They may be bottom of the pile heading in to tomorrow’s halfway match in the East Anglian Premier League, but Bury St Edmunds’ overseas star believes they are too good to go down.
That confident assessment from Trinidad’s former junior cricketer of the year, Daron Cruickshank, came in the wake of a rather unnecessary nail-biting finale to their bottom two clash with Norwich, which saw the Suffolk side claim their first win of the campaign.
But, heading up into Norfolk for tomorrow’s mid-way marker at the third-from-bottom side, Vauxhall Mallards — who are 33 points better off than Bury — Cruickshank is not fearful of the Victory Ground outfit ending up occupying the single relegation spot come mid-September.
Asked if, now they have got a monkey off their back as the last side in the league to claim a win, it could be a turning point in their season, he replied: “To be honest I don’t think Bury will go down.
“If we go back to (this time) last year, Bury hadn’t won a game yet and still got seven or eight on the table.
“Looking at the calibre of players Bury have, Bury can compete with any team, as long as we can get the basics right on the day.
“We see a lot of good things in spurts. But to get the full complete game from Bury it hasn’t come yet, but it will at some point in time.”
Bury’s late charge to safety last season coincided with the 31-year-old cousin of West Indies legend Dwayne Bravo’s arrival, with Cruickshank smashing his way to four tons in his first six games, ultimately changing the course of their disappointing season to finish 46 points and three places above neighbouring Woolpit in the drop zone.
Unavailability of key players, including their captain Sean Park, who was again missing due to school cricket master commitments on Saturday, has undoubtedly hampered Bury’s progress, along with a need to bed in youth players, some, like Charlie Cook and Alex Oxley, as young as 16.
But Cruickshank, who has played first-class cricket for the Leeward Islands, with 11 matches to his name, as well as representing his homeland Trinidad & Tobago, refused to use selection problems as an excuse for their poor start, instead identifying a psychological issue.
After seeing his side almost capitulate to defeat in their innings with Norwich, losing five wickets for no runs to ensure a dramatic end to the match, eventually winning on four leg byes, he said: “Towards the end I was disappointing knowing these guys ability to strike the ball and find gaps, but that is life.
“If you look at Bury’s statistics no-one has got a 50 apart from little Ox (Alex Oxley) and myself.
“Looking at it it is all a mental problem for the individual, whosoever it means. They need to back themselves and get out of that mental problem. It is nothing to do with the skill, it is a mental problem.”
But missing key players in Leicestershire’s dual-registered Dominic Manthorpe, Suffolk’s rising star Oxley, as well as influential captain Sean Park, he saw plenty in the must-not-lose high-pressure game, particularly how they controlled the first session, to give cause for optimism.
“It would have been honestly heart-aching to see that we lost that game in that position,” he said.
“Having said that, we got the 25 points and there were a lot of positives to come out of this game.
“So we should move on from here and take each game at a time.”
For the first time in his career Cruickshank, who returned to Bury after playing for his home club Queen’s Park, who play at Trinidad and Tobago’s biggest cricket venue, ended one run short of a century.
“I am disappointed I did not get the three figures and then see the team through and make the innings look a bit more professional,” he reflected.
“Unfortunately, in that position, I tried to hit the ball to square and I got a top edge. But it is what it is.
“That is the first time I have ever been out on 99, and as a cricketer, as in life, your last mistake is your best lesson.”
The 25 points from Saturday, couple with Norwich’s eight, reduced the gap to safety to 16 points, which they will look to start reducing further at Vauxhall Mallards tomorrow.