For Tom Smith, perhaps more than any other player at the club, the new This is my Lancashire' campaign is particularly relevant given the way that the new 2009 season has started to unfold for him.
Not only is it about linking the players and coaching staff with their local area, but it is also about re-visiting their early life in cricket.
So when the 23 year-old got the call from new coach Peter Moores to open the batting in both one-day cricket and four-day cricket, it got Tom thinking about his previous experiences within the game.
He explains: “I opened all the way through junior cricket up to about the age of 17 when I became a bowler and dropped down the order. Now I am back opening again, so it has come around full circle for me. I grew up as a kid opening in all forms of cricket, wherever I played. As I got older, my bowling seemed to take over. I then dropped down the order a little bit. I enjoyed opening then, and I am definitely enjoying it now.”
It all began in leafy Withnell Fold, the area where Tom still calls home, progressed through secondary school, to local club Chorley, and even more recently to St Kilda, the Melbourne club where he spent the most recent winter.
His first taste of opening the batting came at Durham University in the recent three-day friendly. He was asked to face the new ball in the second team, and scored an unbeaten century.
“I was surprised when I got the call to do it, more in the one-day game than the four-day game,” continued Smudger. “It’s good to open the batting in one-day games. Once you get yourself in, find the areas to score, you can look to be positive. I have enjoyed that, and hopefully I can carry that form on in the rest of the games. I perhaps didn’t go quite so well at Sussex (in the County Championship), but I would look forward to another chance or two if that is possible.”
Tom hit 66 in the opening Friends Provident Trophy win against Glamorgan Dragons, 28 against the Northants Steelbacks at Wantage Road, 59 at Derby against the Phantoms and followed with a career-best 87 in the return fixture against Glamorgan at Cardiff this week.
The former England National Academy starlet, who spent a brief time on loan at Leicestershire last year before coming back to say that he has never dreamt about playing anywhere else other than Lancashire, says he can’t remember his first brush with the game of cricket. But he is pretty confident that it will have been in Withnell Fold, a small village near Chorley.
He said: “I can’t remember to be honest with you. It was probably picking up a bat in the back yard, having a hit with my dad or mum or brother. I was born in Liverpool, but I didn’t stay there. I have lived my whole life in Withnell Fold, I have spent 23 years there. It will always be a place that I have fond memories of. It is home for me. I started playing my cricket there, I have grown up there.
“There is a lot of cricketing culture around the area, a lot of strong leagues. I have played for Chorley, who have a strong team and youth system. Wherever you grow up, you always want to play for your local team.”
If Smith makes a success of his new role, no doubt he will look back on the “sticky” wickets of Withnell Fold with even fonder memories than he has now.
Photos of Tom at Withnell Fold village by Phil Garlington