Worcestershire batter Olly Cox says his winter abroad in Pakistan, and Australia enhanced his life experiences as well as his cricket as he prepares for his first season as a rookie professional at New Road.
Cox participated in the Pakistan Junior T20 League and then was part of the International Cricket Programme in Sydney in addition to scoring a century on his debut for Eastern Suburbs.
It followed on from the promise he showed at the Academy and Seconds level last summer after initially being part of the Worcestershire Pathway as a 10-year-old.
Cox says securing his first rookie contract, along with keeper-batter Henry Cullen and his former school-mate, Rehaan Edavalath, was an “amazing feeling”
Canada-born Cox is ambitious to play for Worcestershire and says it has been a massive driving force as a youngster.
But he knows it is all about putting in performances if and when he gets further opportunities for the Second XI this summer.
Here Cox looks back over the winter and what he hopes to achieve in 2023.
He said: “The Pakistan Junior League came out of nowhere. My agent put me forward for it, and I got put in the draft and watched the video and I came up. Very weird really and all of a sudden I’m out playing in Pakistan and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“There were big crowds, and cricketers are seen as real heroes out there. The standard was amazing really. The bowlers were much quicker, and I was playing on different wickets, so it was really valuable because in England the pitches are slower.
“All the English lads who were out there, it took them a while to get used to that.
“For the first few days we were based in a high-performance centre next to the Gadaffi Stadium and then for three weeks were in a hotel in the city of Lahore.
“With security being really tight, we couldn’t go out which was a bit of a shame. Lots of bulletproof buses and security people with guns but the people were really nice.
“We got to the second qualifier. We had a very good bowling attack, but the batting didn’t quite fire. I had a couple of not-outs to win games.”
Cox had barely 24 hours back in England before flying out to Australia.
He said: “I had one day back at home, put the white pads in the bag and then flew straight back out.
“The ICP is a programme in Sydney for English academies and young pros of my age to go out and train at. When you go out to Australia, you often do club training twice a week and the fact we could work Monday, Wednesday and Friday as well was really good.
“It was really good for my development because my mum and dad have driven me around for the last four or five years.
“To get myself to games, through bus or train, or whatever, to cook for myself, to pay for my shopping, was all really good experience.
“I don’t think I’m a very good cook though. I just stuck to chicken and rice. I didn’t try anything too fancy!
“All the lads stayed in an apartment at the top of Bondi Beach and then during the morning we’d either have gym sessions overlooking the beach, which was amazing, or we’d travel to one of the indoor facilities, or one of the club nets for training.
“It was great because lots of other good young players like Jacob Bethell, Tom Prest, James Rew, were all there and it was really good to mix with lads from other counties.”
Cox had a dream start for Eastern Suburbs, scoring 116 off 139 balls against Gordon CC in a two-day New South Wales Premier Cricket first grade encounter.
He said: “To play club cricket as well was again a really good experience for me.
“Out there, it’s the pace and bounce which is different to England. Playing the pull shot was trickier because of the length they were bowling.
“Generally, I was working more on my red ball game because in Pakistan, I was doing T20 stuff.
“To score a century on my debut was a great feeling. It became quite a tricky wicket to bat on, but by the end of the day, it became easier.
“We posted quite a big score and the week after we bowled them out after they got quite close. It was a really good game.
“Compared to English club cricket, with playing a game over two weekends, winning feels much more special.
“I’d say the standard is generally better than in England because the bowlers are quicker and more accurate spinners. You get a lot of pros playing as well.
“I got the verbals a couple of times through being from England at the start of an innings but generally they were quite nice to me!
“I look upon the whole winter as really helpful for my development. To go and experience new things was really helpful for my game after five winters indoors and just from my personal development point of view.”
Cox was delighted when awarded his rookie professional contract at New Road.
He said: “To get that contract was an amazing moment. I’ve been at Worcestershire since the age of 10 and have always aspired to be a professional cricketer.
“I found out from Elliot Wilson (Academy Coach) during my last week at school, and it was quite a weird experience because I was in the middle of a game.
“But I just felt really fortunate and lucky to be given the opportunity. I was so pleased for Rehaan as well as we’d been at school together since the age of 14, and it was a nice moment when we both signed.
“We’d done a lot together and also played in centre midfield together at hockey.
“Did it give me extra confidence for playing abroad? I guess it came with an extra pressure when I was in Australia because I was the only player in the team playing cricket professionally.
“I’ve always had big aspirations to play first class cricket. When I was younger, it was a big driver for me, and this is what I wanted to do and I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity now.
“I started at 10 and worked my way up through the age groups, the EPP, Academy and Seconds.
“It is just about putting in performances for the second team, and I guess the rest will take care of itself. But I’d love to play for Worcestershire at some point.”
Cox made his Seconds debut in 2021, top-scoring with 41 on his debut against Leicestershire in a four-day game at Stourport, and says the standard is a big step up to come to terms with.
He said: “Certainly, the pace and bounce of the bowlers was definitely different, and a big level up to be playing with professional cricketers.
“To field the whole day of the fourth day on my debut was mentally very draining, and something I’m having to improve on because the physical demands are very high.
“But also mentally, to be able to cope for that long is certainly challenging, but it’s what you have to adjust to.”
Cox, whose father played for Surrey Under-19s, has been delighted to be involved in day-to-day training since Christmas with his Worcestershire teammates.
He said: “It’s great. Last year I was at school and working for my A-levels, and now, to be able to train full-time every day, and put all my attention towards cricket, has been really good and something I always wanted to do. Really just trying to make the most of the opportunity.”
Cox, whose cricketing heroes when growing up were Joe Root and Ian Bell, owes a debt to former Head Coach Kevin Sharp for his assistance when working with the Academy.
He said: “Kevin Sharp was really good for me, not necessarily with the technique but with the mental side of the game.
“I had lots of good chats with him, and also Elliot (Wilson), and all the Academy coaches. I owe a lot to them.
Cox, who was born in Ontario, says cricket was not at the forefront of his mind whilst based with his family in Canada.
He said: “My family were living over there to work. There was certainly no cricket I knew of back then. It was ice hockey and basketball.
“I’m glad I came to England early to get straight into the cricket system. Came back over here with my family at the age of six and moved to Worcester when I was about ten.
“I’ve got a Canadian passport and am eligible to play for them and England – but England is the main goal for one day in the future.”