Former Somerset County Cricket Club physio Gary Metcalfe is using his time away from the game to volunteer for the National Health Service during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, writes Tom Howe.
Metcalfe admits he ‘fell into’ physiotherapy and retrained, having already completed a physical education degree at Exeter University before becoming a teacher. He later went on to join Somerset from Kent, spending his first full season with the county in 2011 and being predominantly responsible for their Academy and second team.
It was there, whilst working with the likes of the Overton twins, Jos Buttler, Ollie Sale, Lewis Gregory, Tom Banton and Jack Leach, that Metcalfe caught the eye of England Disability, whom he joined in 2016, initially as physio for the country’s visually impaired (VI) team, now captained by Somerset’s Ed Hossell.
Fast forward four years and Metcalfe, also now involved with England’s learning disability and deaf teams too, was busy helping the VI side in preparations to defend its Ashes crown in August’s seven-game series against Australia. However, in light of the crisis, a first series on home soil in five years has since been postponed.
“I was going to be busy this summer with the Ashes and then the Deaf World Cup,” Metcalfe explained to The Independent. “It is very frustrating indeed but I have since volunteered to go back into the NHS and do ward-based therapy to help out with Covid patients and such like. It is very different work but, nonetheless, equally as fulfilling.
“I am scratching around in the back of my mind for all the skills I learned at university. To a certain degree, it is like riding a bike – I haven’t fallen off yet. Having been out of the NHS for quite a few years, to come back into it, you realise all the good things that are going on and all of the good people that are putting a lot on the line to deliver a service.”
On the ‘Clap For Our Carers’ campaign, Metcalfe said: “In the street where I live, Thursday evenings are chaotic. People are in their cars beeping horns or banging saucepans together.
“It is really quite emotional to hear that. It is great in many ways that we are coming together as a nation and communities and doing things we had probably forgotten about in the busy world that preceded this pandemic.”
Having ‘amicably’ left his job at Somerset around Christmas time, Metcalfe is hoping to continue his role with England Disability once sport is safe to resume while also picking up a new full-time role in the game.
“I was scratching my head and wondering how I could progress my career,” he said. “After a couple of chance encounters with Ben Langley, England’s lead physio, and a couple of other guys, I was asked if I was interested in a position with England’s blind team. The ‘dealbreaker’ was I had to go to South Africa in a couple months’ time for a World Cup.
“It was a case of, look, I’m in. I realised what an inspirational bunch of guys they all are. Since then, I have been to India several times, been to several World Cups and several home series’ events.
“I absolutely love it. I am passionate about disability sport. It worked really nicely with my role at Somerset. It was a great opportunity and they allowed me time off whenever I needed it. It is such an interesting game, particularly blind cricket, because so much happens.
“It is amazing how these guys manage. In terms of their actual cricket, they are accomplished players. It is a slightly different game to mainstream cricket as we know it but it is certainly compelling to watch.”
Metcalfe, who is back in Kent, where his wife and family are living, working on the stroke unit at Canterbury Hospital, continued: “I would obviously love to get back into cricket. Hopefully my role with England’s disability sides will continue once it all resumes.
“I would like a full-time role within cricket ideally but who knows? I am not convinced the world is going to be the same as it was six months ago. We will have to wait and see I think.
“The Government has made the big decision to go into lockdown and we all have to respect that. We all have to make sure we do our bit to make sure we don’t overstress our services. Safety has got to be the bottom line, always.
“That has to be in people’s minds first and foremost when thinking about a resumption.”