I used to disassemble valve sets - now I'm a pro cricketer ... and it's great

Will Sheffield signs his first pro contract earlier this year / Picture: Sussex Cricket
Will Sheffield signs his first pro contract earlier this year / Picture: Sussex Cricket

It’s been tough having my first season as a pro dominated by injury, Sussex Cricket first-year pro writes Will Sheffield,

You’re signed to play cricket and all I want to do is wear the Sussex shirt, get out on the pitch with the lads and contribute for the team. Unfortunately that won’t happen this year, but it has only increased my hunger and brought into focus for me how much I want to play cricket.

I’ve grown up watching some of the squad play and coming into a dressing room that has players in it you’ve idolised from a young age is quite surreal.

I used to come and watch T20s and see people like Tymal – a fellow left-armer – and just think ‘wow’. Now you’re on the same level as them in terms of being a professional and it’s really nice to know that all the hard work you put in through age-group cricket has paid off. Getting the job you’ve known you’ve always wanted is brilliant.

Once you’ve signed, you’re straight in at the deep end. You find your space in the dressing room and there’s a big box of kit waiting for you and then it’s on with the job. There’s not much building into it, that’s what the Academy is for.

I actually got most of my kit before I signed my contract. I was going on the squad’s pre-season tour to South Africa and I realised the Academy kit I’d been given as a 17-year-old was getting a bit snug since I’d grown quite a bit in the year since then, so I had to go and ask Keith [Greenfield, Sussex director of cricket] if he could sort me with some that was a bit bigger.

It was on the last day of that tour that I found out I was going to be offered a contract. I had rolled my ankle in a warm-up and had to go to hospital to get it x-rayed. Grubby came with me and said, “you look like you need a bit of cheering up” and then told me I was getting signed as a pro for this year. It was bittersweet with the injury, but still a great feeling.

When it was announced I signed, I got loads of nice messages from the squad. They’ve been great and the dressing room is a really good place to be. Thankfully there hasn’t been any initiation yet, but maybe they’ve got something up their sleeves for when I make my debut.

The Sussex pathway, but also the cricket programme at the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy where I did my sixth-form studies, were really useful in preparing me for professional cricket.

When I was at secondary school, I wasn’t part of any set up apart from my club, Buxted Park CC then and now Mayfield CC, but having training every day with Aldridge or Sussex was a massive help for me. Knowing I could come in in the afternoon and work with the coaches on whatever I needed to was a big help for my game but also gave an idea of the commitment required to make it as a professional.

The biggest change for me now I’m professional is having time to fill after training. Even on a full day, with training, gym and stuff with the physios, I’ll only be in the ground for five hours at the most. You do find yourself wondering what to do with yourself sometimes, although golf and drinking coffee in cafes seem to do the job.

Before, I was balancing my cricket with school and then work. I was disassembling valve sets for sprinklers in buildings when I got my pro contract.

Luckily my boss – a guy called James Goddard – was a big cricket fan and very understanding, so I didn’t have to work a notice period or anything. He also said I could come back and work for him if I ever wanted to, which was very kind. If my injury rehab all goes to plan, hopefully it will be a while before I need to take him up on that offer.

Read exclusive Sussex player columns on this website throughout the season