The ‘Bravo’ is an annual award presented to the person who the writers of the Incider believe made the biggest and most positive impact on Somerset County Cricket for the previous calendar year. This award could be handed to a player, the Director of Cricket, a member of the coaching or physical development teams, a member of the board or a person who sell scorecards at the ground! It is an open forum where the perceived most deserving cause will be recognised for their efforts.
The winner of Bravo 2014 is young all-rounder Lewis Gregory who enjoyed a fabulous season, one in which he really started to produce consistently impressive performances with the ball as he claimed 43 wickets at 26.06 apiece in just nine Championship games. But for injury he would have added significantly to this tally. He also averaged just below 30 with the bat.
His undoubted highlights included an 11-wicket match at Northampton and hitting a magnificent century against Durham in the Royal London Bank in just 70-balls.
Lewis was also the winner of the The Incider’s first ever player of the month award voted by readers back in April, and he repeated this feat in July too.
So how would the 22 year-old, who hails from Plymouth in Devon, best describe his season?
“For personal reasons it was really good. I built on from the previous year with the red ball and showed what I can do as a bowler and it was nice in red ball and white ball cricket to show what I can do with the bat. So, yes, from a personal level I am very happy with how the season went.”
And if pressed to choose one outstanding achievement, would the young man opt for a batting or bowling performance from the season?
“It’s hard to pick one but for me and where I want to go with my career the hundred in the 50-over competition was great as it showed everyone what I am capable of and hopefully it is something I will be doing regularly in the future.”
In many – well most – other counties Lewis would certainly be batting higher up the order. Considering his ambitions as a batter does batting so far down the order at Somerset frustrate?
“It does. Obviously I have had opportunities at the top of the order and not really taken them so, it is what it is, I am getting in the team as a bowler that can bat so I have to just keep on performing and work my way up the order.”
2013 had been a strange one for Lewis, one he entered with much hope but endured a difficult start suffering from injuries and loss of form and was out of the first team picture. But it is not how you fall but how you pick yourself up that matters and Lewis responded by heading back to his league club in Devon to get some games under his belt and played Minor Counties for his home county before returning to Taunton to finish the season is style. His fivefer in a victory for Somerset at Lords was instrumental in the cider county retaining their top tier status and was a firm reminder that the young Gregory was back in form. So do such spells of disappointment serve as an inspiration or stark reminder that these things can happen in professional sport?
“It is all about having that experience to look back on. I know now that should I have a poor run of form and get into a rut that a good run is only around the corner, a couple of good performances and you can kick on from there. So it is an encouraging thing to know that you just have to keep working hard and runs and wickets are not far away. That is something that every young cricketer has to understand. That experience will help me improve as a player. ”
And his ambitions for the forthcoming season individually and as a team?
“Pretty much the same as last and kick on. Play it simple – put the ball in good areas and hit it hard. As a team we just want to put in good performances and get some wins on the board so we are close to winning a trophy.
Everyone wants us to win the Championship but, personally, I would take any trophy right now.”
The domestic season may be short but a lot of cricket is played in such a short time and there is no doubt that Lewis has suffered more than his fair share of injuries. New Director of Cricket, Matt Maynard, has expressed a desire to rotate his young fast bowlers to keep them fit and fresh so is this a move that Lewis considers to be a positive thing?
“As a player you want to play every game and as many as possible but I think the squad dynamics and who we have got around the club then it (squad rotation) could work very well in as much as you’re not playing guys until they snap. You keep everyone fresh and hopefully we have a full squad to pick from at the end of the summer when you are in the mix. I think that is what you want and need if you are going to win trophies. It’s not what happens at the start of the season necessarily it is at the end that counts.”
Many Somerset supporters were surprised Lewis did not receive international recognition in 2014 but he has finally been rewarded with a place in Potential England Performance Programme (PEPP) and is currently in Potchefstroom in South Africa with five other young fast bowlers, including Somerset team- mate Jamie Overton, Matthew Hobden (Sussex), Craig Miles (Gloucestershire), Middlesex’s Harry Podmore and Olly Stone (Northamptonshire). Lewis will spend 18 days training under the guidance of PEPP Head Coach, Neil Killeen.
The PEPP players – who have an average age of 21 – have been selected for the programme by England Performance Programme (EPP) Lead Fast Bowling Coach, Kevin Shine, a former Somerset player and coach.
In previous interviews Lewis felt he was not ready for the step up but does it feel right now?
“Yes definitely. For me it has been a good year and good for me to get into a programme, work hard and kick on.”
Somerset has a large and very passionate fan base and the atmosphere at Taunton is often described as unique in the county circuit. Does playing in front of such passionate fans drive a player forward or can the hopes and expectations act as a burden?
“Yes and no. It is a huge honour and privilege to play in front of such passionate fans at Taunton. There are not many other counties or grounds that compare in that the supporters love the game and love their team that much. 2,000 to 3,000 fans for the first day of a Championship game – you don’t see that much around the country!
It does come with a little bit of pressure, obviously you want to win for them. The players do try as hard as we can but we do see things on social media that questions our desire and abilities sometimes. But it is always a great honour to play for those fans.”
And a message for the Cider Army?
“We are trying our hardest to win games and trophies so thanks to all the fans for their support and let’s keep it going and hope there are trophies around the corner.”
Congratulations to Lewis on the well-deserved award. I am sure all Somerset fans wish Lewis well in South Africa and hope he comes back to the West Country fit and raring to go as we head into another season. One that we hope is successful all round.