Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Sports > Toby Pettman OT (WW 11-16), currently with Nottinghamshire CCC, features in The Cricketer

Toby Pettman OT (WW 11-16), currently with Nottinghamshire CCC, features in The Cricketer

Toby Pettman is a lesson in the value of university cricket
22 Apr 2022
Sports

Featured

Cricket

Paul Edwards writes in The Cricketer: The Nottinghamshire bowler, an Oxford graduate, is yet to make a first-team appearance but believes professional cricket wouldn't even have been a "pipe-dream" without the opportunities provided for late bloomers in the MCCU system.

Some people wondered where Stuart Broad was last week. Toby Pettman could have helped them out a little with that one.

Although the England bowler was not playing for Nottinghamshire in the match against Sussex, he was present at Hove for some of the Championship game and on the first afternoon he took Pettman into the nets to give him a master-class on bowling round the wicket to left-handed batsmen.

That might have been one of the few occasions when Broad has worked with a bowler taller than he is. Pettman measures 6ft 7ins; extracting bounce, even from deceased pitches, is rarely an issue.

"Master-class" in this case is no shop-worn journalistic cliché. Those who recall Broad bowling to David Warner in the last home Ashes series are unlikely to doubt his status and there might have been a moment or two during their tutorial when his 23-year-old pupil could not credit his luck.

Then again, Pettman had also been present on the boundary at a deserted Trent Bridge almost exactly a year ago when he watched Broad bowling in the opening games of last season. "Watching on TV you just don't appreciate the pace at which he bowls, the energy he puts on the ball or the accuracy he achieves," he said.          

Pettman is in the middle of his second one-year contract with Nottinghamshire. Educated at Tonbridge, he won a place to read Classics at Jesus College, Oxford. He was awarded a First in Mods, the intermediate exams taken after five terms, and then another in his Finals at the end of the four-year course. He was three days away from starting a job in a data analytics consultancy firm in the early autumn of 2020 when Peter Moores rang and offered him his first professional contract at Trent Bridge.

There were no guarantees there’d be another. He signed. "I was really lucky they saw something in me but it was really a little bit of a leap of faith on his part," he said. "I think the fact that I had good university stats was vitally important."

Cricket has always been an important part of Pettman's life. He played for Sussex's junior teams as an opening batsman but it was not until adolescence that his bowling became a major asset and he was 18 before the keeper stood back to him.

"I was a decent schoolboy cricketer but no more," he said. "Zak Crawley and Marcus O'Riordan, both of whom are at Kent, were miles ahead of me. When I arrived at Oxford my only objective was to maybe get a Blue."

Well, he managed to bag four Blues but Pettman's cricketing commitments had to be balanced with work. The era in which good chaps were admitted to the university on the strength of their potential on a playing field is long gone and anyone wanting to play sport seriously needs to be skilled in time management. (It is not bad training for later life.)

"Watching on TV you just don't appreciate the pace at which he bowls, the energy he puts on the ball or the accuracy he achieves"

Toby Pettman on Stuart Broad

Pettman won his place at Oxford because he was bloody good at Classics and his class of degree reflects the seriousness with which he approached his studies. But there was also an opportunity to play for what was then the MCCU team, which was composed of Oxford University and Oxford Brookes students, and to train very hard for the games against counties and other universities. Pettman took his chance and it brought him into contact with the MCCU's Graham Charlesworth, the coach he credits with having the biggest influence on his career.

"Without the MCCU scheme, being a first-class cricketer wouldn't even be a pipe-dream for me," he said. "The scheme allowed me to train harder than I ever had, to bowl three times a week and to have coaching sessions with Graham, all while not sacrificing my work. And the most important thing of all is that it gave me a chance to test myself against the professionals.

"And there are quite a few cricketers who've come from universities. We've signed Calvin Harrison, who was in the Oxford MCCU side with me, and Matthew Montgomery, who is a current Loughborough student. If you don't have a scheme like the MCCU, the only way in is through academies, and people like me get left out of academies because we are late bloomers.”

David Graveney, the ECB official responsible for the game in schools and universities, should take careful note. MCC's decision to sponsor the game at universities was one of the wisest the club has ever made; its decision to withdraw from the scheme was one of its dumbest.

By no means all the cricketers who benefitted from MCC's generosity have made it in the county game; Pettman has yet to play a first-class match for Nottinghamshire. But very many have done so, and many others now do priceless work at their clubs or with the age-group sides at their counties. Some simply administer cricket; we need them, too.

But even when he was bowling well for Oxford, Pettman never seriously envisaged that a first-class county might be interested in him.

"I captained the MCCU side in 2019 and then there was a universities' trial at Loughborough," he said. "I wasn't going to go because I was focused on a getting a good degree but Graham convinced me to do so.

"Kevin Shine and Paul Franks were there from Notts and they knew my numbers, which were looking quite good at that stage. But to be honest I just wanted to see what Loughborough was like because I hadn't bowled there before.

"Without the MCCU scheme, being a first-class cricketer wouldn't even be a pipe-dream for me. The scheme allowed me to train harder than I ever had while not sacrificing my work"

"Anyway Kevin and Paul asked me to come and bowl a couple of times in the nets during the winter and later to come up once a week from Oxford when possible. Then Covid hit and everything went quiet. I played one second-team game right at the end of the 2020 season. But Kevin had taken lots of videos of my action and reckoned he could do something with that."

The phone-call from Peter Moores followed and suddenly Pettman was a professional county cricketer. His training has since been organised into three six-week blocks during the close season and it is very hard. He is enjoying more or less every minute of it.

"I've gone from working my butt off at Oxford and not being able to play or train as much as I might have liked," he said. "It's lovely to be able to focus exclusively on my cricket. I played entirely in the second team last year but that was what I was expecting to do and it was a good year. I finished with three consecutive five-wicket returns for the second team and was knocking on the door for the first team.

"I hope to start this year where I left off but it's going to be very difficult because we have such a good attack and then two overseas bowlers coming in shortly. But if I improve on the level I found last season, things will sort themselves out.

"I've improved in almost every aspect but the thing that strikes you at Trent Bridge is that the standard is so high. You realise the level of accuracy, consistency and skill you need in order to be successful at this level. I thought I was a consistent bowler as a student because I could bowl six balls on the off side. Here you're consistent if you can bowl six balls in a row on a perfect length at middle and off. It's frighteningly good."

In one respect, however, Pettman has been a disappointment at Trent Bridge. When he was signed, Steven Mullaney, the ever-shrewd first-team skipper, suggested he'd be an asset in general knowledge quizzes. But as anyone who's ever competed in those slightly bizarre events can testify, there are not many questions on Themistocles or the Punic Wars.  

"I'm not by any means the best quizzer in the team, so my impact on the squad is to get everyone doing crosswords," Pettman admitted. "Brett Hutton's very good at those but I'm mid-table when it comes to quizzes."

And with that, he returned to his twelfth-man duties at Hove. Has he been privileged? Certainly, and especially so as regards learning the game at Tonbridge. But has he earned the privileges that have followed? Yes to that, too, and I cannot think of a young player who exudes less sense of entitlement.

And without getting too involved in the debate about private education, it should be noted how many independent schools are committed to offering scholarships to pupils who would not otherwise be able to attend them.

Pettman has had to work for everything he's gained from cricket and the coaches at Trent Bridge will always respect such an ethic. He knows he has been fabulously fortunate but we all know what Gary Player said about that.         

"Yes, I've been ridiculously lucky in the grounds on which I've played," he said. "Tonbridge was great but so are a lot of school grounds. However, I cannot think of a university venue that comes close to The Parks.  When you get a crowd down, there's no better library in the world. I've spent so many happy hours in that pavilion watching us bat and doing my essays. Then I went out to bowl on that ground…"

Read the full article Here          

Share Your Story

Do you have a story to share?
Contact a member of our team.

Click here to email us
with your idea

Or, call us on:
+44 (0) 1732 304253

This website is powered by
ToucanTech