One question - any chance of a game?

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The Independent Online

What I would really like to do on this tour is to play some cricket. That sounds daft, doesn't it, since that is what professional players do. But I am sitting here in Namibia, having watched it rain for two days, aware of two things: one, I am not currently in the Test team, or at least I wasn't when an England Test side were last selected; two, I have never played a one-day international.

What I would really like to do on this tour is to play some cricket. That sounds daft, doesn't it, since that is what professional players do. But I am sitting here in Namibia, having watched it rain for two days, aware of two things: one, I am not currently in the Test team, or at least I wasn't when an England Test side were last selected; two, I have never played a one-day international.

This does not automatically put me at the front of the queue for a place in either of England's sides. An excess of cricket is not exactly staring me in the face. An excess of cricket is not in any shape or form what I am suffering from. The way things have gone, I could easily get withdrawal symptoms. A recap might show what I mean.

I came back to the game last March after spending 16 months out recovering from the knee injury I suffered in Brisbane in the Test against Australia. Since then, I have played only 16 or 17 games. I got injured again - a stress fracture to the foot this time, partially caused, I now think, by training too hard to make sure I got back from the other injury - and could not get back in the England side. I then struggled to gain an automatic place in the Glamorgan team. This was extremely hard to take.

To play Test cricket again, it would seem initially that I have to displace Jimmy Anderson. He has had his share of disappointments over the past year while waiting for a chance.

It is a bit of a mystery to me, in that he is an out-and-out swing bowler and I am a seam bowler, but that is up to the selectors to decide.

It may be best to clear one thing up right now. I want my place back, and the likelihood at the moment would seem to be that if I get it back, Jimmy is the one who will step down. But I am delighted for him when he does well. I share his happiness. Contradictory or whatever it may be, but he is my friend, not my rival.

It is the one-day side that I must concentrate on for the next week or so. I feel a lot more confident about playing in the short version of the game now. My lines are better, I am more accurate. But make no mistake about it: it is a different version of the game, and it demands different disciplines at different times.

That is but one reason why I am grateful to have been teamed up with Darren Gough under the squad "buddy" system. Gough is, of course, good company, but he is also one experienced cricketer. If he can't teach me a trick or two, nobody can.

But the one place where I can learn the most, the place where he can really help, where real situations crop up, is, of course, out on the pitch. Over the next week, I may get my chance, but I guess that Gough, Anderson and Alex Wharf may be the first seamers' names on the team list.

Wharf is a team-mate from Glamorgan. There are a few of us on this trip, with Matthew Maynard, still a county player, as assistant coach, Duncan Fletcher, the coach, who did that job at Glamorgan, and David Morgan, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who will join us in Zimbabwe. It is good to have them, not least Matthew, whom I trained with three times a week before coming here.

Having said all of that, I have my differences with Glamorgan, and am waiting to sign a new contract. My agent has had initial talks with them, but I have to think of England between now and the middle of February.

It is slightly strange practising in a country where we are not playing internationals. Zimbabwe will offer so many different challenges. The political reasons for not going have been well examined. I never thought of not going because I am a cricketer, not a politician. If anything is wrong, we will be out of there. First we must get there.

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