CHOBHAM’S Jon Yates believes their Sunday side is an ideal staging post for youngsters looking to take their first steps in adult cricket. 

And he is in an excellent position to comment, because his son Alex came through its ranks and now opens the batting for the first XI.

Jon manages the club’s pavilion and bar with his wife Nicky and plays for the club on Sundays.

He told the News & Mail: “There’s a core of about six or seven regular players in the Sunday side, and then what we try to do is get a few of the juniors coming through. 

“They’re only used to playing 25-over cricket against each other normally, so we try to get them into adult cricket through the Sunday matches.

“There’s a bit more banter on Sundays and it’s nice because you get some of the dads playing with their kids. 

“Sunday afternoons are almost a bit of a family thing.

“We typically play all our matches at home because we’ve got the ground on a Sunday.

“It’s beautiful here and there’s a lot of wandering sides who haven’t got a ground. 

“We had an interesting visiting team a few weeks ago, London Theatres, who we hadn’t hosted before.

“Around 50 per cent of them are stage-based in the West End, so they’re either actors or lighting technicians etc, and they were a good bunch.

“It’s much more of a social occasion on a Sunday. We sort of get the bar staffed and stocked and ready, and people have a few beers after the game.

“It’s probably our biggest grossing day for the bar as well, which always helps with the club’s funds.

“And the cricket’s good here on a Sunday. We get some strong teams coming down – and this year we’ve had a couple of matches where it’s sort of been 280 versus 260, so it’s a decent day out.

“We try to make it competitive on Sundays and ensure we’ve got at least three or four batters.

“If we’re a couple short we’ll pinch them from the ones or twos, who play on a Saturday, just to make sure we’ve got a side out. 

“But the aim of the day is to make sure everybody gets a game, so you either bat or bowl.”

In agreement with that view is the side’s long-serving skipper Ian Crook, who joined Chobham as a player in the 1980s and who at one point captained the club’s third XI. 

He said: “Sunday cricket is social cricket. It’s about people of various abilities and ages – and while we do like to win, everyone gets a game. 

“Whether they bowl a few or bat higher up the order than what they should do, it’s all about the social. 

“But we’re quite strong. We’ve got some good first XI players and some good youngsters who play for us. And there are some more experienced guys, like myself.

“This is a good place to start playing, because you get some decent opposition.” 

Asked how much he enjoys playing at Chobham, Crook – whose father was a semi-professional umpire – said: “It’s great. This is a beautiful club and it’s very well run. The bar is excellent and the guys on the committee are brilliant.

“We’re in the best place we’ve been for many years.”

Alex Yates, 17, joined the club as a nine-year-old.

He said: “I started playing for the Sunday team a few years ago and I was a bit scared to start with. It’s a whole different game to kids’ cricket because the boundaries are much bigger. But I like it.” 

Of breaking into the Saturday first XI, who play in Shepherd Neame Surrey County League 1st XI Division One, he said: “It feels really good. I’ve been working hard throughout my career to try to get up to adult cricket and get used to it, and hopefully I’ll play many more years in the first XI.”

Yates junior also coaches youngsters at the club.

He said: “I’m at level one now. Hopefully I’ll be at level two when I’m 18 and then work more days with the club after my A-levels. 

“Coaching the younger years is important if we want to get more teams out on a Saturday and for the future development of the club.”

Of playing alongside his father in the Sunday side, he said: “It’s special. 

“I remember batting with him one day and we had a decent stint, but I got out and he wasn’t very happy with that. 

“Hopefully we’ll have many more games together.” 

Nicky Yates admits watching her son play can be a nail-biting experience.

She said: “It makes me  quite nervous watching. He’s doing well. 

“It’s a difficult game and it can be so cruel sometimes because you can’t retake shots. 

“Alex bowls as well as bats, so you kind of find that if one thing’s not so good, the other one is.” 

Asked whether she became a volunteer at the club because of her son’s involvement, she said: “Jon did, and then I did because of Jon. So I was roped in. 

“I enjoy it but I’d never pulled a pint until I came here. 

“We do get other parents helping out and some of the youngsters will when they turn 18, but it’s very much a case of everyone pitching in, and that’s what we wanted to create.

“It’s a lovely environment at the club. When Alex was younger, he had under-17s to look up to. It’s helped him to mature and it’s a safe atmosphere for youngsters to grow up in. 

“We miss it in the winter months, which is probably testament to how much it’s a part of our lives. 

“Sometimes it gets a bit much but it’s enjoyable and it’s always nice to meet people.

“We’ve got almost a family atmosphere here.”