Rawlins happy to inspire next generation
At just 21, Delray Rawlins can be forgiven for not giving a second thought about the path he has carved by becoming the first locally produced talent to play English county cricket.
Regarded as one of Sussex’s brightest prospects, especially in the short format of the game, it is not too far of a stretch to imagine Rawlins doing for Bermudian cricket what Nahki Wells has done for football, certainly in terms inspiring the next generation.
It is a flattering comparison, Rawlins admits, when this scenario is put to him, although he says he has much to achieve before he can be comfortable with any sporting comparisons to the Queens Park Rangers striker.
“When you sit back and think about it like that, it’s pretty cool,” said Rawlins, who teamed up with Clay Smith, the former Bermuda coach, to deliver a camp over two weekends at Whitney Institute this month.
“Being so young, I don’t think about those sort of things. I’m still a kid myself; I’m still growing and learning. It’s cool to know I’ve helped put [Bermudian cricket] on the map and hopefully the children coming through can kick on.”
Unlike David Hemp, the island’s only other county player, who played with distinction for Glamorgan and Warwickshire, Rawlins’s cricketing roots are deeply planted on the island.
He made his first Bermuda appearance at 15, his Cup Match debut for St George’s at 16 before captaining the national under-19 side, and modelled himself on countrymen such as Dean Minors and Stephen Outerbridge while growing up.
“When I was young, I remember the national team qualifying for the World Cup [in 2007 in the Caribbean] when they were playing in [ICC World Cricket League] Division One,” said the former Bailey’s Bay player.
“Those players used to go around the schools and when they came to mine, I used to really enjoy that. It’s something I really looked forward to.
“I looked up to Dean Minors; he was left-handed like me and liked to strike the ball. I liked to watch Clay, too. He was a classy player and I liked the way he went about his work.”
Described as a “little superstar” by Luke Wright, the Sussex Twenty20 captain, Rawlins has largely been used in the fast-paced format, which suits his destructive hitting and creative stroke play.
He balks at being labelled as a “one-day specialist”, however, and believes he can thrive in all three forms.
“I wouldn’t want to limit myself to one or two formats,” he said. “My main goal is to try and solidify a spot in all three formats [for Sussex].
“I played T20s this year and did reasonably well. I think I can force my way into the 50-over team after some of the performances I put in during the back end of last summer in the T20.
“I’m still working on my red-ball game and it would be nice to get in and play that as well.
“Consistency is the most important part. If you’re not doing it day in, day out you will struggle to keep a spot in the team.”
Indeed, inconsistency has checked Rawlins’s meteoric rise after a scintillating tour to India with England Under-19 in 2017, which featured future Test players Ollie Pope, of England, and Indian sensation Prithvi Shaw.
Rawlins finished the five-match Youth One-Day International series, which India won 3-1, as England’s best batsman with 275 runs at an average of 68.75, including a top score of 107. His form at Sussex, has been variable in contrast, although he hopes to work his way back into the England picture, at the senior level, in the not-too-distant future.
“Every player in county cricket aims to kick on and play for England,” he added. “If that opportunity came about, I’d definitely grab it with both hands.
“The only way I can get there is by performing at the county level. I just want to help win games for Sussex and then, I suppose, the England stuff will take care of itself.”
Although Rawlins’s future prospects are heavily tilted towards bat than ball, he maintains he has plenty to offer with his slow left-arm of which he initially made his name as a teenager in Bermuda. The fact he was chosen by the England and Wales Cricket Board to attend a spin-bowling camp put on by former Australia leg spinner Stuart MacGill in Brisbane last year suggests he is not alone in that belief.
“The idea of me going on that camp to Australia was to help my bowling kick on,” Rawlins said. “Working with Stuart MacGill was exciting and I learnt a lot about bowling on flat wickets over there.
“That’s a part of my game that I want to keep improving. It’s another way for me to get in the team.”
Much like his footballing counterpart Wells, Rawlins has been seen sparingly in Bermuda colours in recent years, his last appearance coming at the WCL Division Four tournament in Los Angeles in November 2016.
“It would be nice to play for Bermuda again, the country of my birth and where it all started,” Rawlins said.
“It would be nice to play if it doesn’t get in the way of any England set-ups or things with Sussex. It’s not something I think a lot about. I’d think about it if the time comes around and I’m available and everything’s right.”