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England newboy Richard Gleeson had learnt to take nothing for granted in his career to-date after taking a significant detour to make his first appearance at this weekend’s Vitality Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston.
Now thirty-four, Lancashire’s Gleeson has enjoyed a memorable summer – making his England T20 debut against India, dismissing skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant to finish with figures of 3-15 – the joint best for an England T20 debutant.
Gleeson is a late developer, having played club cricket for Blackpool and minor counties for Cumberland and became a coach at the Lancashire Cricket Board before earning his England recognition.
His county career began aged 27, a year after the average age of retirement for county cricketers, a journey that provides him with the perspective of how fragile the sport can be.
And as Lancashire search for a second T20 cup on Saturday, thousands of pounds will also be being raised for the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, a cause Gleeson is extremely happy to promote.
“Obviously, everything the Trust does is for the cricketers and for the players and just to have them there and to be able to support them, grow them and build on their reputation,” he said.
“Because everything they do is outstanding work for the cricketers, they are there if we ever need them.
“It is a great safety blanket to have. You never know what's around the corner, I experienced it myself with injuries, it could be anything, illnesses or family members. So, it's great to be able to support them so that they can support us.”
Gleeson’s career has seen a remarkable turnaround, first breaking onto the scene in 2015 with Northamptonshire, before returning to his native Lancashire.
Last year, it looked like he would again be stepping away from the professional game, taking up a teaching role at Myerscough College, before coming back into the fold and catapulting himself to a dream England debut taking three for 15.
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust is the independent charity linked to the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the body that provided Gleeson with support and advice as he considered his next step.
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust is set to celebrate the biggest day in the county calendar while highlighting the life-changing work of the charity at Edgbaston on Saturday 16 July.
The Vitality Blast Finals Day is to support the players’ charity for the third successive year and with a number of heartbreaking and heartwarming stories told throughout the build-up, fundraising activities are now confirmed.
The Trust was created to support the health and wellbeing of PCA members who have entertained cricket supporters over the years on the pitch for when they are in desperate need for help.
A number of past and present players have spoken so openly on support they have received, including Yorkshire Vikings spinner Dom Bess and Hampshire Hawks seamer Chris Wood who are set to feature on Saturday. More recently, former Somerset batter Arul Suppiah has revealed the torture of his eating disorder while former Yorkshire all-rounder Jamie Hood has spoken about living life to the full despite no mobility below his neck following a freak accident.
With the Trust taking centre stage for Finals Day, awareness of the small charity will be raised with the aim to create funds to continue its work in being a vital support mechanism for cricket’s biggest assets, its players.
Gleeson added: “I was in a situation that cricket for two months wasn't there. It was an unknown for me whether I was going to be able to play again after last season.
“I had to consider other options and they were really supportive. It's a great help, the fact that whatever line of work you want to go into, or you find you have interest in, the PCA can help with that.
“Just having that support is a massive benefit, I benefitted from it in the winter with the unknown.
“And the world doesn't stop turning just because cricket’s maybe not there anymore, you have to get on with it and to have that extra level of support is massive because things can get on top of you.”
After taking the wickets of Kohli, Sharma and Pant on his England debut, Gleeson feels he still has more to give.
“I felt like even when I've had these tough times in the last few years, I've always felt I've got a big occasion left in me,” he said.
“I missed Finals Day for Northamptonshire when we won it, I was rested for the game when we [Lancashire] won the Division Two trophy.
“So, to try and achieve and to be part of winning the trophy on the day on the pitch is something I've felt I've still got left in me.”
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust provides vital support to past and present cricketers in England and Wales and their immediate families when in desperate need. The charity’s work is all encompassing, whether it be for unforeseen physical or mental needs. Vitality Blast Finals Day is supporting the players’ charity - to find out more about the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, visit professionalcricketerstrust.org