James Wharton says his first month in Western Australian grade cricket has been an “amazing” experience.
The Yorkshire batter, 22-years-old, is playing in Perth for the Wanneroo club.
He has played a pair of two-day games since arriving Down Under late last month, scoring a measured, match-winning 99 on debut against Mount Lawley. Unfortunately, he was unable to back that up next time out, falling for nought in a defeat against Subiaco-Floreat.
“It was very significant to be fare,” said the Huddersfield-born right-hander of his debut innings.
“I was speaking to Strawbs (Chris Sabburg), our skipper, and I was saying, ‘When you come over, you want to make a good impression and show you can play a bit’.
“So to do that in the first game settled the nerves and made me feel a bit more at ease with it all. It takes the pressure off.
“If you get off to a slow start, it’s not the end of the world by any means, but it makes it easier going into the next few fixtures if you can get a score.”
When Yorkshire commitments allow, Wharton plays his league cricket at home for Scholes, which is where the link to Wanneroo comes in. Australian Mitch Slattery has played for both clubs and paved the way for Wharton’s winter.
He has had an eye on a stint in Australia for the last few years, though things have been delayed until now largely because of the Covid pandemic.
Wharton has been speaking to local Perth radio station, 91.3 SportFM, about the early stages of his Wanneroo career.
“It’s been very easy to feel comfortable and welcome at the club,” he said.
“Everyone has been great. Our president, Dave Minear has made a real effort to make me feel welcome.
“It’s been a pretty easy ride to be honest because meeting new people isn’t my favourite thing to do. I don’t really meet 40 new people very often, but it’s been good.”
Wharton continued: “Everybody who has been at the club (Yorkshire) have not had a bad word to say about coming over, whether it’s to Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, whatever – the way of life, the standard of cricket, the lads you meet.
“Harry Swindells (from Leicestershire) came and played for Wanneroo last year, and he said to me that they’re the best group of blokes you’ll ever meet and you’ll love it.
“Coming over, I was excited and nervous, but it’s lived up to the expectations that I’d heard. It’s been amazing.”
Wharton was asked for his views on a host of things, from the facilities to the standard of cricket to the dreamy Perth weather.
“It’s lovely,” he said of the latter. “It’s windy, but it’s a lot different to the UK, that’s for sure.
“It’s a really good standard and is full of good young players. Then you have the big boys who come back and play every now and again, which is just mint because you don’t get that as much in England.
“Not many of the older boys back home have local clubs who they go and play for regularly.
“The net facilities are unbelievable. I think we’ve got 10 grass nets available, and that’s not something you see (in league cricket back home) unless you’re on the professional circuit.
“Our wicket is very flat, so for me it’s perfect to bat on.”
The summer of 2023 wasn’t Wharton’s debut campaign in county cricket, but it definitely was his breakthrough season.
He scored a blistering maiden first-team century against Worcestershire in the Vitality Blast and added five further half-centuries in the LV=Insurance County Championship and the Metro Bank One-Day Cup.
He also took a maiden first-class wickets with his off-spin in the latter stages of September’s dead draw against Glamorgan at Cardiff.
His time in Australia will give him plenty of time to try and progress that side of his game, though he did chuckle when admitting: “I was turning my arm over at training, but I think I’m well down the pecking order!”
He bowled 2.2 overs in the latter stages of Saturday’s Subiaco defeat.
Wharton also spoke with confidence about Yorkshire’s progress ahead of 2024, when a Championship-promotion push will be at the top of the agenda at Headingley.
“It’s been a challenging two years, but we’re passed that now,” he added.
“Although we finish second bottom in Division Two, if we didn’t get those points deducted we’d have been right up there.
“We had a couple of games where the English weather stuck with us a bit.
“We’re a young squad, and the more we get these opportunities to play (abroad), it’s only going to help the county.
“We’re definitely going in the right direction.”