An exclusive interview with Tanmay Thanawalla
Sitting at Richmond Cricket Club, a beautiful ground located adjacent to Kew Gardens in Richmond Borough, I reflect on the significance of the club’s 2018 cricket season. I catch up with one of the club’s true success stories, Old Hamptonian Greg King who has been with the club for nearly 20 years and has just finished his first year captaining the 1XI.
During the 2018 cricket season, RCC’s 1st XI senior team participated in both the Middlesex Premier League and the Middlesex (knockout) Cup. Both are highly competitive – Middlesex’s best senior club teams participate. These top teams are brimming with a mix of county hopefuls and well-seasoned players, including some ex-professionals. The players are serious about winning and the matches are hard-fought.
So it’s not hard to imagine Richmond Cricket Club’s euphoria when in 2018 the first XI went on to win “the double” — both the Middlesex Premier League and the Cup in a single season! Even for a club with a rich sporting history, with four previous league wins in its history and one previous cup win, a club which counts players like ex-Australia wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist in its ranks of former players, bagging “the double” indicated nothing short of an extraordinary season. With youth cricket developing all the time, success in senior cricket was the icing on the cake!
The Cup final was played at the Ealing cricket ground in West London against a strong North Middlesex club team. Richmond, batting second, won the match in a high run-chase thriller, making RCC’s cup victory in this tense final all the more remarkable, all the sweeter. So it was a pleasure to learn that this double-winning RCC senior first XI team was captained by none other than Old Hamptonian Greg King, who navigated his hugely talented team through 13 consecutive wins between late June and September.
Greg has always a keen sportsman, even before he came to Hampton. “My Dad recalls throwing me balls down the corridor at home,” he remembers, “and me swinging the bat even before I learnt to walk!” Given his enthusiasm for ball games, he was signed up as a young cricketer at RCC as early as the age of seven. He played his first Under-10 match at that age.
His love of cricket continued after he joined Hampton. There under the supervision of many sports coaches including Mr Ami Banerjee and Mr Chris Harrison he blossomed. He scored his first century at the age of 12 at the school. He is very grateful for his time there. “The boys often don’t realise the level of access they have when at Hampton. So much high-quality technical assistance available so freely,” he explains.
Greg was a sporting all-rounder at Hampton and a natural leader at that. At school he played a bit of football but cricket and rugby were his true passions, playing for first teams throughout his school life. In fact, he remembered Jonny Wilkinson, England’s legendary fly-
half, as his inspiration through his sporting years. He captained the cricket team for most of his school days and the experiences were magical. He particularly remembers Hampton’s tight T20 win against Whitgift in the national cup, a side that included multiple county prospects, in his senior year. He has fond memories of his overseas cricket tours – India and Sri Lanka. These senior-year tours continue to be a staple of Hampton senior cricket where legions of Hamptonians have experienced playing on spinning wickets on the subcontinent as well as delving into the new cultures.
I ask him if exams and the major study years (IGCSE and A-levels) slowed things for him during his Hampton days. “Not at all, I don’t recall missing many matches because of tests, either for GCSEs or A Levels. In fact I think cricket taught me to plan my studies ahead, and also gave me vital time to relax and rejuvenate.”
He also played age-group county cricket till the age of 15. So I ask “Did you want to be a professional cricketer?” “Not really,” he replie, adding with characteristic modesty that “somewhere within me there was the realisation that I was good but perhaps not good enough nor ambitious enough to play sport at that elite level. But I was lucky enough to play both with and against some players at Hampton and other schools who went on to play atcounty or international level. I was on the team with Zafar Ansari, and watched some outstanding cricket played before me during my school days.”
Even so, sport has taught him many things – amongst them leadership skills. His experience at Hampton, pretty much captaining school cricket sides through all the age-groups, has served him well. The match-winning team at RCC in the 2018 season which he captained had many talented players. Despite a strong batting performance at the tail-end of the season in the Cup final, he modestly adds: “Most of the team is more naturally talented than I am”. How did it feel to lead such a side, some of whom have played more county cricket or semi-professionally? “Making tough selection decisions and marshalling such a strong team comes with its challenges. But you learn to develop a leadership style that works for you and the team.”
The excitement of sport has stayed with him, even after school – it is something he encourages Hamptonians to carry with them. Greg has gone on to study at the University of Birmingham and for a Master’s at the London School of Economics, continuing to love the social side of sports and forging many friendships along the way. When asked for any parting advice for current Hamptonians, he laughs: “Enjoy your time at Hampton and the unique all-round balance it offers. Value the quality coaching you have easy access to and most importantly enjoy the social side of your sport.”