Waringstown, Northern Knights and now Ireland – that has been the cricket trajectory of James McCollum, the 23-year old top-order batter who has had an intensely busy six months on and off the cricket field.
Since the end of the last cricket season, one in which his Waringstown side seemed to sweep all before them at local and all-Ireland level, McCollum has had an adventurous cricket journey.
“It’s been a pretty awesome experience and it’s all happened pretty fast. I got my first full-time contract with Cricket Ireland in October, then immediately went out to Australia for a couple of months to my club in Adelaide – it’s been a really good place for me to try and work on my game. Then the Ireland batting unit went on a spin camp to Bangalore, followed by a five week tour to Sri Lanka with the Wolves. That was a long tour, but I think it really gave guys a lot of confidence playing against regular internationals who are playing for Sri Lanka. That tour was then closely followed by the trip to Dehradun for 4.5 weeks for the Afghanistan series, which adds up to a pretty busy winter.”
McCollum was quick to explain the role that the senior players in the squad play during his introduction to international cricket:
“Just being around the senior team for a sustained period of time you can really pick up a lot of knowledge from guys who have been in and around the team for so long and have so much international experience. The last few months have been an opportunity for me to spend time with players I previously hadn’t have much exposure to – and at the Bangalore camp I even met a couple of guys there for the first time.”
“Everyone is very willing to help each other out and it makes it easier for a new player coming into the squad and trying to find their way. Even just having guys like Gary Wilson coming back into the Knights set-up – he has really helped out and making a real positive difference. Even when I wasn’t playing it was about trying to take in as much information as possible in order to learn and feel prepared.”
Asked if he had set any goals at the start of the year, McCollum said:
“I used to be really into my goal setting – not only from a personal perspective but from a team perspective in the Inter-Provincials. But it’s hard to set goals like that in international cricket when I have so little experience at this stage – so for me at this stage it’s about learning as much as possible when I get opportunities, and coming to an understanding of what will be required of me in order to succeed should I get more opportunities.”
About featuring as an opener for Ireland in the 50-over format, he said:
“I’m still really starting out in the opener role – I’ve only really been doing it for a year-and-a-half. For me it’s all about assessing conditions – where you’re playing and who you’re playing against – as much as possible and then adjusting accordingly. It’s obviously a different approach needed when facing someone first up in Ireland as opposed to facing someone with a new ball in Dehradun. So it’s about preparation.”
“I usually try to get my preparation done a couple of nights before, studying footage and getting a good idea of what to expect from each bowler. It’s about trying to analyse their style, their best balls and how they may look to get you out – and where you’re likely to score runs off them.”
“For me it’s trying to ensure I feel as prepared as possible before match day. If you fail, you fail, but for me it’s as much about knowing I’ve done all I can to be prepared and that I’ve done all I can to put myself in the best place to succeed.”