Ali Evans Interview with Neil Drysdale

21 May

From Neil Drysdale,

Ali Evans

Most county cricketers are used to living outwith the spotlight. When they're not travelling to and from hotels across England and Wales, trapped in endless congestion, or pondering the latest bland menu, they are plying their trade in front of a few hundred people at New Road or the Riverside Ground, or, worse still, attempting to remain focused on their Second XI duties at an utterly deserted venue in the middle of nowhere. A world removed from the all-singing, all-dancing IPL or frenzied atmosphere of an Ashes Test, any connection between their daily grind and a glamour profession is purely coincidental, but they persevere none the less, addicted to cricket, and convinced that, sooner or later, with sufficient hard graft in the nets, they, too, will produce a devastating spell such as that served up by Stuart Broad or James Anderson at Lord's last Sunday. 

Alasdair Evans knows about this existence only too well. As one of the few Scots with a county contract - at Derbyshire - the 24-year-old has had to demonstrate a mixture of passion and pragmatism while he strives to gain a regular First XI place with his employers. His existence is the lot of the majority of his counterparts: it entails seasons spent around shifting schedules which are subject to last-minute changes, the vagaries of the climate, the risk of injury, and fear of a sudden bout of bad form. A few weeks ago, Evans was bowling impressively in Derby's tour clash with New Zealand, and demonstrating his penetration against Test-class opponents. But, when he spoke to Cricket Scotland on Tuesday, he wasn't sure whether his next fixture would be the YB 40 tussle with the Scottish Saltires in Edinburgh next Sunday, or a second-team contest against Yorkshire 24 or 48 hours later.

Ali Evan v South AfricaTo his credit, Evans has rolled with the punches and appears fiercely committed to pushing his way into contention, both for his county and country. Indeed, he could scarcely have been more forthright when it came to addressing the demands of professionalism, which are confronting an increasing number of Scottish stars.

"There is no point in pulling on the jersey unless we are ambitious and prepared to fight for our places. This is a massive summer for us, with games against Australia A, the Aussies, Kenya and Ireland, as we try to make progress and qualify for the next World Cup [in 2015]. So we need to be ready for the challenge or we are going nowhere," said Evans, who will not discover whether he is facing his compatriots at The Grange until Friday.

"I have worked with the [Scottish] lads a lot in recent months and you have to believe there is an awful lot of drive and desire and ambition within all these boys. The competition in the squad has probably never been tougher, since the arrival of guys such as Iain [Wardlaw], Neil [Carter] and Rob [Taylor] - which is a great development, by the way - and it is up to me to prove I deserve to be in the side in the future. It [the change in the ICC eligibility regulations] has added spice and it has meant we can take absolutely nothing for granted.

"That is important, because when you know there are so many other players chasing the same aspiration, it really spurs you on to realise every bit of your potential." 

Few other sports are as treacherous as cricket in punishing minuscule errors. The footballer or rugby player who misses a penalty or perpetrates a howler knows he will probably gain another opportunity to make amends in the following 10 or 20 minutes of the same game. Andy Murray can lose a set 6-0 and transform matters once he has walked back on court. But woe betide the batsman who has the misfortune to receive a brute of a delivery, first up, or the bowler who loses his length or line, even by a fraction. One bad day, quite literally, can consign an individual to ignominy for months, especially, as Evans acknowledged, at a time when pavilions are reverberating to the rhythm of the rain.

The important thing, he insisted, was to retain one's enthusiasm and steel and keep soaking up knowledge like blotting paper.

"You know there will be days where life is frustrating and not everything goes right; that happens to everybody who plays this wonderful game," says Evans. "But as long as there are opportunities, and you have an opening to go out and play, you can always do more to help raise your standards.

"It's about backing your own ability, not leaving anything to chance, and putting in the training in the nets. Even if you are not involved with the Firsts, you have to prepare as methodically as you possibly can, and the facilities at many Second XI matches are terrific these days, so there is no excuse.

"I think I have the ability to move forward and my short-term aim is obviously to try and gain a new contract with Derbyshire [his present deal runs out at the end of the year].

"But I also want to force my way back into the reckoning for Scotland, so this is an important period for me."

Evans realises that being philosophical is part of the deal. But his words also testify to how the approach of Caledonia's finest is changing as they strive for success.

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