgbaston warm-up three-quarters of a century later, international cricket has had its fair share of ‘sliding doors’ moments. For Chris Greaves, one of the new faces in the Scotland squad for February’s visit to Oman, his came in January 2010 as an off-the-cuff conversation with England’s Matt Prior ultimately took him from South Africa to Scotland and the cherished prize of an international call-up.
“It was just after I finished school in South Africa,” the Caledonian Highlanders all-rounder explained. “I was in the district Under-19 set-up and was invited along to bowl at England in the nets [before their Test match] at the Wanderers. It was one of those casual conversations you have. Matt Prior walked past and I said to him that I’d be interested to come over to the UK at some point – I’ve got a British passport, it’s where my mum is from and so on – and that turned out to be the little spark that lit the fire.
“He took down my email address and I thought that would probably be the last I heard of it, but after the team had got home my mum received an email – I didn’t even have my own email address at the time – inviting me over to the UK for a trial with Durham. I was only at their Academy for a short period of time before I got an injury in my shoulder, unfortunately, but that led to an opportunity to come to Scotland to do a recovery season with Glenrothes.
“It was brilliant. Starting in Division Two, then to Division One and up to the Championship was an incredible journey for the club which I was very proud to be a part of. Everyone made me so welcome and I had a very successful time there.
“[In 2017] I moved on to Forfarshire, stunning pitch, stunning ground, unbelievable people and support system. As yet I haven’t done as well as I did in Glenrothes which is a bit frustrating, but that’s cricket. It’s all part of the learning curve. It’s a very humbling sport and when you get the opportunity you’ve got to try and take it.”
With a Lord’s hundred to his name as well as runs across all formats in club and regional cricket and for Scotland ‘A’, Chris’s destructive power with the bat adds exciting options to Scotland’s lower to middle order. It is with the ball, however, that the twenty-eight-year-old is particularly keen to show what he can do.
“I used to bowl leg-spin as a youngster and about eight or nine months ago I began focusing on it properly again,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard and the coaching opportunities I’ve been given have been fantastic.
“The training camp in La Manga [in November 2018] was a great experience. We got to work with some unbelievable coaches, and I also had the privilege of being able to spend some time with the Pakistan squad in South Africa. [Former Scotland Head Coach] Grant Bradburn got me along and I was so grateful to have the chance to be able to learn from Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan and all their other wrist-spinners.
“They’re so experienced, they have all the tricks in the locker and it was such an education. I was like a little boy in a candy shop!”
And as he prepares for the next phase of his career, Chris is just as excited about the challenge that lies ahead.
“It’s been an incredible journey for me to get to this point,” he said. “I’m so excited and tremendously honoured as well. To get the call from Toby [Bailey] saying that I’d made the squad was a weight off the shoulder in a way but also a realisation that the hard work really starts now.
“Oman is going to be quite an eye-opener as my first exposure to international cricket, but I think the conditions out there will be fairly similar to those I’ve been used to in South Africa – quite dry, quite firm. I think the ball will turn quite a bit and hopefully I can add value to the side.”
And as Scotland’s crucial year of T20 cricket begins, who knows what that value may ultimately become? When it comes to ‘sliding doors’ moments, perhaps Chris Greaves’ decision to refocus on wrist-spin, that most valuable of T20 commodities, will be his most significant of all.