Six years on, Matt Prior completes rise from England hardcase to universally acclaimed gem

Wicketkeeper's early unpopularity forgotten as he pips Alastair Cook to win Player of the Year award

Matt Prior is marking his sixth anniversary as an England Test cricketer this week. He marked it at the time by going out and making 126 not out with an exhibition of bravura strokeplay against West Indies at Lord's, the highest score by an England wicketkeeper in his maiden Test.

Last time Prior was seen on a field for England he saved the third Test and the series against New Zealand with a cussed, diligent, crucial 110 not out. In the same match he took a stunning catch standing up to Jonathan Trott's medium pace to remove the eternally dangerous Brendon McCullum.

It was entirely fitting that in the Long Room at Lord's last night Prior was made England's Player of the Year before the start of this year's internationals, against New Zealand on Thursday. He had strong competition from the captain, Alastair Cook, but Prior's heroic rearguard and his swashbuckling for months before that were still fresh in the mind. In those six years he has become a formidable and selfless Test cricketer, a high performing individual who is permanently aware that there is no "i" in team. It might have swayed a few votes.

"It's a huge honour to be singled out as a Player of the Year but I feel slightly uncomfortable with it, because individual accolades aren't the reason I play," he said. "I play because I want this team to win. I get much more out of the group winning a Test match or a series."

After the wonder of his maiden Test, Prior found it tough going for a while. His hard-nosed approach in the middle got the better of him and before he knew it he was England's most hated sportsman. It seems daft to recall now he is universally considered a gem.

Prior it was who helped to broker a deal with Kevin Pietersen when the dressing room was in uproar late last summer. No other player could have done what he did then, ringing Pietersen and ensuring he was prepared to listen.

"Every time I've gone out to play an innings, the first thing you think about is, 'Right, where do we need to be to be in the best position to save a game or win a game?'" Prior said. "Or, 'What do I need to do to get the scoreboard into the best place for us to win or save a game?' Rather than, 'How many runs do I need to average 50?'"

"I just can't perform like that. I'm not trying to sit here and say I'm the ultimate team player. It's not about that. I've always played sport, even when I was young, to win – and that's where I've got the enjoyment from."

Prior averages 45.46 in Tests for England with the bat, two runs an innings higher than Les Ames, who has been generally considered to be the best batsman among England's wicketkeepers until now. But the wicketkeeping has advanced enormously too and Prior is four victims short of becoming only the fourth man to claim 200 for England.

His work with Bruce French, the specialist coach, remains a work in progress. Prior revealed they had an argument about his method in New Zealand. French had his way and days later Prior took the McCullum catch. It was not a huge amendment but as Prior said it is the one or two per cent that can make a difference.

Cook might consider himself unlucky not to have won the award for the first time after his 1,123 Test runs in the relevant period as well as leading the side to a series win in India. But being runner-up to Prior is an award in itself.

 



England players of the year

ECB Cricketer of the Year

2012 James Anderson

2011 Jonathan Trott

2010 Graeme Swann

Vodafone Cricketer of the Year

2009 Andrew Strauss

2008 Ryan Sidebottom

2007 Paul Collingwood

2006 Andrew Flintoff

2005 Andrew Strauss

2004 Andrew Flintoff

2003 Michael Vaughan

2002 Nasser Hussain

2001 Darren Gough

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions