Former greenkeeper making up for lost time

MAN IN THE MIDDLE John Owen (Derbyshire)
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Having seen him compile two accomplished centuries in a week, Derbyshire have every right to be proud of a 24-year-old batsman "discovered" in the local county league. But if their self-congratulations have been muted, perhaps there is good reason - they had him along for trials seven years ago but turned him away.

Owen, who followed his maiden first-class hundred against Yorkshire with another at the expense of Glamorgan's bowlers in Cardiff, played 2nd XI cricket for Derbyshire as a 17-year-old but failed to win a contract and concluded that his dream of a career in the game was not to be.

"I thought I had a chance of a YTS contract but I did not get it and I more or less gave up on the idea of playing cricket for a living," he said. "A few people said I ought to write to other counties but in the end I didn't bother."

Instead, he applied for a job as a greenkeeper, gained the necessary qualifications at college and settled into a new career at Breadsall Priory Golf Club.

Meanwhile he continued to play cricket for Spondon, in the Derbyshire League, where his father played and, when the county decided to start exploring their own patch for new talent, they spotted Owen again. This time, 12 months ago, he did get a one-year contract.

Not that the road to this week's double celebration has been smooth. Last season, his maiden half-century came at the cost of a broken hand, inflicted by Leicestershire's Alan Mullally, which left him on the sidelines for seven weeks. After that he needed 12 stitches in a leg wound after colliding with a bench at Bedford. Then there was a dislocated finger and five stitches in another hand injury. None of which was particularly helpful to a player trying to prove himself.

"Fortunately, between the broken hand and doing my leg I managed to get 65 and 45 against Australia A," he said. "I'd been given plenty of encouragement, so I would have been disappointed if they had not given me an extension."

Now he is looking to make up for lost time with more hundreds. "Hopefully I'll get a run in the side now and if I can get 1,000 runs for the season I'll be well pleased."