Every team has one. A name that is first on the teamsheet, a player that the fans love and a player that never gets the recognition at a higher level that he deserves. Somerset are lucky, they have more than one but Michael Vaughan’s recent comments on BBC 5 Live focussed my mind on our very own Lewis Gregory.
Vaughan was talking about the England seam attack and in particular Broad and Anderson and their inability to use the new ball at Lords last week. Lewis Gregory would have been ideal to use those conditions to their maximum and I know all Somerset fans would agree with me when I say he wouldn’t have let England down.
Let me say at the outset this is not to dismiss the other members of our current squad in any way. but I just wanted to take the time to think about how lucky we are to have Lewis at Somerset. And hopefully to remind him how highly we value him.
There’s a bit of personal investment here as well. I’ve had a fondness for Gregory as a cricketer since he made his debut. There is something gloriously old-fashioned (in the most complimentary way) about him. Something that, to me makes him feel one of us.
I was driving into London on Sunday 22nd April listening to Anthony Gibson’s commentary from Taunton when he mentioned Lewis being out of contract at the end of the season and rumours that were circulating. That really hit me hard. I couldn’t believe that Lewis was contemplating leaving, couldn’t believe that Andy Hurry and Jason Kerr weren’t doing everything they could to keep Lewis at the CACG.
I’m hoping the silence since then is an indication that things are moving in the right way as far as all Somerset fans are concerned. Consider for a moment how successful the county has been in developing young talent, look through the players who have made an appearance for the first XI this season and you’ll see a long list of homegrown players, a list that is even more impressive given our relative size compared to many of the other counties.
It is great to be developing such a pipeline of talent but it is equally important to ensure we retain and cherish that talent when it reaches the first team. Lewis’ retention by Somerset is, to me a bit of a litmus test for the county.
Now think back to late in the 2010 season, early in 2011 when Lewis was first breaking into the Somerset side. This was at a time when the set up we know now was being established by Andy Nash, Brian Rose et al and Lewis was in many ways the trailblazer. As a result it might be easy to take him for granted, to not appreciate what he does week in week out.
I don’t think it an overstatement to say that he is a vital cog in all three formats of the game, a genuine all-rounder capable of devastating red ball spells, match-winning white ball frugality and crucial batting contributions in a variety of situations.
Don’t forget that he was considered good enough to be on the fringes of England one-day selection in early 2015. And while it is true that the subsequent call-up hasn’t followed and injuries have hampered his bowling he still remains in my eyes someone who should be spoken of in the same breath as James Hildreth when it comes to England recognition.
Tactically astute he has demonstrated both on and off the field he has what it takes to run the T20 side and deputise in the other formats for Tom Abell. I was lucky enough to be at Scarborough last season to see his leadership in action and it was highly impressive. He managed the bowlers very well, got the best out of an almost unplayable Craig Overton and set very shrewd fields to set up what proved to be a pivotal win in early July.
With England’s continuing poor performances prompting much debate about both the national team and the quality of the county championship Lewis is a shining example of professionalism that England would do well to embrace.
I mentioned in a blog post last week that I thought several of the Division One sides could give the current England team a beating. Some may say given the parlous state of the current test side but let’s go with it and tweak the parameters a little – pick a Division 1 XI of players uncapped by England and I would wager the vast majority of us would include Lewis, he really is of that good.
Some have levelled the accusation that he lacks pace to succeed at the highest level I believe this is utter nonsense, it is not all about pace at the highest level but intelligence, control and consistency, and Lewis has these in spades.
You only have to watch the video post Kent on Tuesday night to see how much the defeat hurt. It was in his eyes and his body language. That’s the sort of passion and love for our county we need to harness if we are to achieve the holy grail of a first championship this season or in the near future.
I have this image in my head, Lewis Gregory steaming in on an early evening in September in Taunton to take the last Surrey wicket to clinch a victory and confirm that first county championship. Can you think of anyone more deserving to bowl that ball?