Ben Gibbon is determined to make the most of his opportunity with Worcestershire and says he owes a debt of gratitude to umpire Mansoor Qureshi after his breakthrough into professional cricket.
The left-arm fast bowler has created a favourable impression during the winter programme with Worcestershire after signing his first pro contract following a trial period in the Second Eleven.
It is a welcome contrast to the physical demands of working on a building site for the past three years.
The chance to join the staff at New Road came after Mansoor recommended Gibbon to Seconds coach Kadeer Ali.
He was officiating at the end Gibbon was bowling when he picked up a five-wicket haul for Cheshire against Wiltshire in a National Counties League game at Alderley Edge.
Gibbon was offered the chance to play in a Seconds four-day match with Leicestershire at Stourport and then a Second Eleven Championship match against Yorkshire at Scarborough.
But between those games, he was offered and signed for Worcestershire after being offered a deal by Lancashire.
Now Gibbon is hoping he can challenge for a first-team spot during the 2022 campaign.
He said: “I have loved the winter. The training has been really good, and I feel like I have improved as a player with my bowling and fielding.
“For me, to train every day as a professional is what I’ve hoped to do for a long time. This time last year, I was netting in the rain at my local club (Oulton Park)!
“Netting regularly here can only be good for a player.
“I’ve bowled a lot of overs at Malvern, and getting those in will only be beneficial come the summer.
“Alan Richardson (Bowling Coach) has been brilliant. To speak to him with his experience and just to pick his brains a little bit has been really beneficial to me.
“I think at the moment my skills are with the red ball, and I’ve been trying to get better at that and trying to execute six balls that hit the top of off stump and be consistent.
“I am really looking forward to the new season. We are outside now at Kidderminster, and it’s great to get out on the grass.”
Gibbon added: “How did the chance come about with Worcestershire? “I played for Cheshire and got a five-for, and the umpire from the end I bowled up, Mansoor Qureshi, messaged me while I was at work a couple of weeks later and said, ‘would you like me to put a good word in.’
“I texted back ‘yes please’, and he texted Kadeer, who got in touch with me about two games at Stourport and Scarborough for the Second Eleven.
“I bowled alright. At the back end of the year, I was a bit fatigued but knew I would have a chance if I put in a good spell, and luckily it paid off.
“I am so grateful to the umpire for doing that. I am indebted to him and will message him and keep him updated on how things are going.”
Gibbon performed creditably for the Seconds at Stourport and was set to play at Scarborough when the offer came in from Worcestershire.
He said: “It was the Saturday before the Scarborough game. Looking back, it was a pretty surreal day. It was the last day of the season for my club and, on the morning of the game, Lancashire rang and said they wanted to offer me a
“I rang Kadeer up, and he got back to me and said ‘I think we are interested, let me see what Alex Gidman and Alan Richardson say’ and, luckily for me, Worcestershire offered me a contract.
“What swayed me for Worcestershire was the opportunity, and what was a massive drive to come to Worcestershire was that I would be the only left armer.
“I’ve got a massive opportunity to get into the first team, being the only left armer, and that swayed me to come to Worcestershire.
“If I had signed for Lancashire, I would have been half an hour from home, but, being away from home, I’ve actually loved it. Having your own independence is something that is only going to help you in life. “
With many players in county cricket now Academy products, Gibbon has taken a different route to reach this moment in his career.
He said: “I’ve sort of sneaked in through the back door a little bit. At the start of last year, I had a conversation with my dad and a couple of lads at the club (Oulton Park).
“It was like ‘I want to be a professional cricket, but if it wants to happen, then it needs to happen this season.’
“Lucky enough, I did well for the club and put in a couple of performances for Cheshire, and thankfully I got the opportunity to play for Worcestershire at the end of the year.”
It is a sharp contrast to the demands of working on a building site five days a week.
Gibbon said: “I came back from playing grade cricket in Australia during the winter of 2017-2018 and then worked on the building site but, whilst I was there, I was thinking ‘I don’t really enjoy it, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.’
“I left home at six, got back at six. It was hard, especially in the winter.
“I always tried to stay on top of my fitness, and even when I got home from work, I’d try and get some gym session in or go for a run.
“I’d say without going on site for three years, I don’t think I’d be in the position I’m in now. It drove me on and I had in the back of my mind ‘I don’t want to do this for much longer’.
“I was thinking ‘I know I’ve got a bit of talent with cricket’, but I didn’t have the performances behind me.
“Whilst I was on site, I realised I’ve really got to knuckle down with cricket and try and improve to get there. It sort of drove me on. That was pretty much the bottom line.
“I was putting in a lot of work in the winter and, in the summer, trying to enjoy my cricket but also trying to get the good performances under my belt.”
Gibbon, who played against Jack Haynes, Jacques Banton and Adam Finch in the 2017 Super Fours, admits he loves bowling.
He said: “I enjoy bowling long spells. I enjoy the repetition side of it, and the challenges. The skill I try and perfect is hitting top of off stump.
“I know that sounds simple but it is actually one of the hardest things to do. I’ve had that in my mind, and the only way to improve that is drilling it as long as you can.
“I bowled a lot of overs last year which helped my consistency and, on a Saturday, I was bowling 17 overs. Sometimes I would bowl 17 straight through.
“It leaves the body a bit sore on a Saturday night but I really enjoy trying to get better.”
Worcestershire launch their pre-season programme of four matches this week and Gibbon wants to stake his claim for a place in the opening LV=Insurance County Championship match with Leicestershire on April 7.
He said: “We’ve got four pre-season games and, if I get a chance, bowl well and put in some good performances with the ball, hopefully I might have a good chance for that Leicestershire game.
If and when Gibbon does make a first team appearance, it will be a proud day for his father John.
Gibbon said: “My dad was my first coach at Under-Nines level and I grew up watching him on a Saturday playing league cricket for Tattenhall first team.
“He had one of the best cover drives I’ve ever seen.
“I owe him so much. He drove me all over the place. I sat many hours in the passenger seat. He will be proud if I make my debut and I will be proud for him.”