FROM breaking TVs in his kitchen to taking on the country’s best at the Bunbury Festival, Elijah Samuel has crammed an awful lot into his fledgling career.
The Purton opener, 15, will travel to the event in Leicestershire tomorrow hoping to win a place in the England Development Programme by showing off his talents in front of a host of national selectors and revered coaches.
His story is one of dedication and perseverance.
Samuel got into cricket in a big way aged five, when he and his father Isaac played indoors, using the washing machine as a wicket and a stretch of kitchen as a makeshift pitch. On more than one occasion the family television was forced to retire hurt by the then primary schooler’s off-drives and short-arm pulls.
Those experiences gave Samuel the cricketing bug and aged six he joined Purton, where under the tutelage of Dale Bowler and Mark Gardner he quickly rose through the ranks to make his first-team debut at just 14 last season. Since then he’s started to accumulate runs in the West of England Premier League like a seasoned veteran.
Spotted by Wiltshire development guru Alan Crouch, he was soon part of the south west region’s nurturing programme and now he’s been handed the chance of a lifetime - to play a part in the country’s biggest cricket festival for young talent.
Over the next six days, the Marlborough College student will hope to make the next step up the cricketing ladder as he tries to emulate the achievements of more than 50 previous Bunbury competitors who have gone on to receive international honours.
Of his selection, Samuel said: “It was quite exciting to be one of the best in the south and west. It’s come from a long selection process and I’m happy to be in that squad. It’s a really good opportunity to play at Bunbury, there will be a lot of people watching. I’m quite nervous but I think it’s a good chance for me to shine.
“It’s a big festival, lots of England players have started at Bunbury and gone on to play at international level and most who’ve played there have gone on to play first-class cricket.
“I’d like to play international cricket. I think that’s everyone’s dream so let’s see what I can do.
“If I do well then I could go into the England Development programme. They select 12 people, so to be in that would be quite a big thing.”
Samuel, who lists Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli among his cricketing heroes, admits to having a few nerves as he prepares for the trip to Oakham School but, with the solid foundation handed to him by his Purton coaches over the past nine years, he feels he is in a good place to succeed.
“I just go out and bat. There are obviously a few nerves, you don’t want to lose your wicket early. I guess everyone has nerves,” he said.
“You’ve just got to focus and remember all the hard work you’ve put in, your technique and everything you’ve learned along the way. At Purton I started quite young, from Kwik Cricket to cricket ball. Dale is a good coach and then there’s Mark Gardner and others supporting you along the way and helping you out.”
Samuel’s father, Isaac, credits the support of the family’s two local church groups for keeping his son going during a dry spell earlier this season.
“I think one of the things is his inner strength and I believe that is coming from his faith. I don’t think he has any superstitions but I know before a game he prays and even in the middle of the match during tough situations,” he said.
“I think people in Citifaith and our Indian Community Church have really supported and encouraged him. Before he got into the selection it was not so straightforward because he was getting out very quickly early on in the season in very unfortunate ways.
“It happens to an opening batsmen and I think at one point he was very low. One of his friends said don’t lose hope and the people from the church encouraged him. I know that’s a very important aspect.”