The PCA have a new chairman, with Worcestershire’s Daryl Mitchell beating competition from Graham Onions (Durham), Paul Horton (Leicestershire), James Hildreth (Somerset) and Steven Crook (Northamptonshire) to take on the role. We chatted to him about what comes next for him and the company.
Last season will not be remembered too fondly by Worcestershire’s Daryl Mitchell. With the bat in hand, the typically prolific opener fell short of his own high standards, scoring only 873 runs as Worcestershire were unable to secure promotion from Division Two.
More significantly for him however, the club made the decision to hand over the captaincy to Joe Leach, a move that Mitchell was plainly disappointed by.
However, 2017 looks like it’s going to be a positive one for Mitchell. Elected chairman of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, which represents all professional players across the counties, Mitchell starts the county season without the captaincy for the first time in six years, but in its place he has a significant new responsibility and status within the domestic game.
Congratulations on your new role as PCA chairman – how does it feel?
I’m obviously very proud. Anything where you get voted for by your teammates, by guys you’ve played against, that means a lot. It’s a very prestigious role, one that’s been done fantastically well by the two previous chairman that I’ve been involved with, Vikram Solanki and Mark Wallace. It’s an exciting time, and I’m really honoured to be involved with the PCA.
You’re coming into the position at a changing time in cricket, which must be exciting?
There is going to be change – from a PCA point of view, it’s mainly about making sure we get our views across. With the new T20 competition that’s on its way, we’ll make sure there’s a fair deal for the players, not only the 96 that might be involved but also the other 300-plus professionals who are out there around the counties. But I think the players are more excited than worried. You hear in the press of a lot more money coming into the game, and that can only be good for the counties, with the knock-on effect for the players in terms of salaries.
Are you prepared for the demands of the job? The county calendar is pretty full without doing two jobs at once.
I think the day-to-day running of the PCA is safe with David Leatherdale – there’s not a lot broke here, it’s a fantastic team who look after the players fantastically well. Also, with technology like Skype, email, it’s very easy to keep a finger on the pulse, whether I’m here at New Road or in a hotel around the country. Anyway, I like being busy!
One of the PCA’s aims for the year is to raise £500,000 through fundraising efforts – is there anything specific we can look forward to?
There’s the legacy appeal where every player has been asked to donate something, and there’s a plethora of big events planned – some golf days, dinners and lunches at Lords, and they’ll be a lot of auctions going on throughout the summer. Graham Gooch has already made a £50,000 donation, specifically for gambling awareness education.
And of course there’s the Big Bike Ride, the 450-mile trek at the end of the season. Are you looking forward to that?
Well, I went bike shopping on Saturday and I was shocked by the price of bikes these days! But no, it’s a challenge, and I’m always looking for new challenges. I’ve threatened to do the last two Big Bike Rides, and either not been able to do it, or bottled it – but I’m committed to doing this one!
T20 reform aside, what’s on the upcoming agenda for you?
Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the PCA, so there’s a lot of work going into that, but I think it’s important to keep up the great work we do in terms of personal development for players. I think it’s vital to try and aid that transition to a life post-playing, for as many players as possible. The education available to players now is phenomenal, and looking at the problems with anti-corruption in the PSL, and with doping issues globally, I think there is really no excuse for county cricketers.
You’ve just signed another four-year contract at Worcestershire – have you begun to think about your own life post-cricket?
As a cricketer, you’re only ever one injury or a run of poor form way from being out of the game, hence why I think personal development is so vital, from a really young age. I’ve been trying to do it in the Worcester dressing room, to set players up and give them the confidence to go into things outside of cricket – whether you’re a 19-year-old or a 33-year-old like me.
The way last season ended was clearly difficult for you – are you in a better place coming into the new year?
I’m not going to lie, it was difficult for me in October, but I think as soon as I made the decision to sign the new contract, there was a line drawn under it, and I’ve moved on. It’s great to have this new role, but out there I’ve still got to be focused, and do my day job as a professional cricketer. I’m looking forward to the challenges of the summer, as I have every summer for the last 14 years, so I’m looking to score as many runs as I can, to do the best I can for the team, and hopefully to try and win a few games for us. I get on very well with Joe [Leach] – also, my wife and his fiancée are good friends – he’ll do a fantastic job, and I’ll support him in every way I possibly can.
How is preparation going, are you feeling in good touch in the nets?
The older you get, the longer the winters get – or it certainly feels that way. We go to Abu Dhabi on March 9, and I’m really looking forward to getting out in the middle. We play Somerset and Gloucestershire in pre-season, before our first proper game at Bradford. I think I’ve got my head round being one of the boys now, and I’m just looking forward to helping Joe where I can, playing with a little less stress – and just enjoying it.