x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Somerset's Snell wants to prove worth at Champions League

With his career at a crossroads, the replacement wicketkeeper has nothing to lose in India.

Snell's wedding is in November but the former Gloucestershire keeper is keen to make the most of his time at Somerset.
Snell's wedding is in November but the former Gloucestershire keeper is keen to make the most of his time at Somerset.

When sportsmen talk about being "in the shop window", they usually have their minds on maximising their earning potential.

Modern day cricketers, for example, know that one eye-catching innings in a televised limited-overs match could be the ticket to the vast fortunes on offer in the Indian Premier League.

For Steve Snell, who will wear the wicketkeeping gloves for Somerset in the Champions League Twenty20 qualifying round in India today, it means the difference between playing cricket for a living and having to look for a new career.

He has the smallest window of opportunity imaginable, starting with today's game against New Zealand's Auckland Aces in Hyderabad, but at least it is something. Snell thought his professional playing days were over 12 months ago when he was released by Gloucestershire, the neighbouring county of Somerset in the UK's West Country.

Aged 28, he gave himself one last summer to break back in to the first-class game, before he planned to draw a line under the sport, and pursue another, more secure, career path.

He kept his eye in by playing minor counties cricket, but bills needed to be paid. He taught cricket at a prominent fee-paying school in Somerset during the summer term, while studying for a journalism degree.

One opportunity that came his way was commentating on the matches involving his former teammates - and, ironically, the ones to become his teammates.

"I've been commentating on Somerset and Gloucestershire games on BBC radio, then I found myself out in the middle with them, which was quite strange," he said.

Snell earned an unexpected chance to play when Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler were both called up for international duty against India, leaving Somerset's stock of wicketkeepers bare.

Faced with playing a domestic limited-overs match without a specialist keeper, Steve Kirby, the fast bowler, told his bosses he knew someone who could fill the breach in an emergency.

It was the chance Snell craved, but the timing was poor. "I actually got the call when I was in hospital having an operation on a leg infection," he said, recalling the events leading up to his debut in a 40-over match in August.

"Kirbs [Kirby] persuaded me to come down for a fitness test to see if I could play or not.

"Luckily, because of the nature of the injury, there was no structural damage and it was not a muscle injury. There was just a gaping wound, so it was possible to patch it up and get on with it.

"Three weeks on there is still a big wound which is still healing. I was probably not fit to play but when those sort of opportunities come along you have to grab them while you can."

However, Buttler and Kieswetter are part of the England side for two Twenty20 internationals against West Indies, meaning he was summoned again.

"I think we might have been made to look ridiculous had we not taken a specialist keeper," Brian Rose, Somerset's director of cricket, said on the club's website.

With his wedding coming up in November, Snell does have other things to occupy his mind, but he was happy to make time.

His time in the spotlight in India will be limited, though. No matter how he and his new side perform in the qualifying round, he knows his opportunity will not extend into a second week.

As a named replacement player, Snell is only registered for this week and will have to drop out when Kieswetter and Buttler rejoin the squad, meaning he definitely will miss the big show, should Somerset get there.

However, Snell, who was a contemporary of Ross Taylor, Darren Sammy and Kevin O'Brien, the World Cup stars, as an aspiring player on the Lord's ground staff, is just happy to get a second chance.

"The last time I played for Somerset I played with a huge smile on my face the whole game, because I never thought I was going to get this chance again," he said.

"My last game for Gloucestershire had been a dead rubber in a game in which I didn't bat. I still had a year left on my contract, so I didn't see the end coming.

"I am in the shop window now. I have got nothing to lose."

pradley@thenational.ae


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