Richard Gleeson: ‘Now I’m in this position, I don’t take it for granted’

On the first day of July, Richard Gleeson was in his kitchen with his wife, Laura, when his phone rang, a message from a number he didn’t recognize.

“It was Matthew Mott saying I’ll call you in two minutes,” he recalls. “I just said to my wife, ‘I think I’m about to be picked for England.’ There was never a moment before that when I contemplated him.A few minutes later, Gleeson was talking to England’s new white ball coach.

“Everything seemed to stop for a second, the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I felt, ‘Oh shit, this is really happening,'” he says. “Then when he said, ‘You’re for T20s’, I was like, ‘Thank you’. I didn’t know what to say. It was totally unexpected.”

Gleeson is 34 and since his 20s he has spent as much time playing in minor counties and doing community coaching as he has spent as a professional. Although there was a call-up from the Lions in 2018, before this summer not only was he barely on England’s radar, but he was barely on his county’s. Under these circumstances, it’s no surprise that he tells the story of his first full international call-up with wonder.

“We didn’t have a lot of celebrations. I think my wife had a gin and tonic,” he says. “We waited until last Sunday night, after the South African series ended. The kids were in bed, we were in the hotel, we had five minutes of peace and we each had an espresso martini to greet him. and celebrate.The week after that phone call, he snatched India’s top order from Edgbaston, taking the wickets of Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and Virat Kohli at its beginnings. It was actually happening, okay.

Just four months earlier, Gleeson had faced completely different pressures. Over the past two summers, as he struggled to recover from a stress fracture in his back, he had played a total of one County Championship game and two T20s, and 2021 ended with Lancashire letting his contract expire. Over the winter he took up a position as a lecturer in cricket studies at Myerscough College near Preston.

“It was a different world,” he says. “At the start of this year I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next, feeling the pressure of how we were going to pay the bills and the mortgage if things weren’t going well and I wasn’t getting any no other Contract. Do I try to go to another county if things haven’t worked out with Lancs? There were all sorts of things I was considering, routes I would like to take if things weren’t progressing so I could play cricket again. Now that I’m in this position, I don’t take it for granted. I’m going to enjoy it.

England's Richard Gleeson celebrates after sacking Virat Kohli in the second T20 international match at Edgbaston in July
England’s Richard Gleeson celebrates after dismissing Virat Kohli in the second T20 International at Edgbaston in July. Photograph: Rui Vieira/AP

Lancashire eventually gave him a contract to play in this season’s T20 Blast. “We think he can make a big contribution for us,” said their coach, Glen Chapple. “We know what he is capable of. But even he might have been surprised at what followed.

Gleeson was the competition’s leading wicket-taker as Lancashire reached the final. Not initially chosen for the Hundred, he became the hottest of hot properties when each team had a final wildcard selection last month and found themselves at Old Trafford with Manchester Originals.

He will be playing there alongside England white ball captain Jos Buttler, and especially given the injuries affecting so many other bowlers, another good tournament would surely be rewarded with a place in the T20 World Cup, and onwards. from there, opportunities still unknown on the franchise circuit. .

“Obviously I did well in the Blast and had my chance,” says Gleeson, whose Hundred campaign begins on Friday against Northern Superchargers. “It’s another chance to show what I can do. The last few months have given me confidence that I can play against some of these guys, and that my best is good enough, but there’s no Rest on your laurels. Now he’s trying to push hard and keep performing at this top level.

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The hope is that this exciting, unexpected and transformative time in her life is not over yet. “I don’t think I’ve just sat back and gone: ‘Damn, I played for England.’ I haven’t had that yet,” Gleeson says. “I’m just embracing it. It’s just a game of cricket, I’ll enjoy it while it’s there and try to do the best I can. I’m sure there will be a time when I sit down and realize what happened to me, but it’s all been a bit hectic so I haven’t been so lucky.

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