Australian batsman Jebb Swallow enjoying first experience of England with Diss Cricket Club
As Diss were preparing for their season-opener against Fakenham earlier this month, the heavens opened up.
Hail fell and the temperature struggled to get above 7 degrees Celsius on an afternoon in which hosting Diss were beaten by 35 runs at the hands of the previous campaign’s champions.
The conditions would have been water off a duck’s back for much of the Diss contingent, but for their new overseas signing Jebb Swallow, it was an eye-opening experience.
And yet that is exactly why the Australian left his homeland earlier this year and headed for the market town located close to the Norfolk/Suffolk border.
He wanted to test himself, to see if he could cope with living abroad, different types of pitches, learn a new way of playing the game and if he could handle the frightfully cold weather.
“The first game it hailed a few minutes before we played and it was bitterly cold,” said the 26-year-old.
“That has never happened to me before! It was difficult, I had to have hand warmers in my pockets – I could not have done it without those.
“Cold for me in Kalgoorlie where I had been living in Australia and playing cricket is anything below 30 degrees, but this is the sort of thing I wanted to experience.
“The wickets in Australia are a lot harder and faster, whereas here it is a bit slower and softer. It is just different and that is great.
“It is the same sport but it is totally different over here. I want to experience different wickets and come up against different players.
“The travel is also a good thing, living away from home and playing at new grounds.
“I am really enjoying it at the moment, there are no regrets about the decision to come over.”
Swallow arrived in England on the back of arguably his best ever season back home.
Playing for Great Boulder Cricket Club – a member of the Eastern Goldfields Cricket Association – he topped the league’s batting charts with 446 runs at an average of 55.75, while he also snared 14 wickets along the way.
It was form that earned him the prestigious O’Shaughnessy Medal – an award given to the division’s best player – making him the eighth different Great Boulder representative to collect the honour.
The accolade came following a couple of years away from the sport, prompted by a loss of passion for cricket.
“The season I come over with is probably the best season I have ever had,” said Swallow. “I won a few awards and it is always nice to be recognised in that way.
“I had two years off before that because I did not want to play. I was not keen, my head and my heart were not in it any more.
“But the couple of years off were good and I decided to have another run it. I really enjoyed being back involved, the break was just what I needed.”
A search of Google will inform you that the distance between Diss and Kalgoorlie is roughly 9,120 miles.
Nevertheless, it has become quite a well trodden path over the years, with players from Great Boulder linking up with Diss for a spell and vice-versa, including current first-team captain Mark Williamson.
Swallow has settled in well, with the warm welcome he has received meaning that homesickness has not become an issue, and he is determined to repay Diss in the best possible way.
“I met blokes that had played at Diss a while ago that were playing in Kalgoorlie and they said if I wanted to come over they would put me in touch with the right people,” he said.
“There has also been three or four Diss players go the other way and it is an agreement that has worked out well in the past.
“It is really good of Diss to give me the opportunity to come over.
“I want to contribute because they have done a lot to get me here. I want to score some big runs and win some games for the club.
“It would be great to win the league but we have not started well enough to give ourselves the best opportunity of that.
“We have got a young team but we will be fine as soon as we get a couple of wins.
“I have got out at crucial points. We have lost wickets early, I come in and get settled and then I lose my wicket and that is something I need to look at.”
And if 2019 proves to be a successful season, do not rule out Swallow turning out at Rectory Meadow again next term.
His current visa lasts for two years and if the opportunity arises for a second stint, he could well take it up.
“We are not thinking about that too much at the moment, it is more just about enjoying this season,” admitted Swallow.
“But if I do enjoy it a lot and I am not missing home too much, I would love to come back if the club will have me again.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella