Upbeat Jones eager to repay good turn
Sunday 30 October 2005
The debate began from the moment Jones replaced Chris Read as England's keeper in the West Indies last year. The Kent gloveman's latest rival is Matthew Prior, a similar player in that the classy runs he scores were instrumental in winning him a place on the Test tour of Pakistan rather than catches and stumpings.
Both will be involved in England's first warm-up match - a non-first-class, three-day fixture starting tomorrow against a Patron's XI in which, at the tourists' request, all their 14 squad members will take part.
That means Jones and Prior, of Sussex, are both likely to have a chance behind the stumps. But Jones will not be looking over his shoulder. "Matt has done well over the last couple of years, and you have to be aware that there is some competition," he said. "I know that there is some pressure, but for me it is about making the most of this opportunity. I have been part of a great side and a successful side - and I want to make sure I stay in it. I want to be a part of this journey that the guys are on."
His team-mates have often spoken up about how highly he is valued as a member of the side, despite the criticism he attracts. "It is great that the guys you are out there with have full confidence and express those views publicly," he said. "That definitely gives me a big boost, and when you are under tough times you can call on that. It means I can go out there and continue playing my natural game.
"I was brought into the side to contribute with the bat - those are the words which have stuck in my head," Jones added. "That is the nature of the game, the way it is going. I have to make sure that runs are imperative but that my wicketkeeping standards are there as well."
In Pakistan and again in India early next year, Jones must adapt his technique as he encounters for the first time the demands of the subcontinent, where the ball will turn and keep low.
"I anticipate a lot more time up to the stumps, and that is one area I have thought a lot about working on. Out here you will have to stand a lot closer, ready for lower and sharper catches.
"I went to Bangladesh [in 2003] but I was mixing drinks as a 12th man, so I am looking forward to showing what I can do in these conditions."
The home camp have suggested that their wickets may be prepared to suit slow bowlers, and have included Mushtaq Ahmed as a second specialist leg-spinner in the 16-man Test squad. But Jones said the surfaces will also help the slow left-arm spin of Ashley Giles, who prospered here on his last tour with 17 wickets in three Tests. "If that is the case, it is a great advantage for us, because he is bowling well," he said. "I am very much looking forward to having turning wickets for Ash."
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