Hello, Bermuda: an exciting year awaits
The Royal Gazette is proud to announce the beginning of a new weekly column authored by Bermuda’s premier cricketer, Delray Rawlins, the 24-year-old all-rounder who plays professionally for Sussex County Cricket Club in England and for Southern Brave, the inaugural winners of The Hundred, a 100-balls-a-side competition that was launched in 2021
Hello, Bermuda. This is an exciting time in my career and I am glad to be in position to engage with you on a regular basis talking cricket. I hope this initiative can be mutually beneficial in bridging the gap of understanding for what it is to be a professional cricketer from my point of view while helping me to grow and learn.
This is a big season for me, as it is the last year of my existing contract at Sussex. The pre-season has been pretty good. I managed to get some good work in at the back end of last season, actually, leading into November time and then was home in Bermuda for a bit. But then I came back and hit the ground running with new batting coach Grant Flower, the former Zimbabwe player who is also batting coach for Sri Lanka. I worked really hard on my batting and it has built up nicely ahead of the season-opener today against Nottinghamshire.
We have a fresh-faced team at Sussex after a few notable departures in Chris Jordan (Surrey), Phil Salt (Lancashire) and former captain Ben Brown (Hampshire), but have some exciting signings in former England fast bowler Steve Finn, Pakistan vice-captain Mohammad Rizwan and India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara.
We have a lot of young players, including myself — I'm still fairly young in terms of the cricketing world. It’s going to be fun, I think, because working with a new group, getting to learn about each other, there’s a chance to do something exciting against a few pretty good teams in our division in white-ball cricket especially. Obviously, we lost a couple of senior players and big parts to our white-ball squad as well, but that just opens up places for other people to come in and hopefully shine. I’m looking forward to it and will probably have a little bit more responsibility myself, which is quite nice. I’ll be going out to enjoy my cricket.
If you look at Rizwan, at the moment he is probably up there as one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen in the world, so it will be exciting to play alongside him and see how he goes about it. Obviously, Pujara as well. His record and numbers speak for themselves, and hopefully he brings some runs to us at No 3 and we can learn from him. Finny’s settling in really well. He’s worked hard with bowling coach James Kirtley over the winter and in the couple of pre-season outings that he’s had. He’s ready to go, and I think everyone’s just at that stage now where it’s just about topping up and being ready to go when Notts come down.
Personally, I will be looking to rebound from a pretty lean 2021. It wasn’t ideal having that sort of season, but I think you probably learn a lot more having those type of seasons than you do having big ones. You learn more about your game, obviously, and you learn where you are mentally as well. I’ve put that behind me and am looking forward to going again this year, tweaking a few things and working out a few other things. I’m pretty excited to put them into a match.
There is also The Hundred coming up in August. Last year we had a squad full of big names, a lot of really skilful cricketers, and I think once we got our method right we showed that there weren’t many teams that could beat us. I think the challenge will be for the boys to back it up this year. That was an exciting tournament and an exciting thing to be a part of as, obviously, it was the first one. To be involved in the winning team was great. But on a whole, the way it was run and everything around it was top-class. It makes you look forward to the next one.
Even though I was with familiar players from Sussex, the Brave squad had faces from other counties and also some big overseas names. Being able to watch how they go about their work and listen to how they understood the cricket and what they were thinking at particular times was eye-opening. With the two signings we made at Sussex, it will probably be a similar feeling to the big international stars at The Hundred. Hopefully, the experience being around them is something that I can learn from, as well as the other players, and absorb as much information so that you can take on what you need and implement it into your game.
Many of us here at Sussex have grown up together. It’s nice to have those familiar faces you played age-group cricket with and you’ve always been around for the last few years in the academy or playing second team together. That is something that helps you in tough times when you're grafting away together on the field. To feel as though I’m on the senior side of a youngster at 24 can be a good thing for me, give me a little bit of responsibility and only improve my cricket.
My bowling is definitely getting better and better every day. It’s just a case of doing it in the middle. I worked hard in the winter and put in two pretty decent starts in the two warm-up games that we played against Surrey and Durham UCCE. But it’s about results when it counts and turning that into something to potentially try to help my team win come the first game against Notts.
I’ll close on Bermuda because we do have unfinished business this summer in the second leg of the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League B in Uganda, which has been postponed several times because of the global pandemic. That’s in June and then the third leg is in Jersey at the end of July and early August. I haven’t really put a lot of thought into whether or not I’ll be involved — I don’t think anyone has, really. For the past few years I’ve been playing for Bermuda and anytime you get out and play for your country is special, but I haven’t got there yet, so we’ll just wait and see.
We gave it a good go in our last international commitment, in Antigua for the ICC T20 World Cup Americas Qualifier last November, but I felt it was a case where we were underprepared. We hadn’t had any cricket the past two years compared to what Canada and United States have played, but I thought we gave a good account of ourselves all things considered. It’s something that should set us up for these couple of tournaments coming up in the summer.
• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith