Following his standout performance in Ireland's dramatic victory over Afghanistan at the ICC U19 CWC, Josh Little talks about his ambitions in the game, having faith in his own convictions and choosing cricket over hockey.
There are a couple of instances during an interaction with Ireland all-rounder Josh Little when he comes across as a man of more self-awareness and honesty than your typical 18-year-old. He is expansive about his decisions, revealing of the reasoning behind them, and maintains a steely confidence throughout that is hard not to be impressed by. Basically, what you see is what you get.
The conversation takes place shortly after Ireland’s last-gasp win over Afghanistan in their final Group D game of the 2018 ICC U19 CWC. It’s hard not to present your best self after such a morale-boosting victory. And Little played a big part in it.
After hitting a 20-ball 27 that helped boost Ireland’s total to 225/8, Little returned figures of 2/40 in his 10 overs, bowling the crucial penultimate over in which he gave away just three runs and dismissed Mujeeb Zadran. Ireland eventually won by four runs.
When asked to talk through that over, Little’s response is a bit surprising. There is no grand reveal about the tactics employed or the mind-games played. Instead, he has the most charming tale about how he shooed away his captain, Harry Tector.
“Harry was coming up to me and asking me what kind of ball I wanted to bowl, and I just asked him to leave me alone,” he says. “I wanted a clear mind, I wanted to think to myself. 'I’ll set the field, I know what ball I’m going to bowl.' I just took it from there and backed myself.”
Little's self-belief is evident, as is his honesty. Sample this snippet about his aspirations to go further for the senior team and, in particular, his acknowledgement at the end. “All the lads in the team are pushing to get on the full team, play Test cricket when we’re older and keep progressing beyond the under 19s. We just keep going for it – the One-Day International team, the Test team. Make a career from it, really. Make some money as well!”
Is the money good? “Oh yeah. Good, good money.”
That’s not to say Little doesn’t love the game in its own right. But it just goes to show that he’s in tune with reality. The money is important, and that fact that he is willing to speak about it is commendable.
Ireland's fans celebrate after winning the closest match of the tournament so far! What a thriller! ☘ #AFGvIRE #U19CWC pic.twitter.com/aqyegIK4Gq— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) January 20, 2018
Little became the second-youngest player to appear in a Twenty20 International when he made his senior Ireland debut against Hong Kong in September 2016. It was one to forget as he scored a duck and went wicket-less in a 40-run loss, although his economy rate of 6.25 was better than some of his more experienced teammates. Another T20I appearance would follow four months later in January 2017, but just as he was receiving regular call-ups, he withdrew from the squad. His exams were around the corner.
“I went to Dubai for the Desert T20 tournament against Afghanistan and Namibia, and I did well there. So I got picked to play against Afghanistan in Greater Noida, Delhi. [But] it was an important time for school, and I had to give the cricket a miss and try to do well in my exams. That was my decision. I got a lot of stick for it on social media and stuff.”
But Little doesn’t seem to regret a decision he made of his own volition. There is conviction that he did the right thing, even though he hasn’t played a full international since.
He believes a few good performances at the ongoing ICC U19 CWC in New Zealand should help fix that. “Coaches are getting calls from the full-team coach every day, asking how we do. So it’s really important for us to do well.” And, this time, he doesn’t foresee too many obstacles. “I’m done with school this year," he adds, "so I don’t think there should be a problem.”
Cricket could have lost Little to hockey had a friend’s father not noticed his raw talent. “I started playing [cricket] in 2010,” he says. “My friend from school's dad saw me playing hockey and took me aside and said, ‘You’re good playing with a stick, you might be a good batsmen. Go down to the club, and have a go'. And I turned into a bowler straightaway! I didn’t like the batting. I do like to bat, but I’m more of a bowler, really.”
So far in the 2018 ICC U19 CWC, Little has shown more-than-adequate skill in both departments. With a bit of Irish luck, this boy could go a long way.