Kiran Carlson was educated at Cardiff’s Whitchurch High, the school which has produced Welsh sporting superstars Gareth Bale, Sam Warburton and Geraint Thomas, so he never lacked for motivation.
The Glamorgan batsman was also in the same school year as Wales rugby international Owen Lane and even captained him as the pair helped Whitchurch to a famous victory at the Principality Stadium.
Carlson is now treading his own path in professional sport. He has had a fine season to date, especially in the LV= Insurance County Championship, and at 23 has already been rewarded with captaincy. He is leading Glamorgan in the Royal London Cup, a role he is very much enjoying.
“It’s no surprise when you see people from Whitchurch play professional sport because that’s the mindset the school gives you,” said Carlson. “I was a few years younger than the guys like Bale, but it was an inspiration to see what they went on to do and you want to aim to emulate the achievements of others.
“Owen was in the same school year as me and we grew up together. I captained him in a Welsh Cup final at in year nine. I was alright at rugby – I did what I could with my stature! I played a lot in sixth form. It got to the stage where I really wanted to try to be a professional rugby player, but my limitations didn’t allow me to do that.
“I started as a flanker and then moved to 10 when I didn’t grow much! I got to a stage where I couldn’t play much rugby because I was playing second team cricket with Glamorgan and training with the first team squad when I was 17 or 18.”
Carlson might be small in stature, but he is some talent. He became the youngest player to score a first-class century for Glamorgan – at 18 years and 119 days – in 2016.
Now, with a degree in business management from Cardiff University done and dusted and a grade of 2:1 secured, he can fully focus on cricket and the results have been more than promising. Carlson has already scored three centuries in the championship this season.
“My parents pushed me in the direction of the degree and I’m so glad they did,” he said. “There were times when I really wanted to quit and just play cricket because I was losing form being in and out of the team.
“But the fact I’ve got my degree now and I’m still young enough to hopefully progress in cricket is good. You never know what’s going to happen in professional sport. I did a couple of exams this year in the evening after playing cricket which was obviously tough. Now it’s in the bank I can fully focus on cricket for the first time in a while.
“Glamorgan were brilliant in allowing me to study. They gave me a full-time contract rather than a university one. It meant I could do both which was brilliant.”
With Glamorgan club skipper Chris Cooke involved with Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred, the Welsh county turned to Carlson as a stand-in leader despite his tender years. The call was both a reflection of his impressive form with the bat as well as his status as one of the most promising young players at Sophia Gardens.
Carlson’s first two games as captain in the Royal London Cup were wins over Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, and Glamorgan aim to push for a place in the knock-out stage.
“It was a massive honour to be asked to be captain. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but it’s something I want to do in the future,” he said. “I guess it’s a reward in some ways for doing well this season, but I’m seeing it very simply that I’ve got a job to do as captain. I want to get as many results as I can for Glamorgan, and we’ve made a great start to the tournament.
“My aspiration is to play Test cricket and I’m doing everything I can to try to do that. I know it’s going to be a tough road and I’m going to have to put in consistent performances for the next couple of years, but I’m ready to give it my all. I want to reach the pinnacle of the sport and be the best I can.”
By Alex Bywater on behalf of the ECB's Reporters Network