It is always about wanting to play where you grow up, said Lancashire batsman Karl Brown recently, reflecting on his journey to the Red Rose county's first team.
“Playing for Atherton was all I ever wanted to do when I was young.”
The 20 year-old from Atherton, a club who play in the Bolton Association, has spent many a happy day batting on the Higham Park ground: “It is a very good wicket when we have good weather. I can say that because I scored quite a few runs there,” he continued.
Having been awarded his first professional contract at Old Trafford by fellow Boltonian Mike Watkinson in 2006, Brown has been around the county set up for a few years now.
But as he prepares for the 2009 campaign, knowing full well that this will be his most active so far, he took a break to reflect on his earliest memories of league cricket with his hometown club.
“The first game I was ever going to play got rained off, so I was absolutely devastated,” he revealed. “That was going to be for Atherton under 11’s when I was seven years old. I can remember nearly crying. That is probably as early a memory as I have. I loved cricket before that, but I can tell you that I didn’t enjoy that game getting rained off.
“When I first got involved in senior cricket at Atherton, I got brought into it in a great way really. There were a lot of people who helped me out. I really, really enjoyed my time at Atherton. If you ask anyone, you always want to play for your local team. When you grow up and watch Lancashire, you want to play for them too. I suppose you have always got to have England in the back of your mind, but for the time being I just want to get into the Lancashire first team.”
Brown moved through the age groups with Lancashire, onto the Academy, into the second team and finally the first team squad, where he is as we speak today. The right-handed stroke player has also represented England under 19’s.
He was called into the Red Rose first team last summer, and became a fixture in the last four LV County Championship matches of 2008. Karl hit 40 in the crucial victory against Kent at Liverpool, which went a long way to helping the county avoid relegation, while he also notched 41 in a televised Pro40 League win against Nottinghamshire.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better last year,” he continued. “I wasn’t expecting to play much cricket in the first team, but to come in at the stage of the season when we could have got relegated, and then to help us stay up, was just brilliant.”
Brown is hopeful of more opportunities this season: “I don’t think much has changed personally,” he said after reflecting on “great” pre-season, which has involved a tour with Lancs to the UAE and a two-month spell in Adelaide at Darren Lehmann’s Academy.
“I just think it is down to a different coach, a change of opinions. Hopefully I will get as many opportunities as I did last year. If I do I will try to continue from there, if I don’t I will keep trying hard to get back to where I was.”
He mentioned earlier that his first memory of cricket was crying when a game was rained off. It begs the question; what is he like now when the rain tumbles down at Old Trafford?
He chuckled: “I can’t say I cry anymore, but we aren’t shy of getting a game rained off here are we? It is part and parcel of cricket, but you have got to deal with it.”
Photo of Karl at Atherton Cricket Club by Phil Garlington
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd