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Friday 29 June 2012
As we prepare for this important one-day series against Australia, I can say that I am even keener now to play for England than when I won my first cap, in a Test against West Indies in August 2004.
I've lost none of my hunger for the international game, and if I ever get to that point, it's the time to reassess things. I want to play at least another five years of as much cricket as I can for England, in all forms, then I'll look again after that.
There is nothing better than walking out at Lord's to play Australia, and you have to remember that there is plenty of time when you're retired to play your golf and look back at your career. When I've retired, I don't want to get to a point where I think "I wish I'd carried on for two years" or "I miss playing for England". You have highs and lows but you're testing yourself all the time and the opportunity is always there to go and score runs.
People talk about playing too much cricket but my priority in recent months has been to fight my way back into the one-day side, which thankfully, I've managed to do. I was up and down the order a bit, I was left out in the United Arab Emirates, and all I've been doing since is training to get back in. I've never had any thoughts about whether I'm playing too much.
We've played Australia quite often in recent years. England against Australia is a special series, and we want to keep it that way. If you play too much, it loses that importance. We want to keep these as really big series that come round only once every so often.
If you play too much then people will become bored of it and we never want that to happen. We want the Ashes always to be the pinnacle of our careers. That is what you look at most fondly when you consider what you've achieved in the game.
It does feel a little strange to be playing Australia outside an Ashes tour, and that's why these five one-day internationals will have little relevance to what happens in next summer's Ashes series in England. For example, Brett Lee doesn't play Test cricket any longer, but we expect him to lead Australia's attack in this series.
The first time I faced Lee was during the 2005 Ashes series, and you could see his quality immediately. He has consistently been one of the quickest bowlers around and now he has a lot of experience. He'll pitch it up, he'll swing and he has a good bouncer. He will also give a lot to their younger bowlers in terms of advice. We've seen some footage of their new young pace bowlers, like James Pattinson and Pat Cummins, and it will be an exciting challenge.
After these five matches, we're straight into a Test series with South Africa. It's a busy schedule and will always be a point of discussion, but I still enjoy playing this form of cricket as much as I ever did. For the last three years, I haven't had the luxury of being able to bat at the top of the order, whereas now I can have a clear game plan and mindset about how to go about things and how to improve. This is where I want to be.
This Australian series is another challenge for us and another great chance to test ourselves. People were talking about how the limited-overs games against West Indies would be difficult for us, because of their firepower and because they had some of the players back who had been playing in the Indian Premier League. But we went out against them, did what we do really well and beat them, both in the one-day series and the Twenty20 match. Hopefully, we can do the same in these games against Australia.
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