You missed out on England's Test series in New Zealand. Are you confident of winning back your place? Yes I am. Missing out on the New Zealand series has actually spurred me on. It has made me more hungry to get back in the England set-up. This winter, I have nailed down what I need to do to improve. I have identified the areas of my game that I need to work on and so instead of just going out and practising for the sake of practising, I have specific things that I need to work on. I have always been confident that I was going to play Test cricket. I recognise that everyone goes through low points, and yes there may be a time when I will get dropped – it has happened to me already. But I just have to come back strongly. I am motivated by success, by just winning things. I want to do things well and I like to prove things to myself. I like to put myself in a challenging position and I like to see how I come out of it.
Do you have a lot of self-discipline? Yes, but that has only developed over the last couple of years.
Does cricket come naturally to you? I just love it. I always have. My Dad loves cricket. He didn't play professionally, just with his mates and they loved it. I guess that love of the game has been passed down to me. I just love the game, I'd be nobody without it. Originally I just played for the sheer enjoyment. I just loved it so much and went to practice because I loved batting, bowling and fielding. I never focused on what I really needed to work on. I just loved playing the game. I used to say to myself: "I am going to have a bat today".
Did it cross your mind, if the opportunity had been there, to take part in the Indian Premier League this year? I have not thought about the leagues in India at all. Joining the Indian Cricket League or the IPL is not going to make me a successful international cricketer. At this moment, to me, money is secondary to getting into the England squad. The only thing on my mind is to get back into the Test side. I can't think about anything else.
Do you think the IPL is good for cricket? I don't really understand what is going on with the IPL. I don't know where it is heading, what is happening and how it is affecting English cricket or even other international cricket. I don't know if it is there just to make a lot of money for a few cricketers, or whether it is there to give pleasure to a lot of cricket followers. It is like a blur to me.
Do you enjoy Twenty20 cricket? I love playing it. It is good fun, it is played at a good pace. As a batsman it gives you a licence to go out and free your arms, and hit balls you would not normally hit, good-length balls you can flay through the off side or on the leg side. In a championship match you think you can't hit a particular type of ball and you think to yourself, "I will leave that one", but playing Twenty20, you just go for it. It teaches you that you can hit balls that you never thought you could or should. It quickens up the game. It is also very challenging as a bowler. It sharpens up your skills. It also makes it more exciting for the fans, and at the end of the day we are entertainers.
Do you think domestic Twenty20 poses a threat to 40- and 50-over versions of the game? Yes, a little bit. But I really hope that 40-over and 50-over cricket survives, because ultimately the skill of proper one-day cricket, for me, is important. The greats have played it and for me it is a tradition. Why should we change it? Graham Gooch played 50-over cricket, Viv Richards played it, Sunil Gavaskar played it. These are big names in the game, so why should it be changed?
Essex came close to promotion last year. Is promotion a realistic target for this year? We are aiming for promotion, but we realise it is going to be very tough. What we need to do is to make home games more to our advantage. We are not winning at home and that is key.
When you were at school were you good at other sports? I played a bit of football in the school team but quickly gave it up. I was a defender. I played it for about a year. Then I realised that I had too much love for cricket. We did not have a school cricket team so I asked my teacher to organise a team and we did. I went to Central Park Primary and then I went to Brampton Manor School in East Ham. We won the Essex Cup in our first season, when I was 15. The teacher cried when we won it. You can't do that in front of your students!
If you could play in any big sporting event, which one would you choose? I would love to do Formula One. It's quick, there is a lot of risk; I'd love it. I don't watch motor sport much – I will flick on the TV and have a quick 10 minutes of watching but I would rather be doing it. I would rather be in that car. I would love a chance to do it. When I get a bit of time off I try to do a bit of karting and that sort of stuff. It's expensive but it's a lot of fun.
What is on your iPod? Mainly R&B – you wouldn't have heard of most of the groups. They are American, because the Americans make the best music.
Do you play a musical instrument? No.
Do you read much? No.
What is the craziest thing you have ever done? I did do an off-road thing with Volkswagen. I rolled my car. Alastair Cook was standing at the top of a hill watching when I did it. That was at Brands Hatch. I have been in a few accidents, when I was younger, when we would hit a street light or two. That sort of things happens when you are young and your mates are driving fast and stuff, they take the corner too late and ... bang! You do that as a kid, especially in London. Before I was old enough to drive I used to take my Dad's car out after he had gone to bed. He never suspected me of doing that, but my Mum did once when I had been forced to park the car in a different place after getting back, because someone had taken the original space. Oh, and of course there was always a bit of petrol missing as well. I didn't have the money to replace what I used. It helped me pass my driving test, though: I only had six lessons and passed first time.
Do you have any strange food fads? I like tuna on toast. But otherwise I don't eat any odd things.
* Born 4 May 1985, Newham, East London
* County Essex
* Nickname Puppy
* Tests Three, v Sri Lanka 2007
* One-day internationals 21
* Bats Right-hand
* Bowls Right-arm medium fast
* Career Signed with Essex in 2002, aged 17, and made his first-class debut that season. Lost Test place gained in Sri Lanka before Christmas in New Zealand after it but has begun 2008 strongly, scoring 150 and 137 in first two championship innings and 99 in the Friends Provident Trophy. Fluent in English, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu – also speaks some German.