IT’S a long way from the Melbourne Cricket Ground and an Ashes Test match atmosphere to the genteel surroundings of Shebbear College near Bideford, but it’s a journey Chris Read made last Saturday when he turned out for Paignton 3rd XI against Hatherleigh in the F Division West of the Tolchards Devon Cricket League.
Read was a colt with Paignton and an age-group player for Devon and then the full county side before going on to play for Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire and more than 50 times for England in Tests and white-ball internationals.
Lord’s, The Oval, Galle, the MCG and Sydney Cricket Ground – Read played on them all and many more during nearly two decades in the First Class game.
Read’s record as a captain and a player – more than 22,000 runs in pro cricket as well as skippering Notts to County Championship wins and Lord’s finals triumphs – make him the most successful cricketer Devon has ever produced.
Dom Bess, Craig Overton, Len Coldwell and John Childs all graduated from Devon cricket to the Test arena, but none of them achieved as much in the game as Read did.
Read stepped down as captain of Notts in 2017 and retired from cricket at the end of that season. At that stage he had no intention of picking up a bat in anger again. He really didn’t.
Four years on Read dug out the kit, oiled his bat and has been playing semi-regularly in Division Eight of the Notts County League for Long Whatton.
“Caleb, my son, was 12 this year and because he is a county pathway player is allowed to play open-age (adult) cricket,” said Read.
“I was keen for Caleb to play men’s cricket – you learn so much from it as a young cricketer – and as I knew I would be going to most of the games with him I said I would play if required.
“We have played three-four games so far for Long Whatton. My aim has been to do as little as possible… and I have been pretty successful doing in!
“What has been great has been playing on the same pitch as my lad and once we knew when we were coming down to see family on holiday I asked Tim Ward (Paignton chairman) if there was any chance of a game?
“He said yes and all three of us went off to play Hatherleigh 3rd XI.”
Read senior started off in the Paignton 3rd XI when he was the same age as his son and 30 years on retains ‘fond memories’ of playing on the old South Devon League circuit.
"I can remember going down to Plymouth to make my debut for Paignton 3rd XI," said Read.
"I was batting at nine and remember being offended when all the fielders came up and gathered round me in the expectation I would not hit the ball very far.
"They were right, but I was still offended!"
Many former professional cricketers drop into league cricket when their full-time days are over, but Read decided that was not for him when he retired in 2017.
“When I knew I was finishing I played a couple of games for Devon, thinking I would enjoy it, but actually found it hard,” said Read.
“That sealed it for me. There was no middle ground and if it wasn’t competitive I did not want to play.
“For four years I did not play in a game or pick up a bat, other than for coaching.
“Now I find I am able to enjoy the game for what it is… even in Division Eight! I think I would struggle to play Premier cricket now.
“We play on some ‘interesting’ pitches, which takes me back to my days in Paignton 3rd XI.”
Caleb Read bats, bowls and keeps wicket – no wonder he is on the Notts player pathway.
“Predominately, Caleb is a batter, but he enjoys everything about the game,” said dad.
Read senior went into education after leaving Notts, initially at Uppingham School in Rutland as director of cricket and latterly in the same role at Repton School in Derbyshire.
School duties keep Read busy during term time, but during the summer holidays he works as a talent scout for the ECB.
“I watch quite a few games in my role as an ECB scout and do a bit of work with Notts when needed with their keepers,” said Read.