For ex-pub licensees Phil and Micala Mew, the approach of spring means getting their trusty VW camper van out again and preparing for another hectic season on the road as back-up team to their sports-
mad son Will.
The 17 year-old – who made a big impression playing for Hampshire under-16s last year – is now on a cricketing scholarship at Millfield School in Somerset, where he’s studying for a BTech Diploma in Sport and doing six cricket training sessions a week, in preparation for the 2023 season.
You could say that Will Mew was born with a cricket bat in his hand. He was certainly wielding one by the age of two, and during his childhood he became a familiar little figure at cricket greens on the Island, watching his dad Phil compete and coach, and having balls thrown for him by older lads.
By the age of eight, he was playing for Isle of Wight under-11s, and in his early teens, played a few inter-county games with Hampshire U15s 2nd team.
The limitations of the covid era frustratingly held up his progress somewhat, but then early 2021 brought the breakthrough after three inter-county games were arranged by Hampshire to select their squad for the season ahead.
Mum Micala recalls the dizzying logistics the family had to navigate to get Will where he needed to be: “The first game was at Bashley on a Sunday, another at Totton on the Monday, with a trip to Salisbury (home of South Wilts) on the Wednesday”.
As if that weren’t enough, Will was also playing for his IOW club Ryde in their league game on the Saturday before Bashley.
“Four matches in five days is a tough ask for any player” says Micala. “It’s hard trying to get him enough food and rest between games.
“However, teams were made, Will’s team batted first, he was in at five, and what happened changed his season and perhaps (who knows) his career, Will took centre stage launching an unseen batting display that took us all by surprise, a fantastic 76 not out with a six over the pavilion”.
Then it was back home to the Island, where Micala says they owe a massive thank you to the IoW council and Wightlink for the Gifted and Talented scheme, without whose discounts their expenses would have run out of control.
Totton on the Monday saw another solid display, then Wednesday another early start on the ferry for the trip to Salisbury. Then came the agonising wait for an email – and finally the news that Will had been hoping for: he was selected for main U15s team, a Sunday 100 ball competition at Teddies school in Oxford, three games in a day, and Hampshire won all three games.
Will was a key member of the team, being their leading wicket on the day, and what had started as a wet miserable day, ended with big smiles, and the nucleus of a team evolving.
Throughout that summer Will was a team member for every U15s match Hampshire played in the ECB competition, which included trips as far away as Devon and Cornwall.
One trip to Devon on a Saturday for a 10am meet in Chagford on the Sunday, involved travelling and staying overnight in a farmhouse – only to get a call at 8am on the Sunday to say the match was rained off, making for a wasted weekend.
Micala and Phil seem remarkably unruffled by their life as ‘roadies’, and good-naturedly joke about it.
Because their sports-mad son also plays golf as well as cricket, they’re also called in as back-up for those matches as well.
Micala recalls that, one week Will had a two-day match against Berkshire on the Tuesday and Wednesday in Andover, then on the Thursday he was representing Shanklin and Sandown golf club at the Green Jackets golf comp at Hockley.
“That meant two nights in a Premier Inn, with expenses racking up – and then Will decided he couldn’t sleep in our room because of snoring and slept in the car!”
That was the point, not even halfway through the season, that the Mews decided something had to give.
“A week later a VW Camper was purchased and loaded up with duvets pillows and beer” laughs Micala. “The life on the road had to be accepted – we were the travellers of Junior cricket!”
That summer they drove over 3,000 miles in their much-loved camper van with trips to everywhere from Newport in Wales to Felixstowe in Kent.
“We became the go-to people for endless teas and coffees for the parents, because any parents are nervous wrecks watching their kids representing Hampshire!”
Last November Will went for his scholarship trial for cricket at Millfield School in Somerset, which meant another trip in the van – although Will stayed in a Premier Inn to ensure he got a decent sleep!
Making his mark
Will successfully played all Hampshire’s U16s matches in 2022, and finished his season off by getting 19 runs not out off 20 balls when Hampshire won their last game.
In September he started his cricket scholarship at Millfield, where he has the chance to discover where his cricket and other sporting skills might take him.
The dream of course would be to play cricket as a professional but dad Phil says he’s realistic.
“It’s incredibly hard to make it to that level. There are only 20 counties in the UK, so the openings are always going to be limited – but then you can never say never”.
However, Will is certainly in the right place to make the most of his passion for cricket as well as golf and hockey, and his course includes elements on sports science and coaching.
A difficult path
Micala says: “We look forward to 2023 with fixtures with Millfield School and hopefully Hampshire U18s along with club cricket. It’s a tough sport to get into, but the Island has produced a few decent players, Adam Hose is the brightest star at the moment. We know the path ahead is difficult with no guarantees, but as all parents know you have to support your kids dreams and hopefully aspire to the highest level they can play at. If not, Will wants to go into coaching cricket and hockey in schools. Only time will tell!”