As the new cricket season approaches, of the many youngsters hoping to pursue a pro career abroad, one of the most focused must be Zachary McLaughlin, the super-motivated all-rounder.
He is 22 and works as a constable with the Royal Cayman islands Police service and has often arrested attention in the past with thunderous exploits on the field.
McLaughlin opens the batting and bowls off-breaks and his best performance so far with the ball was four wickets for 19 runs off nine overs playing for the Cayman Islands Under-19 team in the regional tournament against Argentina a couple of years ago.
“My best for last year was the Challenge Trophy final in December when I got three key wickets and bowled four overs for 11 runs,” he said.
“With the bat I scored a Division One century earlier in the year against ESSO when I made 103 not out. I really had to work hard for my runs.
“The Challenge Trophy final was again a notable performance with the bat as I top scored with 45. I was given Most Valuable Player for my contributions with the bat and the ball.”
The young Cayman side comfortably beat an older, far more experienced Jamaica team in the Challenge Trophy final and effectively came of age. It included team-mates McLaughlin has come through the ranks with since their youth days, players like Darren Cato, Kervin Ebanks, Marlon Bryan, Omar Willis and Paul Chin.
McLaughlin averaged 41.6 in the Challenge Trophy and took five wickets with an economy rate of 4.4 runs per over.
“It was of grave importance to us as we are a young side and were seen as the underdogs,” McLaughlin said.
“A lot of people did not think we had a chance of winning but we believed we could win and we did not for a second lose hope.
“It was also important to win so that we could transfer that mentality into this year’s cricket and continue to play well as a unit.”
His greatest moment so far was being selected to represent the senior national team in 2011 for the Americas regional T20 tournament but more honours beckon if his progress continues as rapidly as it has.
“We’re preparing for the Americas Region T20 tournament in Fort Lauderdale in March which is the first step to qualifying for the next T20 World Cup.
“We’ve been training very hard. The coaching staff is focusing mainly on technique and fitness at the moment. In the weeks to come we will be moving to more strength and endurance conditioning as well as role specific training for individual players.
“My personal goals for the tournament are to have a batting average of over 40 and to take 10 or more wickets. This year i want to continue to score runs consistently, to improve on my technique as well as the mental aspect of my cricket.”
If that happens then McLaughlin can seriously hope to make the breakthrough into the pro game in England.
“I intend on playing first class cricket in the UK when i return to attend university. Most of the universities there offer a high level of cricket within their leagues. This is a stepping stone towards being eligible for county cricket selection which is a personal goal of mine.”
Cayman has an excellent youth programme thanks mainly to the input from technical director Theo Cuffy and coaches Andy Myles and Benjamin Maynard. McLaughlin is thankful to them and a host of others for his development.
“My biggest influences so far have been my coaches Theo Cuffy, Andy Myles, Franklin Hines and Benjamin Maynard who never gave up on me knowing that hard work would eventually bring results.
“I have to say thanks also to the Police Cricket Club who groomed me from the age of 15 and exposed me to first division cricket as well as top level cricket in England and Barbados.
“These tours gave me encouragement as I was able to play against tougher oppositions than I would encounter at home. Without the guidance of Pearson Best, Ryan Bovell, Kirkpatrick Clarke and our captain Abali Hoilett I would not be the cricketer I am today.”