Fresh purpose invigorates Poynton
Tom Poynton should have been playing this match. He should have been training hard for the coming three days, big days considering how bleak things have been for Derbyshire of late. The India Test team is in town for a tour game, and this is a great opportunity for the county and its players to be in the news for positive reasons. Derbyshire's 24-year-old wicketkeeper, though, sits on the sidelines, dressed in a blue suit and a striped tie with neatly parted hair.
Yet it is an incredibly good news that Poynton is here. Before the start of the season, on April 4, a Ferrari went off Caldwell Road, near Roliston, and crashed into a tree. The car belonged to Derbyshire's chairman, was being driven by Poynton's father, Keith, with Tom sitting next to him. Keith, a local businessman and a coach at junior levels, a popular figure in Derby and known for his colourful socks, did not survive the crash; Tom was injured so badly he was ruled out of the entire season.
"It's like having your world turned upside down in a moment," Tom says of the accident. One moment, a likeable young wicketkeeper looking forward to a season with a young team trying to get back into Division One of the County Championship, the next a severely injured and bereaved man with no prospects of cricket for a year.
Poynton says there was no point wallowing about what he could not do. It was now about what he could do. So he moved temporarily into the club's management, into the commercial and marketing side of the game. One of his projects is centred on the big fixture against the Indians. He is managing the Cricket Derbyshire India Club project, an initiative "to integrate better with the south-Asian community in Derby", which is estimated to be around 25,000-strong. Before this match, the club organised a dinner event hosted by Isa Guha, had Ravi Shastri down as guest, and are now looking forward to a crowd of at least 3000 at the County Ground.
"What can you do?" Poynton says of the days after the accident. "No point in me sitting and getting down about it. You have to put your energies elsewhere. I simply can't play, whatever I do, however much I want to change the fact, I can't. My energy is better directed to use the opportunity in a different way.
"And the club have given me that, by sort of working behind the scenes in the commercial and marketing side of the game. Which has been a fantastic experience. I am not going to play cricket forever. Nobody is going to play cricket forever. There is a life after cricket, and I have got the opportunity to get that experience now. And that's the way I have got to look at it. I have to turn it into a positive in some sort of way."
There could not have been a more deserving recipient of Poynton's services than Derbyshire cricket. "I wanted to give something back to the club," he says. "The club, during the time of the accident, the chairman, the chief executive, the physio, the support staff, were outstanding. The chief executive, Simon Storey, came to the hospital with me on the night that it happened because he lost his father when he was young himself. That says something about the characters involved at the club.
"I know that things aren't necessarily going brilliantly on the pitch at the moment, but I know that the support staff and the management that are involved are absolutely the right guys. Complete credit to Derbyshire as a county and to themselves. I have no doubt that it will be translated on to the pitch in a few years."
The experience been enriching for Poynton. "It has been a fantastic experience," he says. "You now see what goes behind the scenes on a game day. Normally I turn up at a different time, I will train, I will warm up. The passion that the backroom staff show, which I have witnessed now, is quite touching. It is not always that the guys perhaps appreciate or are aware of how much effort goes in on their behalf. I am going to filter the experience down to the younger players of the team. I think it will just make them more rounded."
Talking about "youngsters", about helping them become more rounded, engaging fans who have turned up to watch India practise, Poynton sounds a man much wiser than a typical 24-year-old athlete. Sometimes life leaves you no choice but to become wise.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo