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View from the middle: I've started to get into horse racing a lot and Alastair Cook really knows his stuff
Thursday 02 February 2012
When things are going against you in Test cricket, one of the most important things is to be able to switch off. As a young player in the England team, I admit that I struggled to do that.
We have lost the first two Tests against Pakistan and I didn't manage to make any impact at all with the bat. If this were me at the age of 22, I would probably have sat in my room every night thinking about it and worrying myself to distraction.
I would carry these things around with me all the time, and perhaps the best thing that happened to me was being dropped after we lost the first Test against the West Indies in Jamaica in 2009. The one thing you fear is being dropped, but when you are dropped, you go back and play for your county, score runs and realise there are still great things out there and that you haven't become a bad cricketer. It's about finding that balance and understanding that while cricket is important, there are other things in life.
On Tuesday, I went with Alastair Cook, his wife Alice and my wife Chantal to see the Godolphin racing stables, owned by Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, here in Dubai. We were taken there by a friend who helped with my benefit at Warwickshire last year, and it was incredible. I've started to get into horse racing a lot more during the last year or so, and Cooky and Alice know their stuff. It was brilliant to see some of the world's best thoroughbreds and get a sense of how they are trained.
So these days, I'm much better at relaxing away from the game, but that doesn't mean the team aren't hurt by the way things have been here. People expect us to play well in every game now, so losing the first two Tests of this series has been a shock to everyone.
I missed yesterday's practice session with a stomach bug, but I'm hoping to be able to recover in time to be out there when the Test starts tomorrow. When I bat, I want to commit to being positive against the Pakistan spinners. We have to find a way of putting the pressure back on to Saeed Ajmal, because at the minute he's got the pressure on us and we have to change that.
When you get in and start to play well, you have to be brave, take a bit of a punt, maybe run down the wicket and hit him back over his head. When the pressure is on, you might have to take a calculated risk, and that's something you have to do well when batting against high-quality spinners in Asia. It's better than just trying to survive.
While each player has his own approach, it is also important to recognise who plays particularly well in subcontinental conditions, and to try to learn from them. In recent days, we've been watching a lot of footage of players like Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene against spin, to see what we can pick up.
Tournaments like the Indian Premier League allow cricketers from different countries to play in the same teams, and that is one of the reasons behind my decision to put my name forward for the IPL auction, which takes place on Saturday.
I'd never want it to get in the way of my Test cricket, but I haven't played any Twenty20 cricket since our tour of Australia. I don't want to just see myself as a Test cricketer, but as a rounded player who can also succeed in one-day and Twenty20 matches.
The IPL is an interesting tournament that I'd like to be involved in at some point in my career, so my name is in there, and if I get picked up, all well and good. It would be great to have the opportunity to play alongside a player like Jacques Kallis, for example. Watching and learning from quality players would be good for any cricketer, and that's a very appealing aspect of the IPL.
The immediate priority, though, is to improve in these conditions, starting in the third Test tomorrow. There's no hiding from the fact we need to get better, but we're all up for the challenge.
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