3 Top cricketer

3 – Lee Savident

GUERNSEY’s most decorated player, if you use the most first-class appearances as a measure. Having made his mark in Rovers colours and won an Island spot in 1993 at the tender age of 17, he was a fully-fledged, paid Hampshire cricketer at the age of 21 and remained so for four years, in which time he played four first-class games and nine one-dayers.

On his county debut against Yorkshire at Portsmouth in 1997, he took the wicket of future England captain Michael Vaughan as well as opposition captain David Byas, The following year Savident was named in the Wisden Cricketer Magazine’s ‘Five Young Cricketers To Watch’ alongside what proved to be some illustrious company. The remaining quartet were Andrew Strauss, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Owais Shah, who between them won a total of 248 Test caps and 397 ODI caps.

Speaking in 2013 after he had returned to his home island, Savident looked back on that time with both pride and some semblance of regret. ‘When you see what those players went on to achieve in the game and that I was considered among them it does make you wonder what you might have achieved. ‘At the worst, I may have had a strong county career in front of me, but the reality of top-level sport is that not everything works out well and I am not one to dwell on it.

‘The trouble was that I was constantly picking up niggly injuries and when I was 23 and offered a new two-year contract, I had to make a big decision to give up my pro career.’ Most of his time at Hampshire was spent in the second XI which he represented 70 times as an out-and-out all-rounder, having developed his bowling under one of the best in the business at that time, the late great Malcolm Marshall. ‘When I arrived at Hampshire, I was a batter who could bowl a little bit, but by no means anywhere near being an all- rounder.

‘I bowled straight and was much faster than I am now, but couldn’t swing the ball away at all, but after 20 minutes of working with Malcolm in the nets, I was swinging it away at pace. ‘By the time I came to make my first-class debut, there is a strong argument that I was chosen as a bowler rather than a batter, so it was certainly a big change around.’

But for injuries there is no doubt he would have played many more county matches and having retired from the pro ranks in 2000, he spent many seasons playing in the Southern Premier. Although he had departed Guernsey initially as a batsman, he returned as a batsman who could still bowl at a decent pace, utilising his height and high action to cause ICC international batsmen a pile of problems from 2006 through to 2012. Guernsey utilised him as fully as they could, given his ongoing back issues. In 2006 he hit a superb 136 and took 4 for 44 as Guernsey beat France in the European 50-over competition.

Two years later in the same competition he scored 98 off the Jersey attack and he was remarkably consistent with the bat. In terms of inter-insulars, he would play eight times against Jersey and in 2009 was man of the match for his undefeated 102 at the top of the order, batting for three hours and providing the ballast for others to play their shots in what was a winning total batting first.

He also opened the bowling, delivering 10 tight overs as Jersey were beaten by 21 runs. It was the first century in the fixture for two decades and he predicted one the previous day. ‘I told my mum yesterday that I was going to get this. It’s been more than 15 years of waiting,’ he said later.

In overall representative terms, only one man has bettered his 1,560 runs and when you consider his prime years were spent in the UK, it was a superb effort, underlining the class he had shown as an emerging Grammar schoolboy.

On his return to full-time island life, he recommitted to Rovers, who were no longer the force of the past but welcoming of his desire to put something back into the club that had helped develop him – and landing the 2010 Evening League title was due reward. He also captained the winning side of the first two editions of the popular Guernsey Premier League T20 franchise competition.

Voted GCA player of the year in 1994 and this summer he was appointed senior Island coach as the Guernsey Cricket Board look to make the most of his wealth of knowledge and experience. ‘I’m happy to be back involved, it’s always something I kind of wanted to do when I stopped playing a couple of seasons ago,’ Savident said.

Other notable performances:

27th in Rob Batiste’s top 100 sports people

Euro 50 overs 46 & 3-11 v Germany in 2008, 63* v Croatia in 2008, 98 & 2-27 v Jersey in 2008, 91 v Gibraltar in 2010, 6-3-8-3 v Norway in 2010

WCL 53 v Gibraltar in 2009, 65 v Botswana in 2009, 82 v Fiji in 2011

Friendly 53 v Bermuda in 2006, 6-19 v Denmark in 2012, 58 v Flamingo in 2007, 73 & 2-14 v Hertfordshire in 2011, 62 & 2-25 v MCC in 2011, 82 v MCC in T20 2011