Today we have a chat with Mark Patterson, a former professional and a former Director of Sport at St Joseph’s college.
Mark, please tell us about your development as a junior player and breakthrough into professional cricket.
Since I was a very young lad – probably about the age of 5 – I have always played a mixture of football, rugby and hockey in the winter and cricket in the summer. It was really my father who got my brother and I into sport; he played professional football and was a decent club cricketer, however his love was for cricket and so we were probably pushed a little more into this. I guess my first real inklings that I could play the game a bit came when I was selected to play for my club 1st XI from the age of 14 and this went well. This led to me being in the National ‘shop window’ and it was from this point on that I played at every Ulster and Irish age group level – right up to U21’s for 3 years in a row. Whilst playing for the Ireland U21’s I was getting a lot of excellent coaching from the ex Derbyshire and England fast bowler Mike Hendrick who was the Irish coach. This developed me very quickly and combined with the ability to bowl at pace catapulted me into the senior side at 20. After 2 years in the senior team we played Surrey in a Benson and Hedges Cup match. This went well for me and I was brought over for a week’s trial in July 1996 - this included a 1 day and 4 day 2nd XI match. These went well and my trial was extended to a month and at the end of July I made my first class debut against South Africa taking 6-80 in the first innings – this still remains the best first class first innings figures by a Surrey bowler on debut. I signed a 2 year contract that night and have lived in England ever since!
Various factors such as white ball cricket and technology have changed the game dramatically in recent years. Alongside the overall fitness level now expected in 1st class Cricket, especially for a bowler, what else do you think would be different if you were on the pathway to professional cricket now?
I definitely think the biggest difference is how they look after young, quick bowlers. I had quite a few injuries – most notably stress fractures of my back and problems with my knee – that were totally caused by repetition and over bowling. There is a fine line between match practice / match fitness and bowling too much.
Looking back at your career with hindsight would you have done anything differently?
Great question! With hindsight linked to the above I would have bowled less at times and spent the time in the gym instead with a personalised weights program to help look after my joints. I probably didn’t realise how ‘cool’ it was at the time and maybe took it all a bit for granted, but looking back at some of the achievements and matches I was privileged to be involved in, is a little bit WOW now.
If there was one piece of advice you could give to an up and coming bowler now, what would it be?
Very easy – listen, learn and work hard. Attitude is absolutely everything and not only is there no substitute for hard work, but it is a trait loved by coaches, fellow players and supporters of your team! Oh and that includes in the gym with your strength and conditioning!
If you had to choose one cricket memory what would it be?
My home club (Cliftonville CC) in Northern Ireland had not been in the Premier League for the previous 40 years and 1995 was our first season after promotion from Division 1, with a really good young side that included 2 other Internationals – one of which was my brother. I came in to bat at number 9 in the last game of the Premiership season against the league leaders and we needed 28 off the last 5 overs with 3 wickets in hand to win the league. We managed to get it down to needing 2 runs off the last over (now 2 wickets left) and I said to my partner, ok let’s make sure we get the scores tied and then we can scramble a single somehow. I proceed to hit the first ball over the pavilion for 6 to win us the league. Undoubtedly my best memory as it was with all my childhood mates!
Mark, many thanks for your insight and that is a fabulous story to finish with.