Chris returns to boost Ventnor
Chris Russell is one of only seven Islanders to have played first class cricket over the past 90 years. The Wroxall youngster, who spent nine seasons as a fast bowler with Worcestershire, has now returned to his home soil to skipper, and hopefully revitalise Ventnor, our only Southern League club.
Already the signs are promising. He has attracted several new players to the club and tempted one or two to return to Steephill.
He first joined Ventnor as a teenage social cricketer, where people like Sam Garraway and John Hilsum did such a lot for local youngsters. Academy manager Ross Edwards sensed his potential and persuaded him to work harder. He took the advice, put a yard or two on his pace, and ended up at Worcestershire, via Birmingham League team Wolverhampton.
Chris played two late season games for the Worcestershire Second XI in 2008 and took 12 wickets. Following a trial period the following season, he was offered a professional contract. He hit the national newspaper headlines in 2012 when he took six wickets in a game against South Africa. It was just after they had smashed 637 for 2 against England. Two major daily newspapers wrote: ‘South Africa Blown Away By Russell’ and ‘England Shown The Way By Russell’.
Shortly afterwards he made his County Championship debut against Warwickshire, at Edgbaston, and took a wicket with his second ball. In all, he made 40 first team appearances in various forms of the game, played against New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan, and regularly bowled at 90mph.
At one stage he was the leading national wicket taker in the group stages of the Twenty20 competition but then got dropped, one of the greatest disappointments of his career.
Was being a professional cricket hard work? “My mates told me to get a real job but it was tough. You could not book any time off from early March until late September. I did really enjoy it,” he said.
For four years he wintered in South Africa and played alongside new England Test star Dawid Malan. In his last season there he took 60 wickets for his club side, Belleville CC After nine seasons, he was released by Worcestershire. “I knew it was coming. I was not enjoying it anymore and had lost faith with the people at the club. They had also refused to let me go on loan to another county,” rued Chris.
Back on the Island he’s working for Hallam’s, the Newport blind makers and furnishers, and raring to go at Ventnor. They have been training since late January and his will-to-win and enthusiasm should prove so effective this summer.