PCA: Back from the Brink

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Photo Credit: Professional Cricketers’ Association

Harry Swindells was on Leicestershire’s released list in mid-September, until a last-gasp call-up changed his life.

The summer of 2023 saw the pendulum swing from real lows to an exhilarating high for Harry Swindells – all in the space of 24 hours.

In the final year of his contract with Leicestershire, and having been out of favour for the majority of the 2023 season – Swindells had started planning for life after cricket.

That was until he made a stunning, match-winning unbeaten 117 for his side in the Metro Bank One Day Cup Final against Hampshire at Trent Bridge which ultimately saved his career, seeing him rewarded with a new two-year deal with the Foxes.

But much of his season was pure frustration to that point. “I thought I was going to play a little bit more than I did,” said Swindells. “I forced my way into the T20 team and I was sort of in and out, I got dropped three or four times.

“I had not featured in the red-ball side and did not play in the 50-over competition, but I kept on trying to work as hard as I could for hopefully one opportunity.”

Swindells continued to work hard even when things were going against him, perhaps built from the inner steel that saw him make his way into the professional arena.

He did not come into county cricket via the conventional route. With a proud working class upbringing, Swindells was playing men’s cricket by the age of 12 with little opportunity to play his sport at his state school.

He found himself playing for Narborough & Littlethorpe’s third XI as well as for their Under 17 team. By the time he was 16, and on the academy at Leicestershire, he had been forced to play the highest level of club cricket he could.

That meant joining Sam Evans at Leicester Ivanhoe, a partnership that would go on to produce one of the most important partnerships in the Foxes’ recent history in the2023 One Day Cup final.

The 24-year-old, who is also the PCA rep at the Uptonsteel County Ground, believes this journey provided him with a solid foundation for his career.

“I am a state school boy so I did not really play too much cricket at school, I went down the club cricket path and that system.

“I am very fortunate that I have had a lot of good mentors and a lot of great people around me from such a young age and that has helped me to become the player I am today.

“It threw me in at the deep end and you have to develop from a young age ways to perform against older men, who were better, bigger and stronger than you.”

Swindells is part of a sports-mad family. His father lives and breathes football, but Harry is the only cricketer in his family – something he feels has helped his progression. A rapid progression as a young lad that led to representing England Under 19s in 2017, alongside the likes of Harry Brook and Will Jacks.

“I have had to find ways to do it myself and I have never been pressured into playing cricket. I am very grateful for that as I am not sure how it would have gone if I was always pressured into doing something.”

However, his family have always been there to support him, especially on one of his darkest days as the realisation set in his career could well be over. On a bleak mid-September day, the wicketkeeper was sat in a cafe with his dad planning the next steps in his career after being told he would not be offered a new deal.

Thankfully, Swindells’ story was not over and just hours later Alfonso Thomas, the Foxes interim head coach, called him to say he was playing in the final, his first List A game of the summer.

He had been considering a career as a mortgage advisor or in a trade, and within a few days, the complexion of his career had turned on its head, for the better. And his friends and family were all there to see it.

“It is the reason you try and train so hard to win a trophy like that for the team, it was an amazing day, all my family and my friends were there so it was special.

“My opportunity came in the final and thankfully it went my way. I was hoping it would come, and I have had some pretty good times at Trent Bridge which was quite nice to fall back on.”

The Foxes were 89-6 when he came to the crease but he was batting with his old mate Evans and the pair got them back into the game to set 268 to win, with Swindells hitting a maiden List A century. The underdogs won by two runs.

“It was amazing, we were in a pretty sticky situation, but being out there with Sam (Evans) made the situation easier.

“I have played with him for the last 15 or 16 years we knew what we had to do and take it deep, thankfully everything came together.”

A pipe dream just days previous, Swindells gave Leicestershire their first List A silverware since 1985 and saved his career. A lesson to never give up.

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