‘Pure emotion came out of me… and I just screamed!’: Worcestershire batsman Tom Fell reveals the joy and relief of scoring his first century in five years after cancer battle
- The 26-year-old had not celebrated three figures since a career-best 171 in 2015
- Weeks later the Worcestershire batsman was diagnosed with testicular cancer
- Fell then endured a relapse and chemotherapy a few months after surgery
The extra nerves were understandable. Tom Fell had gone an excruciatingly long time without a first-class hundred before breaking his barren spell in this most unusual of English domestic seasons.
No one within the county game would have begrudged the ending of such a sequence for a player who overcame such adversity five years ago to continue in the professional game.
Fell, 26, had not celebrated three figures in 42 appearances between a career-best 171 off Middlesex in the final County Championship match of 2015 — weeks later he was diagnosed with testicular cancer — and the match-shaping innings of 110 not out versus Northamptonshire that maintained Worcestershire’s hopes of becoming Bob Willis Trophy champions next month.
Worcester batsman Tom Fell celebrates his century against n Northamptonshire
‘I got a bit choked up and I have never really had that feeling before on a cricket field,’ Fell tells Sportsmail.
‘It was such an emotional experience because it had been that long, it had just built up inside and I could feel myself shaking, probably due to the nerves of being on 99 — there was a lot of stuff going on.
‘Pure emotion came out of me and I just screamed. It was a huge relief. Obviously with it being such a long time, to get one again was just a huge weight off my shoulders and a great feeling.
‘It would be lying to say I hadn’t thought about it over the years. When it was as long as it was it does play on your mind and there is no getting away from that.
The 26-year-old could not hide his emotions after ending his barren spell with a century
‘A batsman is judged on scoring hundreds and to get one now is only going to be a good thing for me going forward. In future I hope they come a lot easier.’
Although Fell refers to the tough times of coming back, he is not, as people might assume, talking about the cancer diagnosis or the relapse and chemotherapy that was required just a few months after surgery, but the struggles he experienced rediscovering the kind of touch that had seen him hit 1,084 Division One runs as a 21-year-old in a team who were relegated.
‘On reflection, it was not too bad when I returned because I was just happy to be playing again,’ he says. ‘Naturally, I wasn’t at my fittest at that time but those kind of things weren’t to be overly dwelt upon. That first season back into the side in 2016 was just about enjoyment, and being able to play cricket again was great.
‘After that, though, following a couple of tough seasons with the bat, I kind of forgot that joy of playing and became just like any other cricketer.
‘When you do that, you start putting pressure on yourself. That’s something I wish I hadn’t done so much and that I hadn’t taken the game for granted. I now see that was what happened.
‘The form with the bat has been the tough part rather than what I had to go through with the cancer. It wasn’t so much overcoming what I went through, more overcoming the form and lack of confidence — that was difficult.’
Fell insists his struggles with batting have been more difficult than his battle with cancer
Having averaged in excess of 41 in 2015, and more than 35 in his comeback year, Fell’s figures fell away alarmingly between 2017 and 2019 as a slew of poor innings totted up to an average of 20.57 and forced a rethink on practice.
‘So much of batting is in your head and I had a few bad scores at the start of the 2017 season, which was one of those years when I felt nothing was going my way,’ he recalls. ‘I couldn’t get a run, didn’t know where the next one was coming from and I came out of it with an average of about 12.
‘I asked myself, “How the hell has that happened?” Looking back, I just wish I had stepped back, slowed down, and stripped everything back to the basics, which is what I did last winter. I looked at what I used to do well when I was scoring runs and where I might be going wrong. I actually did a lot of work on my forward defence.
‘That might sound so simple and obvious for a batsman but it is often neglected because you are practising your shots and that means you forget to practise what you do most — defend the ball.’
His hundred in victory over Northants, and a subsequent 50 against Warwickshire, means victory in a top-of-the-table contest against Somerset next week would almost certainly send Worcestershire into the five-day final of the BWT at Lord’s on September 23.
Fell concludes: ‘My story has become quite a public one and I hope a lot of people have learned from what I didn’t do, and that’s not get checked up sooner.
‘If one person did do that as a result and it helped them, then that’s fantastic.’
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