'I buy a black book and open with the words - this has got to stop'
Diary of a season: Ashley Giles recounts his journey from despair to triumph
Sunday 26 September 2004
Ashley Giles began the summer in a slough of despond. He was in despair about his game, it was affecting himself, his family, his friends and the England team. Perhaps his perceived status was epitomised by a cruel email to a television programme which said: What's the point of Ashley Giles? By the season's end Giles had responded with panache, wickets and runs. He took 31 wickets in England's triumphant seven-Test summer at 26 runs apiece, averaged 31 with the bat and also regained a regular place in the one-day side. Here he recounts his renaissance as the team took all before them.
12-15 May, County Championship, Warwickshire v Surrey, Edgbaston
It is only five days since I returned from the victorious tour of the West Indies but I need bowling. In the three Test matches in the Caribbean in which I played I delivered only 31 overs. I need cricket, so soon after landing last Friday I was in Warwickshire's nets. Now, here I am playing in the opening County Championship match of the season. We beat Surrey and bowling 62 overs in the match as well as getting a score of 70 with the bat give me the time in the middle I need. I have bowled proficiently. But all is not well. Something in my head tells me I am not right. I feel the demons are close at hand.
22-26 May, First Test v New Zealand, Lord's
This isn't right. I feel that whatever I do is not good enough, my thoughts are negative. At dinner with my wife Stine, I tell her that I am thinking of packing it in with England. I have been tense at home with the kids. I hope I am not showing it in the dressing room but inside I wonder what is going on. It is one hell of a cricket match, full of emotion. Andrew Strauss scores a hundred on debut and almost a second one in the second innings. Nasser Hussain runs him out but goes on to score a match-winning century.
3-7 June, Second Test v New Zealand, Headingley
Nasser has gone in an emotional retirement. We win from behind again but I don't take any wickets. I have told nobody in the team how I feel, but I suppose I know that I have got to speak to somebody. Later this summer, my mum will tell me that she knew something was afoot. "You always used to make us laugh," she said. "You didn't for a few weeks." Geraint Jones scores a scintillating hundred which is a timely reply to those who criticised his selection ahead of Chris Read. The seamers do the rest.
10-13 June, Third Test v New Zealand, Trent Bridge
I have been at home for a couple of nights. I am physically and emotionally exhausted. It must have been dreadful for the family. I know I have to tell somebody about this, otherwise it isn't going to improve. My international career could easily be over at this rate. I should stop reading the papers.
Serendipity strikes. Steve Bull, the England team's psychologist, is in town to have a word with some of the one-day players and when I bump into him I ask if I can have a chat. Just before I meet him, Michael Vaughan, the captain and my friend, asks me what I'm up to and we go for a stroll. For the first time I tell him a little of what I was feeling. He reckons I have disguised it well.
The coffee I share with Bully is life-changing. I pour out my troubles to him, opening up for the first time. He listens, offers reassurance, suggests some drills and tells me to start a diary in which I should write about being positive. This is about more than mental strength on the pitch. I leave and buy a black book and that night open with the words: "This has got to stop now."
The match is a turning point. From the start I feel confident again. Two wickets in the first innings are followed by four in the second and after scoring an unbeaten 45, I am there at the end with Graham Thorpe in the second innings as we get home by four wickets in a tricky little finish. To cap it all, I beat Mark Richardson in his traditional end-of-series foot race with a member of the opposition, our slowest member (no names and I certainly wouldn't mention Marcus [Trescothick]) having refused to participate.
22-26 July, First Test v West Indies, Lord's
I have hardly featured in the one-day tournament between the summer's two Test series and a little bit of me wonders if Nottingham was just a one-off. But I feel a changed man. Writing down my feelings helps. The pitch is responsive almost immediately and I am ready for it.
In the second innings I bowl Brian Lara. I should say that a lot of things had to come together, it had to land in the right spot, it had to turn, he had to come down the wicket, it had to go through the gate. But I sense he was coming. I take five wickets, nine in the match. Vaughan makes hundreds in both innings and I am so, so pleased for him as I am for Robert Key, coming back and making 221. Keysey is a popular guy. I can hardly believe it, Giles man of the match.
29 July-1 August, Second Test v West Indies, Edgbaston
Life has changed round. I have never felt that I am not part of this team, but I am glad to be contributing again. I take nine wickets again. The ball is coming out as I want it to and I seem to be getting out good players, not just the tail-enders, with five out of the top six in the second innings. This is my home ground but I am getting such a response everywhere now. We win again, Trescothick makes two hundreds this time and Freddie Flintoff is just majestic.
12-16 August, Third Test v West Indies, Old Trafford
We have had a small break, but England's momentum is uninterrupted. Vaughan is a much different captain from Hussain but he understands people and their individual traits. He is a shrewd man. We talk about cricket a lot and joke a lot, but when I was low I could not unburden myself to him about it. Maybe it is something to do with a refusal to admit it. How different it is now my perspective has changed. A cup of coffee in a little street in Nottingham has completely altered things for me. You can't think too far ahead but from dwelling on what was happening next week I can entertain the prospect of three or four years ahead. My performance isn't that great but I had the optimism to bowl better in the second innings, and Key and Freddie steady the ship on the final day.
19-21 August, Fourth Test v West Indies, The Oval
Seven Test wins. This is a magnificent achievement, but maybe the depth of it will not hit us until later. This is a team in every sense - every member makes double figures in the first innings - but a word on Flintoff. When we have needed him he has been there. His performances have been a joy to behold for everybody, and that includes his team-mates. I think he is the best cricketer in the world.
21 September, Champions Trophy semi-final v Australia, Edgbaston
We beat Australia and we beat them properly by being better than them. I have appeared in only one of the 14 consecutive one-day defeats (the most recent in the World Cup) but this feels good. It is irrelevant in deciding the destination of the Ashes next summer but England have laid down a marker. I can hardly believe this is happening.
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