Having shared a dressing room with some of the finest cricketers of his generation - Ponting, Smith and Pietersen among others - Gary Wilson has become accustomed to being in esteemed company.
It’s perhaps for that very reason his ever-dependable endeavours, for both club and county, have seemingly been eclipsed by those sporting more distinguished names on their shirt.
Nonetheless, the 27-year-old’s stock is continuously soaring amongst a swaggering of stars as his industrious demeanor and reliable consistency has made him a permanent fixture at Surrey while his value to Ireland has become indisputable.
Wilson has thrived when the spotlight is elsewhere - he’s content to go under the radar and go about his business quietly but efficiently. And last week, in characteristically subtle fashion, he joined another esteemed group by becoming just the fifth player to reach the 150 appearance mark for Ireland.
“It’s an absolute honour,” He explains, after reaching the milestone by lining out against Namibia. “All I ever wanted to do when I was young was to play cricket for Ireland so to play this many times and hopefully more is incredible.”
However, the achievement of reaching the landmark is nothing more than a statistic for Wilson.
His determined and diligent disposition ensures he’s continually striving for more. This hardworking attitude and pursuit of personal perfection has stemmed from a long and an often arduous journey to the glorious heights he currently finds himself at.
“I’ve learned that it’s not enough to just turn up for duty and expect to get into this team, you really have to work hard and perform on the pitch. People are very fickle and as soon as you have a bad run, the pressure is put on you,” The right-hander reveals.
His progression from a highly promising teenager - having made his debut at just 19 against the MCC - into the fulcrum of Ireland’s cricketing explosion hasn’t been a straightforward progression for the Dundonald-born star. His talent was rarely called into question but there simply wasn’t a place for him in a settled side.
The highs have been countered by setbacks along the way, forcing Wilson to be patient and bide his time. The wounds of missing out on a trip to the Caribbean still run deep but his patience and persistence has ensured his memories of the past four years overshadow any disappointment.
“I was devastated obviously to miss out on the trip which everyone will remember as Ireland’s breakthrough moment but you have to look at the things we’ve done since. I count myself lucky to have been able to pull on the green jersey and create some fantastic memories that will last a lifetime,” Wilson explains.
“There’s no doubting it’s been a great few years but it certainly hasn’t been easy, I’ve had to work extremely hard,” He goes onto add.
It’s that industry and commitment which has instigated his development from a capable understudy into the rock of Phil Simmons’ side. After years of nomadicy in the batting order, the security and assurance of a stable berth in the middle-order has proved to be decisive for the right-hander as he’s stepped out of the shadows and firmly into the limelight.
“Moving around the order is unsettling but I took it as a compliment that the coach or captain saw me as someone who can fulfil a number of roles. Every team needs a reliable presence and I pride myself on the fact that Phil can turn to me safe in the knowledge he know’s what he’s getting,” Wilson says with a sense of satisfaction.
“It’s not something I worry about too much as I’ve settled nicely into the Irish middle-order and thats where I’d like to stay in the future.”
Admittedly, his name may not be the first associated with Ireland’s recent success among the public but the 27-year-old is willing to let others grab the headlines given he thrives in the role of unsung hero.
“I’m more than happy for the likes of Stirlo, Trent and Kev to take all the plaudits as it means I can avoid the microscope and just go about my job,” He concedes.
Nonetheless, Wilson’s ability to prosper in pressurised situations when others have floundered is ensuring his stature and reputation is expanding both here and abroad. The tactic of skirting under the opposition’s radar is becoming increasingly idle, however, as he continues to produce notable contributions on a consistent basis.
His increased popularity and status is conspicuous - Wilson became the cynosure of Edgbaston during the showpiece event of the English domestic calendar in August - Friends Life Twenty20 Finals Day - as a chorus of chants bearing his name echoed around the ground. Although it was all in good humour, he deserved the appreciation nonetheless after a season which saw him become a permanent fixture in the Surrey dressing room and more importantly, an ever-present on the scoreboard.
He scored nearly five hundred Championship runs, including a dogged ton against Ed Joyce’s Sussex, for Surrey in 2013 as he outshone their array of big-earning stars. It was undoubtedly a breakthrough year for him during which he was given the chance to replicate his international exploits on the domestic stage.
“It was a good season alright but I wouldn’t say it was outstanding,” He insists. “I found it difficult to find consistency when I was in and out of the side previously but to get a full season under my belt was hugely beneficial. The most pleasing aspect of it was the consistency and stability I could bring to the side.”
Unlike many of his compatriots, Wilson’s performances in international cricket paved the way for his opportunity domestically rather than vice versa. The first five years of his Surrey career was a frustrating time - an abundance of runs and impressive performances behind the stumps for the Second XI were largely unrewarded with Jon Batty and then England international Steven Davies in firm control of the gloves.
Cameos in the limited-overs format were sporadic but the tragic circumstances of last summer paved the way for the chance he craved, and having been forced to bide his time, Wilson certainly wasn’t prepared to let the opening slip.
“When Alec and the club were announcing all the overseas signings around January of last year, it wasn’t looking good on a personal level but I did think there was one Championship spot up for grabs between myself and Jason Roy. Luckily, I scored a ton against the first team in a practice match a week before the season started and it went from there,” he recalls.
Unfortunately, success can be costly. Attempting to strike a balance between club and international commitments can often be challenging with the domestic season crossing wires with the progressively expanding international calendar. Regardless, Wilson’s devotion and availability to the green jersey has rarely been jeopardised since his debut eight years ago.
The emergence of a certain Niall O’Brien put a dent in Wilson’s early aspirations of fulfilling his dream as Ireland’s stump minder but it wasn’t long before his flexibility and resourcefulness saw him break into Phil Simmons’ plans as a specialist batsman.
“I always felt I could get in as a specialist batsmen, perhaps not at first as I wasn’t quite strong enough then but I certainly thought around the time of the World Cup in 2007 I was pushing for a place, unfortunately it didn’t work out then but that only made me more determined,” The Surrey batsman said.
Wilson has always been highly-regarded by the former West Indian all-rounder, who took over the reigns from Adi Birrell following the success in the Caribbean. Simmons’ arrival yielded a different approach and change in fortunes for Wilson with the 27-year-old given a vote of confidence by the new coaching set-up.
“If you perform consistently and give everything to the cause than the public will hold you in high regard and I hope that’s the way they see me,” Wilson said. Attempting to relive the trials and tribulations of all 150 appearances is an onerous task but for Wilson, one game will always remain fresh in the memory.
“There’s no doubt that my first hundred for Ireland is something I’ll never forget. It came against Netherlands on a difficult Clontarf wicket - that was as good as I’ve felt for Ireland,” He recalls, with a ride smile.
“Although, it was brilliant to score runs in the World Cup against West Indies. I was in the zone that day and felt at complete ease but we won’t discuss that day,” Wilson quips.
That’s all in the past, however, as Wilson’s eyes are firmly set on the future. The last four years have seen his name appearing on the scoreboard more often than not and with time on his side, he has the capacity to etch his name further into Irish cricketing history books.
And on previous evidence, it’s difficult to argue otherwise.