FOCUS ON IMPROVEMENT: Kumbia A-grade cricket captain Ryan Kelly.
FOCUS ON IMPROVEMENT: Kumbia A-grade cricket captain Ryan Kelly. Will Hunter

Kelly leads young cricketing talent

KUMBIA captain Ryan Kelly has played through the highest of highs and lowest of lows in his short time as skipper of the fledgling A-grade side.

The 20-year-old was part of the Kumbia squad that finished last in the B-grade competition a few years ago, but has since seen his team claim the most recent South Burnett Twenty20 competition trophy and win the past two B-grade finals.

Now part of the A-grade competition, Kumbia claimed their first win against Kingaroy RSL Services at the weekend, and for Kelly it was a proud moment after somewhat hand-picking his young side.

"We were an older team when we first came back into the comp, but I slowly poached some fellas across from other teams and we've built up from there,” Kelly said.

Kelly is something of an enigma on the cricket pitch, batting left-handed but bowling out of his right.

He attributes that to his junior cricketing days in Kingaroy, where he began in under-10s and batting left-handed felt more natural.

The all-rounder was in fine form at the weekend, top scoring with 42 runs in Kumbia's first A-grade win, but it is his bowling figures in crucial matches that prove he is a clutch performer under pressure.

Kelly took five wickets for just four runs against Warriors B in last season's B-grade final, and also captained the South Burnett under-19s to their first ever win - a blitz against Gympie - in which he also took five wickets.

With a cricketing brain belied by his age, the Services-turned-Kumbia product believes T20 cricket is driving the older heads away from the sport.

"You're moving a lot of the older players away from (cricket), and it's changing the way cricket is played,” Kelly said.

"Batsmen are trying to pre-meditate their shots rather than play the ball on its merits.

"But that's where cricket is at for the younger guys; we want to go out and play, not stand in the field for 50 overs and chase the red ball around.”

For Kelly, what started as an interest as a youngster has grown into a passion that does not look to fade any time soon.

"I just enjoyed it when I was a kid. I started playing because my family plays and I've just stuck with it,” Kelly said.

"Each year I'm just trying to improve myself - always trying to get better.”

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