In 2010, Englishman Chris Smith captained the North Otago cricket team to Hawke Cup glory. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson tracks down the now London-based lawyer for a chat.
Q What brought you to North Otago in 2010?
I was coming to the end of university and really wanted to have a season playing cricket overseas. My best friend, Simon Butler, had been in Oamaru the year before and thoroughly enjoyed his cricket and time generally in North Otago, so suggested that I should give it a go.
Q How did you find the cricket compared to back home?
The league cricket was quite different in that it was unusual to have the schools competing in the senior leagues. However, I thought the schools seemed to compete really well and it was a great way of exposing the kids to good levels of cricket. The Hawke Cup cricket was excellent. It would be equivalent to Minor Counties cricket in England, so it was of a good standard and also very enjoyable.
Q And where is home for you, exactly?
I was brought up in Banbury, just north of Oxford. However, I have now lived in London for the past eight years.
Q When you spent that summer in North Otago, what did you get up to outside of cricket?
I travelled a lot. I managed to take in most of the South Island and had a three-week trip over Christmas up in the North Island clearly won that contest.
I worked for North Otago Cricket Association as part of the Milo scheme. I visited the junior schools in the local area, running cricket lessons aimed at encouraging youngsters to take up the bat and ball. For me, the key thing was to run sessions that were enjoyable, as the main thing about sport at a young age is not about whether you are technically good, but to have fun.
I also ran the Hawke Cup training sessions, as well as the North Otago girls cricket team, which was very rewarding given the improvements we showed as individuals and as a team.
Q What were the highlights of your time here?
Well, the clear winner would be captaining the North Otago team to its first Hawke Cup. That was a huge achievement for an association of North Otago’s size, and it really was a very special three days.
Scoring 100 on debut at Valley. It really settled some early nerves and, ironically, it was probably my most fluent innings whilst in Oamaru.
And definitely the success of a number of the junior cricketers.
Q What have you been doing since you left North Otago, and what are you up to now?
Once I returned home I had one more year of study to become a lawyer. I trained at a firm in central London and was with them for six years practising corporate law. I have since moved jobs to West London and have been, for nearly three years, working as a corporate/commercial lawyer for a consumer electrical company.
Q Obviously Covid-19 is having a big impact on everyone’s lives right now. How is it affecting you?
It is very surreal. Clearly being in lockdown is very strange and difficult – especially in a one-bed flat! We are allowed outside for one period of exercise a day, so I am running a lot. The lack of playing competitive sport or watching it is very hard. In addition, business is being hit very hard – though the business I work for is fortunate that people are relying on technology and still buying online. But I guess the hardest part is not being able to see friends and family. We just have to hope that the world can find a vaccine soon.
Q How has cricket been affected in the UK?
All domestic cricket has been cancelled up until at least July 1. We would have been into the first couple of friendlies by now. I had a number of summers away from playing cricket – choosing golf instead – around 2012 to 2015. But I am back now playing for a club called Wimbledon. I play in the second XI which is a nice mix of competitive cricket and relaxed nature. We have won the league for the last three seasons, so we were hoping to for the fourth.