Bougourd drops down five divisions to play for Shaldon

SHALDON Optimists have pulled of a major signing coup by luring medium pace bowler Ryan Bougourd back to the club.

And he made an instant impact on his debut for Shaldon, bashing 97 with the bat and taking seven wickets for nine runs in the 298-run win over South Brent.

Bougourd, who has played 15 seasons of mainly Premier and A Division cricket with Bovey, has dropped down five divisions to play for Shaldon, You can’t go any further and still play 1st XI cricket.

On the move - Ryan BougourdBougourd, who is 32, started playing for Shaldon as a teenager – he was in the adult side by the age of 14 – before joining Bovey Tracey in 2001 to further his career,

Shaldon were not a league club in those days, whereas Bovey Tracey were a Premier Division club and a real step-up for a promising young cricketer.

Bougourd got his chance in the first team earlier than he expected as the Bovey team that won the Premier Division in 2002 fell apart due to internal wranglings the following winter.

Although Bovey were relegated in 2003, a core of players including the Bradley brothers and Bougourd stuck with the club and got them back into the top flight.

All three went on to play for Devon – and Chris Bradley skippered the side for nearly two seasons before work commitments got in the way.

Bougourd made a memorable Minor Counties Championship debut against Wales in June 2012, taking seven for 41 at Exmouth. It was the best bowling performance on debut by a Devon player for 106 years.

Bougourd was never able to fully cement a place in the Devon side – one-day or three day – and made his final appearance in 2014 against Shropshire at Exeter.

His form remained good for Bovey that season –23 Premier wickets at around 17 runs each as a virtual ever present – but in 2015 he started missing the odd game here and there.

Bougourd works full-time as a tennis coach and as Premier Division start times got earlier and earlier following restructuring, he found it harder to get to 1st XI games on time.

Bougourd started the current season with Bovey – and had the unusual distinction for a tail-ender of top scoring against Sidmouth with 21. Bovey were all out for 68 though.

That proved Bougourd’s final game for Bovey Tracey, for whom he played in 117 Premier Division games and dozens more in the A Division, various cups and T20 competitions.

Bougourd said it was a tough decision to leave Bovey – and an easy one to go back to Shaldon.

“The people at Bovey have been marvellous to me and I owe them a huge amount for everything I have achieved in cricket,” said Bougourd.

“I was part of the team that got back into the Premier Division, part of the team that won the first Teignbridge T20 Cup and part of the first Bovey side to win the Devon KO Cup.

“I have had a fantastic time at Bovey Tracey and played with some great players, who will be friends for life.

“Shaldon was where I started and I always said it was where I would finish – and now is the tight time to do that.”

Shaldon, who run three Saturday league sides and run multi-level youth cricket, were relegated into the lowest level of league cricket last season and are keen to start moving upwards as quickly as possible.

Mark Couch, the 1st XI captain, said Bougourd has a lot to offer on and off the pitch.

“We are delighted the club can attract a player of the calibre of Ryan,” said Couch.

“Despite a blip last year the club continues to develop on and off the pitch with a new long-term lease for the ground about to be signed and the club continuing to establish itself on the cricket map.

“Ryan will give the young players someone to look up to and with his experience give us that little bit extra in our push for promotion back to the C-Division.

“It also shows that if you do things right as a club you can attract quality players even if not offering top level league cricket.”

Players generally drop down the divisions gradually as they grow older – and not five divisions in one hop!

Andy Kingdon did it when he went from skippering Paignton in the Premier Division in 2012 to playing for Babbacombe in the now defunct E Division.

Kingdon had some words of advice for Bougourd.

“There are some good cricketers at that standard – more than I thought there would be,” said Kingdon.

“Bowl straight and when batting get your pad out of the way!”