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New Zealand ace Peter Younghusband swaps Wellington Firebirds for a summer at Cambridge Cricket Club

Peter Younghusband bowling for Cambridge Cricket Club. Picture: Mecha Morton (10654262)
Peter Younghusband bowling for Cambridge Cricket Club. Picture: Mecha Morton (10654262)

Peter Younghusband has moved in illustrious circles on the cricket pitch.

The 29-year-old New Zealander is calling Clare College Sports Ground home this summer as one of the overseas players at Cambridge Cricket Club, but his true base is Wellington.

As a Firebird – one of six first-class sides in New Zealand – he has made a name for himself as not just a leg-spinning all-rounder, but also an exceptional fielder.

It is that talent that has seen Younghusband assist the Black Caps on a number of occasions.

“I’ve done quite a lot of substitute fielding for New Zealand over the years,” he explained.

“I wouldn’t say I played for New Zealand; I’m still trying my best to become a full-time playing regular in the Wellington side.

“Fielding has been a really big part of my game in recent years and every time the Black Caps seem to have Test matches or anything close by, I’m the first one they are on the phone to asking me to chuck the whites or colours on and jump on the park to help out.”

It all started a few years ago, when New Zealand were playing in Wellington.

Younghusband was not contracted at the time, but the domestic side were out of time and the national team required a substitute fielder.

“The coach at the time said ‘take Pete, he’s been training with the domestic side, is a really good fielder and will do a good job for you guys’,” said Younghusband.

“It was a one-dayer against India and normally you just end up running the drinks, maybe doing an over here or there if the bowlers want to come off briefly.

“It was Jesse Ryder that got hit when he was batting in the first innings and he got a haematoma and couldn’t walk afterwards.

“The coach, Mike Hesson, asked me to do the whole 50 overs. He said to go out there, enjoy it and don’t put too much pressure on yourself – that was the start of things and the rest is history.

“I took a catch that game, Virat Kohli of all people, and the rest of that tour they asked me to stay on board and I travelled with the team, substitute fielding.”

Younghusband has now done 25 games in all formats.

He had grown up playing with and against a lot of the players in the team, so many of them were friends anyway.

“Brendon McCullum was the captain when I first did it and he was very welcoming,” explained Younghusband.

“He was so much fun and made you feel like you were part of it but, at the end, you are there just to run the drinks and with a bit of luck you will get on the field.”

It is certainly a modest comment from Younghusband as no-one would be selected in that position, for their national side, if they were not good at what they did.

It comes as, with the ever-evolving importance of the different formats of cricket, fielding has risen up the agenda in terms of key skills for players in recent years.

“I think the most important part is that I do love fielding. It’s where a lot of cricketers go wrong as they don’t actually love that part of it,” said Younghusband.

“I love being able to change the game with something special, whether it’s a run-out or a catch. When you love something, that goes a long way to trying to be good at it.

“I put a lot of work into my agility, and my catching skills probably helped.

“It was a lot of hard work, and a weird reward to start a professional career by doing a bit of substitute fielding and then leading on to a domestic contract.”

As it is the off-season in the domestic league back home, Younghusband has decided to use the final year of an ancestry visa to return to these shores.

Having done a stint playing overseas in the Netherlands, he featured for Brentwood Cricket Club in the Shepherd Neame Essex League in 2015.

The plan was to return to Brentwood this summer but, when that fell through, he was put in contact with Johnny Atkinson
at Cambridge.

It was an easy decision to make, and Younghusband is enjoying both life in the city and cricket in England.

“I love Cambridge,” he said. “It’s beautiful, I’m yet to explore it fully but my partner is coming over in three weeks and we will be real tourists when she’s here and get to know the city a bit better.

“I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the city so far and it’s stunning – an amazing place.”

He added: “The way cricket is played is slightly different to back home, and it’s nice to be able to play on such boutique little grounds in England.

“It’s a little bit different back home with a lot of shared venues and overlapping boundaries, especially on our club scene.

“It’s quite exciting every Saturday going to a new venue. It’s very competitive and there is a lot of work gone into the grounds themselves so they are really amazing.”

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