As we reach the second weekend of the season, we catch up with club legend and arguably the best wicketkeeper in the world, Sam Tucker.
1. What does it mean to you to play for Church CC?
It is a real privilege. We are lucky to have so many wonderful and passionate people connected with our club both past and present. Each time I pull on the gloves I feel a responsibility to perform for the people whom our results matter. Hopefully one day Iíll leave an indelible mark behind those stumps that represents my enduring commitment to our club.
2. What is the highlight of your Church CC career to date?
Without doubt the 2014 T20 cup final victory at Lowerhouse. Up to that point I felt like the most decorated runner up in world cricket and faced the prospect of potentially ending my career without the feeling of delivering a trophy with my mates for my club and supporters. If thereís one place you want to break that duck - itís at Lowerhouse Cricket Club on a red hot Friday night in front of 2000 people with an electric atmosphere. Thereís no amateur cricket club in the world can mobilise the local community to watch cricket like Lowerhouse CC and Iíve never experienced an atmosphere like it. 6 overs in to the contest we were dead and buried at 20 for 4 but Phill Gilrane played the innings of his life and rescued us to a semi competitive 130. They seemed to be cruising in the early run chase until Cobus Pienaar threw his wicket away and all of a sudden the pressure of chasing in that environment turned the game on its head. Despite all the years of experience my legs turned to jelly in the closing stages of the game and although I could effectively still catch the ball, I couldnít move my feet or feel my legs! The feeling of winning lived up to how Iíd imagined it for so many years and so much more.
3. What is the lowest point of your Church CC career to date?
Iím going to change the question to most heartbreaking moment of my Church career. Final day of the 2004 season, we narrowly missed out on the league title on the last day to Haslingden. This was the first of four seasons for Sri-Lankan professional Ruvin Peiris, he made an instant impact at the club and led us to title challengers for the first time in decades. On the last day the equation was simple, we needed to win and Haslingden needed to either lose or end in a no result. It was a day predicted to be bad weather and our sloping ground had a higher chance of delivering a result than Bentgate which typically at held water so we knew there was an realistic chance of winning the title one way or another. Both games started late as reduced over contests, we received news from bentgate that prospects of play were slim and in the end they only managed 23 overs. Our game against Rawtenstall was going to plan, we restricted them to 137 in a reduced 37 over match, ground conditions were good, we just needed to get above the rate early in the run chase and hope we could get beyond 20 overs to constitute a game. You could feel the excitement building at the club - it felt like we were actually going to get over the line. Iíd had a good game behind the sticks with four victims and I remember the late Jim Kenyon summoned me for an interview in the Radio Lancashire van that travelled around the grounds. He said to me ďSam itís been 38 years, are you going to do itĒ? and thrust the microphone in my face. I did my best to play it down but clearly we were within touching distance. Then came the rain and it didnít stop, we had to call time on our title challenge. It was heartbreaking but equally weíd had a great year and achieved a lot in a strong and competitive league.
4. Not many people outside the club will believe you haven't been to a single training session for most probably nigh on 10 years plus. Why is that and do you think it has been detrimental to your game?
Those that follow the team will know I donít get going until the middle of May, everything hurts until then not least my hands and in particular finger ends that feel like they arenít designed to be catching a rock of a projectile in cold conditions! By the end of June Iím close to world class, my body is fully acclimatised and I feel like match fitness is all I need to be as good as I can be. Practice and pre-season is probably the answer but why change the habit of a lifetime. The answer is not straight forward but in a nutshell Iím very proud of what Iíve achieved in my professional career. I came out of school with nothing academically (clearly not grammar or punctuation skills!) and therefore Iíve had to work twice as hard as the next person to achieve my professional ambition. Those that know me well will know that Iíve never been afraid of the long hours my industry demands and although I could have probably managed my time better to commit to training it was as much a feeling of guilt that I wasnít putting more effort into getting my design business off the ground than anything else. Cricket is a huge commitment and up until 3 or 4 years ago fixtures were every Saturday and Sunday every weekend all season plus Friday night T20 in June and July. I never felt the desire to extract an additional 5% performance from training, instead I was always driven to dedicate that time and energy on my work and career. As for batting, not even training was enough to sort that problem out!
5. You obviously love to tell all the pro's your Notts 2's/Kevin Pietersen story. Who is the best pro you have played with at Church CC and why?
Forgive me, Iím going to go a little off-piste here, you know name dropping is my favourite game! Since making my debut 22 years ago at the age of 13 Iíve been fortunate to play with and against some of the best players in the world. This is, as we all know, what made the Lancashire League historically so special, it isnít quite the same these days unfortunately as top professionals have more lucrative options available to them but I cherish the memories of playing against the likes of Michael Clarke, Faf Du Plessis, Ryan Harris, Roger Harper, Jason Gillespie, Chris Cairns to name only a few. For years I couldnít watch a game on TV without 3 or 4 names Iíd played with or against both international and domestic. At 15 I was fortunate to both lift the county championship with Lancashire at Old Trafford and represent the North of England in the coveted Bunbury Festival. It is no wonder my batting wasnít required all season with the likes of Tom Smith, Steven Croft, Keith Barker and Jonathan Clare in the top 6! Meanwhile as I took my position behind the stumps in the first over of the bunbury festival, little did I know that Tim Bresnan opening the bowling, Alaistair Cook and Ravi Bopara opening the batting would go on to become England Internationals. Finally in order to live up to the reputation, my name dropping exercise wouldnít be complete without describing my time playing with Kevin Pieterson in the Nottinghamshire second Xl in 2002. Probably a year before he exploded onto the international scene, I recall a game against Durham at Trent Bridge. Our team had Samit Patel and Kevin Pieterson whilst Durhamís contained Steve Harmison and Phil Mustard. KP got a duck that day but I did get a leg side stumping off his bowling. In relation to the best Church pro I have played with, we have never really had the big money to sign the superstars nor have we ever seemed to uncover the next superstar like Ramsbottom did with Michael Clarke in 2002. But it would have to be Saeed Anwar Jnr, although we signed him in the later stages of his career he is one of the most naturally gifted batsmen I have ever seen.
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