The Blue Bird sat down with the Blues cricket captains Ali Pollock and Chloe Allison for a chat about their upcoming season, the life of a student cricketer and their Varsity hopes and dreams.
TBB: First things first, what is the Varsity format?
Ali: Cricket has 3 Varsity Matches – Twenty20, One-Day Match and 4-Day Match. The Twenty20 takes place on Friday 12 June, at Fenners’ Cricket Ground in Cambridge. The One-Day Match is on Saturday 27 June at Lord’s Cricket Ground, and the 4-Day Match starts on Tuesday 30 June – Friday 3 June also at Fenners’. Players can get Blues if they play in either the One-Day or 4-Day Matches
TBB: And what is your schedule like before the big days?
Ali: We play a variety of club and invitational sides throughout the summer term. Some of the highlights include playing against Quidnuncs CC (CUCC Old Boys), MCC and Duke of Norfolks XI in Arundel. We are also hosting the Hone-MacGregor Trophy during May Week, where we play against Scottish Universities and Irish Universities. We also play against other touring sides such as the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
Chloe: In terms of matches, we are looking forward to taking on our BUCS opponents and are hoping that fewer matches will cancelled due to weather than last year! We also have a new fixture against the newly formed CUWCC alumni team alongside our friendlies against the MCC, the Army and Cambridgeshire.
TBB: How is the team doing/shaping up this year?
Ali: The current squad is full of exciting and talented players, with a lot of experienced faces from the last few years. Training was pretty relaxed in the first with the guys doing one net session per week, before moving up to twice a week this term. Everyone looks to fit in a fitness session during the week just to keep things ticking over before the long season starts in April. At the moment it is hard to say where the current squad stands in comparison to other years as we haven’t played outside yet, however, I am confident we can have a successful season.
Chloe: The CUWCC is shaping up well in preparation for the season. We lost a large number of players last year, 9 of the 11 players in the 50-over Varsity match. This year has therefore been about rebuilding the squad. We are looking particularly good in terms of bowling since we have a huge number of medium pace bowlers and some experienced spin options. Almost every single girl in the squad could play a significant role in our bowling attack
TBB: What is a typical week for the team at the moment, in the next few weeks, and close to Varsity?
Chloe: This term we are training three times a week with Scotty and our coach Steve and for the firsts this year, the Captain is running an indoor fielding and fitness session to supplement the fielding work we are doing in our other training sessions.
Ali: At the moment we train two times a week (Thursday evenings and Sunday Mornings). This stays the same until we start playing matches outdoors. In the season, we look to have a net session per week as well as a fielding session; however, exams tend to break the season up. Post-exams we look to play a lot of cricket in preparation for the Varsity matches.
TBB: How have the squads evolved from last year?
Ali: We lost a few of our big names last year, including captain and vice-captain last year – Tom Elliott and Paddy Sadler, who were an integral part of our side. Elliott was a seriously destructive middle order batsmen and Sadler a reliable seamer who would run in all day for the boys. Other members of the bowling attack also left, however, a strong core of the squad are still here which we will look to build the side around. In addition, we have some exciting new recruits including Alex Blofield, Darshan Chohan, and Alex Hunt, as well as many others, who have all played to a high level before coming to Cambridge. We have also promoted a few guys from the Crusaders squad (2nd team) who performed well last year.
Chloe: We lost a large number of players last year, 9 of the 11 players in the 50-over Varsity match but Oxford have similarly lost some experienced players so we feel confident that if we continue in the same way we will have a good chance of winning the Varsity matches this year.
TBB: What is the make-up of the team – how many players will be in the Varsity team and how will you be choosing the composition of the playing squad?
Ali: It is hard to tell how the team will look until closer to the time and who is performing well. The team is likely to remain relatively similar across the 3 formats, however, a few changes probably will occur as certain players are suited to different formats. In the shorter formats of the game we may look to play a few more all-rounders or aggressive batsmen who can clear to the ropes, whereas in the long formats we are likely to pick more specialist players. As a general rule we will look to play 5/6 bowlers – including seamers and spinners, a two or 3 of whom would consider themselves all rounders, in fact this year we are blessed with a wealth of all-rounders which really helps to balance the side. Aside from the bowlers, you’ll have one wicket keeper and the rest will be batsmen.
TBB: What are your main strengths as a squad this year?
Ali: Aside from becoming a seriously talented indoor football team (warm ups consist of a hard-fought 15 minute 8 a side game) – we have a real strength in depth in the batting department this year, with many experience players still here from previous years as well as fresh talent. There is going to be a lot of competition for places! We have two or three quite equally matched keepers who will all look to impress come the season. The spinners are also really strong and looks to be a part of our team that will have really improved from last year. We also have a strong opening bowling partnership with ample back up options who are all likely to play a large part come the season.
Chloe: This year has been about rebuilding the squad. We are looking particularly good in terms of bowling since we have a huge number of medium pace bowlers and some experienced spin options. Almost every single girl in the squad could play a significant role in our bowling attack. Our batting outfit is improving every week, led by a core of more experienced players, and some players who are new to squad have made huge improvements in this department.
TBB: What are you going to be working on most of all before Varsity?
Chloe: We are looking forward to getting outside for pre-season training over Easter because we are very aware of how different slow early season pitches are from the bouncing indoor surface of Fenners.
Ali: Again, it is quite hard to know now – fielding will be a key aspect as you spend a serious long time out there and a stand out catch or run out can make the real difference in close matches. Aside from this everyone will look to be honing their individual skills and thinking about their individual roles in the team. There is also the issue of negotiating May Week and the various May Balls, which leads to quite a few sore heads with matches the day after – hopefully this year the boys can get the balance right!
TBB: Any message for supporters in the build up for Varsity?
Ali: Make sure you come along to the Twenty20 Match at Fenners’ on Friday 12 June. Over 1000 people usually come and it is a really great occasion. Perfect way to start May Week. Look out for more details via the Blue Bird and various CUCC social networking sites. Also, try and get down to Lord’s if you are around London after the end of term or if you’re still in Cambridge pop in for a bit to watch the 4-Day game.