Wade begins new mission
David Wade is counting down the days to the start of his first season in county cricket - but with one eye on matters in Afghanistan.
A Lance Corporal in the Army for six years, Wade’s career took a remarkable and unexpected turn when he was offered a two-year contract by Gloucestershire in December.
Without it, he would now in the midst of a second tour of duty in Afghanistan, and the fact that his former colleagues are in a war zone while he prepares for Gloucestershire’s LV= County Championship opener against Derbyshire in the rather more serene surroundings of Bristol has not escaped his attention.
“I loved the Army. I spent seven months in Afghanistan in 2007-2008 and had quite an exciting time,” Wade told ecb.co.uk.
“The lads are back out there now - they went out in January to work in Kabul. I was due to go out with them, but then this came along.
“It came out of the blue really. I had a trial last year - played two games - and didn’t really expect anything of it. I got a call from bowling coach Stuart Barnes two months later and I jumped at the opportunity.”
Wade, a 27-year-old opening bowler who impressed the Gloucestershire coaching staff with his height and ability to swing the ball, completed his winter Army commitments before embarking on a pre-season tour of Namibia with MCC.
While the bulk of his action on that trip came in Twenty20 cricket, he is keen to establish himself in the longer form of the game in a Gloucestershire attack which has lost Steve Kirby and Gemaal Hussain, both to Somerset, and Anthony Ireland to Middlesex during the close season.
“There’s a huge chance this season,” Wade predicted. “It’s a young squad and there will be plenty of opportunities for younger players.
“Championship cricket is my main effort. If I can get in the championship side on regular basis, then I’ve done quite well. It’s a whole new learning curve.”
Despite Afghanistan’s well-publicised emergence on the cricketing scene in recent years, Wade admits he “didn’t come across too many cricketers” during his time in the country.
But he is confident his lengthy service will stand him in good stead in terms of fitness.
“I’d hope so,” he said. “As a professional sportsman you’ve got to be quite fit. Army fitness is slightly different; it’s more endurance. This is a lot more speed-based.
“We do quite an intensive track day on a Wednesday during the winter, which is as hard as anything we do Army fitness-wise.”
Wade’s background - he is the first member of the Army to become a professional cricketer since former Kent and England all-rounder Matthew Fleming - will not go unnoticed by the headline-writers.
He admits his story is a “tabloid’s dream”, but also knows that if his name makes it up in lights, he will have completed his latest mission.