Appearing on Kent’s radar by virtue of back injuries which nearly ended his career before it started, Ivan Thomas admits to sometimes feeling as if he does not belong in professional cricket.
But any doubters should be directed to JP Duminy, who became the seamer’s final first-class victim in his debut season for Kent.
Thomas suffered from back problems as a result of his action while a teenager playing club cricket for Blackheath and was sent to the St Lawrence Ground as a 15-year-old for help ironing out the flaws.
But Thomas’ talent rather than his back issues drew attention and the county liked what they saw, slotting him into their youth teams only for a triple stress fracture to twice cause him to take a year away from the game.
Now 21, Thomas has recovered to become another of Kent’s golden crop alongside Sam Billings, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Fabian Cowdrey and England U19 captain Adam Ball.
Thomas played four first-class games, including one against the South Africans, last season and performed impressively to end with eight wickets at 23.50 – and the right-armer is still taking it all in.
“When I was out for the second time I thought it might be it for me if the rehab went wrong, so to come back and get a contract has been so rushed and I’m still in a bubble” he said. “I’m living the dream, ever since I went to watch Kent against the South Africans in 2003 that is what I wanted to do so to play in the game was unbelievable.
“It was ridiculous getting Duminy out but I remember bowling to Hashim Amla and thinking, ‘I need to get him to the other end’, and then turning round and seeing Jacques Kallis.
“I faced one ball from Morne Morkel and I think I kept my eyes open but I played it and thought I might be a batsman but quickly got bowled by Imran Tahir. I made my Championship debut against Essex, who had Ravi Bopara, Alastair Cook and James Foster, and you just stand there and think I shouldn’t be here with all these great players.”
Whilst Thomas might have had doubts ahead of his Kent debut, he certainly did not let it show as he bowled with maturity to end with 2-29 off 16 overs – Mark Pettini and Foster his scalps.
In fact he is making a habit of taking big wickets – Matt Spriegel, Roy Hamilton-Brown, Gerard Brophy and Joe Root are no rabbits. And the Leeds University student puts his success down to the environment fostered at Kent by a combination of talented youth and experience.
“I definitely make a note of who I’m getting out and it’s brilliant,” he added.
“Bowling with Charlie Shreck, Simon Cook and Mark Davies has taught me so much about maintaining my consistency rather than trying to bowl as quick as I can.
“I’m not rapid and these are the guys I want to bowl like. But coming through with a load of young guys is great because it does feel like the pressure is off a little bit and you can all support each other.
“Talking to Sam Billings, who has so much pressure on him, and seeing how he copes with it really helps. But we’re a close team all round and I think we’ll have plenty of success going forward.”
A friendly giant, 6ft 4in Thomas has been compared to England quick bowler Chris Tremlett, however he will bat away any hype until he has nailed down a first XI spot.
“That is quite a bit shout,” he said. “I don’t think I’m there just yet and he doesn’t have a big ginger afro anyway.”
“I’m just going to work hard over the winter and try to take my chances next year. I’m sure James Tredwell and Matt Coles will get some England calls so I need to have my name in the hat.”
This article is published with the kind permission of Sam Wakefield and The Cricket Paper