AFTER spending five years away from the game, Luke Evans has capped off his dramatic return to the Portland and District Cricket Association by winning the 2020-21 A Grade Cricketer of the Year Award.
Evans was one of the PDCA’s more notable players in the late 2000s and early 2010s, playing a starring role with Portland Colts both within the Portland competition and the Warrnambool District Cricket Association.
He stepped away from the game after the 2013-14 season however, citing an overwhelming overlap of commitment required to play both football and cricket, and that was that for the promising all-rounder – until now.
After the cancellation of 2020 football seasons right across Victoria due to the coronavirus pandemic, Evans made his way back to Colts to quench a thirst for competitive sport, and come the end of the summer, has claimed the A grade competition’s individual prize for the first time.
Evans said winning Cricketer of the Year came as a big a surprise.
“I didn’t think it was going to be me that won tonight, I thought there were probably three or four, maybe even five other blokes who had excellent seasons who might have been ahead of me,” he said.
“Funnily enough it was COVID which brought me back to cricket.
“I stopped playing because of footy five years ago, I loved playing both sports but doing both at once, it just took up way too much personal time.
“Originally I had only planned to have one season off, or maybe two, but it just ended up being five.
“Without being able to play footy I started to get serious about going back to cricket and I’m really glad that I did.
“Portland Colts are a great club, they always have been, and there’s still a great group of boys down there playing.”
His big return to cricket came on October 31, 2020, with a clash against South Portland at Henty Park.
Colts won that match by three wickets, and Evans made an unbeaten 39 runs with the stick and took 3-22 from eight overs with the ball.
The final scorecard spells out a triumphant return – however it wasn’t without a few hiccups.
“I was really, really nervous before my first game back which isn’t really like me,” he said.
“We only had three training sessions beforehand because we had a bit of rain to deal with and the COVID restrictions still kind of in place, what we could do at training was limited.
“I wasn’t really sure of how prepared I was to be playing again, didn’t really know what to expect.
“We got the win that day which was the most important thing but getting started, I bowled five or six wides and just couldn’t land the ball right.
“I started really questioning myself, wondering if maybe I’d lost it all while I was away, but luckily, everything started to click eventually.
“In terms of expectations batting surprised me – that came back to me a lot easier than bowling did, and I was thinking it would be the other way around.
“Batting was comfortable and enjoyable whereas bowling early I wasn’t quite getting it right, I guess there’s just a bit more going on overall when it comes to getting a delivery right.”
Evans finished the season with 12 votes, making 189 runs at an average of 37.80 with the bat and taking 16 wickets at an average of 10.94 with the ball.
Evans narrowly beat out legendary Tyrendarra veteran Ben Menzel, runner-up with 11 votes.
Colts veteran Adam Barbary finished on nine votes, tied with young up-and-coming Gorae-Portland spinner Thomas Roberts.
Evans said one of the highlights of his first season back was seeing the increased involvement of younger players in the senior competition.
“It’s been a while and things have changed in cricket, I’m seeing a lot of kids out there playing senior cricket which I think is a good thing,” he said.
“It’s good to see that young guys are out there having a crack at the top level and I hope the majority of them stick around for years to come.
“In terms of standard dropping off or improving, I couldn’t really make a comparison because it had really been too long but it’s still a quality standard of competition.
“Every weekend you’re playing a team full of blokes that enjoy their cricket and are very competitive and that’s what you’re looking for at a local level in my opinion.
“I think between clubs too, things seem to a bit more relaxed. “Thinking back to 10 or 15 years ago, I think things have gotten a bit more relaxed, teams are a lot quicker to head into another team’s rooms after a game to have a chat or share a beer.”