Mitchell Stanley admits watching his uncle’s DVD of Brett Lee, and the memorable 2005 Ashes series inspired him to become a fast bowler.
Stanley signed his second ‘rookie’ contract’ with Worcestershire CCC during the autumn after being part of the County’s Academy intake.
New Road Bowling Coach Alan Richardson intimated that the 19-year-old could challenge for a first-team squad place this coming summer.
It shows the rapid strides Stanley has made after being a late starter into the game at the age of 12 – and watching Lee, Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff’s bowling heroics made his mind up that cricket was the career he wanted to try and pursue.
He said: “My uncle had the 2005 Ashes on a DVD set. I watched Brett Lee bowl absolute rockets, and it made me think that looks like great fun!
“I had just started getting into cricket, but at that point, I had no cricket knowledge, no idea of anyone who played. I just loved playing.
“My uncle said would I want to watch it, and I said, ‘go on then’. I watched Brett Lee take the heads off the England batsman, and the same happened when Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff bowled for England.
“It was at that point I thought that’s what I want to do’. I was 13-14. It inspires you. It was a fantastic series.”
Telford-born Stanley admits he is an aggressive character when it comes to bowling.
He said: “I tend to get a bit heated and try not to give any mercy on batters and think, ‘if you are going to try and hit me for four, I’m going to try and hit you.’
“But it has to be controlled aggression. You’ve not got to let it get to your head.”
Stanley has already taken the first small steps on the cricketing ladder before those DVD viewings.
He said: “I didn’t start playing until I was about 12. I had played football when I was younger, but my friends played for Shifnal Cricket Club. One of their parents ran it, and they said just ‘come along’, and I bowled into the nets and got into it.”
Stanley progressed through the Shropshire youth system and experienced some coaching sessions with former Worcestershire CCC paceman and current Cricket Steering Group Chairman Paul Pridgeon, on his way to becoming part of the County Academy intake.
He said: “I worked for Paul Pridgeon when I was at Sixth Form College at Shrewsbury. I could walk up to the school where he worked and have a coaching session when I had a break.
“At that time, I was on the EPP bowling group. He was a great person to learn off. I got loads of stuff out of his sessions.
“I went through the Shropshire youth system from Under-12s to Under-15s, and Elliot Wilson (Academy Coach) invited me to the bowling sessions, and it went from there.
“The original plan was for me to be part of the EPP Bowling Group and then play for Shropshire Under-17s, but I went instead on the Academy for a year and a half.”
Stanley admits he took plenty of confidence from Richardson’s belief that he could challenge a senior squad spot and is enjoying working with the former Worcestershire bowler whose four seasons at New Road yielded 254 Championship wickets.
He said: “To hear that gives you a lot of confidence. It is such a big thing to hear, coming from Alan (Richardson), a brilliant bowler himself, a legend of the club, for him to see the potential in me. Massive for me, to be honest.
“I enjoy working with Alan and like his approach. It’s pretty different from what I’ve experienced before.
“He asks what you want to get out of it, and he puts his input to what you ask him rather than what he is going to tell you. You’ve got to bring things up yourself, which is a lot better.
“He lets you tell him what you want to do, whereas the age-group stuff is very much coach led. It is good because it makes you think about your game.
“Training every day as a professional has also made a big difference. It’s a massive step up from training, maybe twice a week and a challenge to start with.
“But you get used to it after a couple of months and also get great benefits from Ross Dewar (Strength And Conditioning Coach) putting you through your paces.
“Having experienced players around you to listen and learn off like Joe (Leach), Charlie (Morris), and Ed (Barnard) is immense. You also listen to the younger guys who have played like Josh (Tongue), Adam (Finch) and Dillon (Pennington).
“I just get lost in their words, the amount you learn from just listening.”
Stanley hopes there will be a greater volume of second-team cricket this summer than in 2021 so he can try and make his mark.
He said: “Normally, if you prove yourself in second-team cricket, that’s when you get your chances and so let’s hope there is a fuller fixture list.
“Last season, you were coming into training, and there were not many second-team games at the end of it, a couple against Warwickshire.
“I did play a bit for Shifnal and got some overs in my legs. On the back of some injuries in the last couple of years, I’ve not been able to play as much as I would have liked but I hope to make up for that.”