This is Leicestershire - part 6

Former Leicestershire CCC seamer Ryan Cummins feels that it is no surprise to see Paul Nixon and John Sadler carving out successful careers in coaching.

Cummins played alongside the left-handed duo during his time with the Foxes and said that they played a big part in his career.

As well as passing on considerable cricket expertise, Cummins shared some anecdotes to show the importance of both players when it came to the team spirit in the dressing room.

He said: “Nico [Paul Nixon] is an absolute legend as we all know, he is a really strong character, always had a lot of theories and shared them with us.

“There were lots of good characters, such as Robbo [Darren Robinson], Snapper [Jeremy Snape], and so on. They offered great insights and it was brilliant for those who were forming our professional careers.

“It did not shock me at all to see Nico stay in the game, and Sads [John Sadler] is also a strong character. Him and Johnny [John] Maunders, who I still see regularly in London, were two very good men who enjoyed playing a few pranks now and again!

“I remember the T20 Final (in 2006) when Sads had took a whack on the nose in the nets and it came up big time. Poor Sads had his nose spread across his face. It was the time where players had a mic, and Sads was our man on the mic.

“He actually had a joke with Nasser Hussain about his nose still not being as big as Nasser’s, and rolling with the punches and having a laugh was a key part of the spirit in our dressing room. Sads has matured into a role outside of cricket and is doing really well.”

Cummins arrived at the Fischer County Ground after combining a successful cricket career with studying at Loughborough University.

Although Cummins was born in Sutton in South London, making Surrey CCC his county of birth, Leicestershire CCC became his second home.

Working with Phil DeFreitas, who is now back at the club following the successful partnership with Uptonsteel, was a big attraction for Cummins. It is little surprise that Nixon has brought DeFreitas back into the fold at the Fischer County Ground to work with Head Bowling Coach Matt Mason.

He said: “It’s always a challenge at the start when you play university cricket, as your early first-class cricket is against strong first-class counties at the start of the season and they are all keen to get some form. You’re playing in a younger side and just trying to compete to be honest.

“My first-class career started while at Loughborough University, I was studying geography and got a great cricketing education off the late Graham Dilley. I did well in my final year and had a number of contract offers, including Surrey, where I was born.

“I think that Surrey thought that I’d sign for them as I had played age groups, but I was a late developer in both size and stature. James Whitaker and Phil DeFreitas were coach and captain at the time, and they came to see me. I was offered a contract, and I thought it would be a great chance for me to try to break into a first-class side and learn from someone like Daffy [Phil DeFreitas].

“We had good coaches and Daffy was a hero of mine, he spent a lot of time with me in the nets and gym, and we also played golf together. We had big characters like Darren Maddy and Ottis Gibson, but it was Daffy that took me under his wing. I can honestly say that if I had the same options again, I would take the same route.”

Whereas Cummins was playing with fellow students in the first part of his career, he was soon immersed in a changing room full of experience at Leicestershire CCC. It was a lot different to his days playing at university, and something that Cummins appreciates to this day.

“When I played for Leicestershire, we were an experienced side with players like Nico,” he said. “I was very lucky to start my county career in a side that had proven performers in Daffy, Gibbo [Ottis Gibson], Dave Masters and others who went on to have a good career, and Broady [Stuart Broad], who was just starting out. Having players of that calibre meant that we had some good finishes in the table.

“Coaches such as James Whitaker, Tim Boon, Phil Whitticase and Lloyd Tennant were experienced and helped a lot, but to play with people who were still doing it and still playing, having a beer after play, working with little nuances of the game with Daffy like wrist position when swinging the ball, was so valuable.

“We had HD [Ackerman] who would score 2,000 runs a year in all competitions and simplified the game. He offered a lot of good advice. He kept the game very simple in his head and did what was best in any given situation.”

Unfortunately for Cummins, his dream of a long career in county cricket did not materialise due to a serious back problem which meant that he had to look in another direction in 2009.

After a cricketing career in which numbers and targets are around you whichever way you look, Cummins now helps others to fulfil their goals in an exciting media advertising role based closer to where he grew up.

At first glance, sending a ball towards somebody 22 yards away does not immediately relate to putting together campaigns that catch an audience’s imagination like big companies try to do at Christmas, but Cummins said that you’d be surprised at the crossover.

“I left Leicestershire and had issues with my back, I then went to Northants and it didn’t quite work out,” he said. “Whenever I tried to bowl flat out, I couldn’t because of the pain. There was a one-day game against Derbyshire where I couldn’t finish my spell.

“It turned out that I had a double stress fracture in my back, and to play again I would need a major operation and a metal rod put in. I thought ‘okay, maybe it’s possible, how many people have done this?’ and found out that nobody had the operation and came back playing. That was the reality back in 2009 and I decided it was right to call it a day.

“I have been working in media advertising in the South Bank, London ever since. I’m not saving lives by any stretch of the imagination, but I have found a career that I enjoy, building advertising campaigns for clients like Nissan, the FA and Marston’s.

“It’s very client focussed and all about building relationships, which is something I enjoy. I got married in December, and come back to the area now and again. My sister is married to Rob White, the former Northants player who is now an umpire and lives in Northampton, so I come to the Midlands now and again.

“I do miss the banter of the changing room, there’s no doubt about that, but life’s very good and I am falling back on a lot of skills that I learned in cricket. I will definitely pop back and say hello at some point, it will be good to see Nico, Sads, Elaine [Pickering] and people I knew from my time at the club.”

* We hope that you're enjoying the 'This is Leicestershire' series, stay tuned for more installments in 2019. Happy New Year!