Being the offspring of a rugby union legend, Tom Sole admits, leaves one with impossibly large boots to fill. The paterfamilias, David, was a marauding prop with few peers in his pomp with Scotland and the Lions. His four children, each with sporting gifts of their own, have ventured also into the sphere. But without needless hype or burden.
“I think we’ll always be in Dad’s shadow,” his youngest son acknowledges. “But he’s watched my sister Gemma play netball at the Commonwealth Games. My oldest brother Jamie was playing for Newcastle Falcons. And Chris at the Under-19 Cricket World Cup. He’s enjoyed watching and trying to help us make our careers flourish.”
And yet they remain an uncommonly competitive bunch. Tom smiles. “It definitely runs in the family.” Drive that has transported the 21-year-old to the brink of his own cricketing debut for Scotland which is likely to come this week during a tour to the UAE which includes two ODIs apiece against both Ireland and the hosts.
Chris, two years his senior and under contract at Hampshire, has already broken into the side but the pair share ambitions rather than needless oneupmanship. Team-mates at school in Edinburgh then for a while at Grange, Tom followed him south in 2016 when lured on to the books at Northamptonshire.
Possibly it helps that their talents are complementary rather than setting one against other. “Although he likes to think he’s more of a batter now, I’m probably a better batter than he is and he’s the better bowler,” Tom declares. “But I played a season with him in Australia which was good because I got to know him better. We played at Albury cricket club which is on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. He was going out anyway and I was looking to play cricket anyway so I though ‘why not?’”
Such trips serve as valuable internships, one factor among many in the younger Sole’s current status as a coming man at Northants. Last summer, he caught the eye in a tour match against South Africa with a fearless knock of 54.
“I can’t really remember what happened because the day just turned into a blur,” he reveals. Certainly a career highlight thus far. “But I’m hoping there’s more of those to come,” he adds.
Perhaps in the forthcoming World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe or, if one dares to dream, the showpiece itself. The kind of accomplishment to make a parent explode with pride, the type of attainment that validates David’s vow to his children that they might choose their own paths.
“He pitched everything and let us give everything a go and if we didn’t like it, that was it,” says Tom. “When I decided I didn’t want to play rugby any more, he went ‘that’s fine’. I enjoyed cricket and he backed me. He’s always let all of us be whoever we wanted to be.”