The Hampshire seamer talks about the dramatic ending to the 2014 season, as well as his, and the county’s, aims and objectives for the 2015 campaign, whilst giving his view on English cricket as a whole. (Interview occurred prior to the first game v Sussex)
We’re now in Division One, which is a great feeling as we had a lot of work to do in the last game of last season. At one stage we were just hoping to be promoted, but in that last game it somehow turned around, we were struggling (53-5 against Glamorgan), then suddenly we made over 350 and we had a chance of winning the league, which nobody really expected us to do. On that last day, we just tried to make sure we had a chance of getting promoted, but it [going up as Champions] was an extra good feeling, and then the celebrations were awesome!
We were struggling, thinking that we might not even get promoted, but Slug [Sean Ervine] and Vincey [James Vince] got us up to 350, and then I bowled nicely in the first innings and got four wickets (4-42) and Tommo [James Tomlinson] got six-for in no time at all second time around to push us up on Day Four. A surreal game, really. We showed our “never say die” attitude that game, which is excellent to have in any team, and we’d had the same group of players for four or five years, so everyone knows each other’s characters and roles in the team and everyone wants to play for each other which is obviously a great place to be.
I’ve had a reasonably quiet winter from October to January, giving myself some time off following my knee operation last year, whilst doing a few bits in the gym and some conditioning work, but I didn’t do any bowling. I did a little bit of batting before Christmas, but not too much, keeping off my knee for as much time as possible. After Christmas I cranked it up a little bit, started to get back into bowling, working with the indoor school, then I was lucky enough to go to Desert Springs with the Academy too in February.
They [the Hampshire management] thought it would be beneficial for me to get outside as opposed to the hard floor of the indoor school. After that we had a trip to Barbados, and now it’s back to training in the cold and rain! We were only back for three or four days before going off to Barbados, but it was good for me to be outside and bowling for two or three weeks, reducing the stress on the knee.
My knee is a lot better than it was at the end of last season, I had a scan after the season, and it showed a little bit of stress around the area upon which I had my operation, which is to be expected. That cleared up around Christmas time, and while the issue is still there, if I manage it properly then hopefully I’ll be able to get through a season unscathed and really be able to give it a good shot this year.
They say bowling in cricket is one of the most unnatural movements you can ever do, so that in itself sums it up really. I want to be playing in all three formats, but at the same time I have to be realistic in that I’m not going to play every game.
There are not many bowlers across the county game that will play in every match anyway, and for me still coming back from this operation, if I can play between eight and ten Championship games and most of the one-dayers then I’d be over the moon. That would be a great season for me.
We’ve had a lot of player movement over the winter. Jackson Bird has just arrived. We all know what he can do, he’s been in Ashes squads before, played for Australia and taken loads of wickets and bowled very well in the Big Bash, so I think he’s going to be a great signing for us. Andre Adams has just arrived, and looking at him four years ago, he was one of the best bowlers in county cricket so we’re hoping for something quite similar. We’ve also got Bergy [Gareth Berg] who has played a lot of cricket, he’s a very useful all-rounder and a good addition, so hopefully we should all blend in well, and if everyone stays fit we should give ourselves a big shot of success.
Things didn’t work out for Colesy [Matt Coles] here, and he’s decided to move back to Kent. Batesy [Michael Bates] has also gone, which is a big shame for me as he’s one of my best mates as well, so it was quite hard to see him having to move on. The fact that he’s not been able to find another county is quite a shocker really, but hopefully something will come up for him soon.
For Balcs [David Balcombe], I think the time was right for him, and I hope it will go really well for him at Surrey. I can’t think of many better seasons than the one in which he took 65 wickets about four years ago. He was comfortably our best bowler that year, but he wasn’t quite able to get that form back over the next few years, which was unfortunate.
As with every year, the one-day competitions are non-negotiable for us; we want to be in the knockout stages of both the One-Day and Twenty20 tournaments, and if we don’t then it’s a disappointing time for us. Last season, finishing bottom in the 50-over competition was very poor, and even though it’s very difficult to fight across all three formats for a whole season, it’s certainly something we’ll be looking to do this year – we know our one-day cricket is too good to be knocked out as early as we were in 2014.
Whilst we obviously want to win all three tournaments, I personally feel that in the Championship, if we can get to a position where we are safe and can’t be relegated with four or five games to go, then we can really push for something more exciting from there. We haven’t got a massive squad, but we do have a very good squad – the batters are in particular look in awesome shape, but we need to take 20 wickets a game, every game, First and foremost we need to stay in the division, which would be awesome, and then look at higher things from there.
We’ve just finished our game against the Loughborough University side, and whilst I mean no offence to them, they’re not as good as the county sides. There was some loose bowling early on which Carbs [Michael Carberry] made the most of, and he looks in fine touch – he looks like he’s trying to play more aggressively, which could be especially exciting in Division One.
James Vince is just getting better and better every year, and we’ll be lucky to keep hold of him for the entire year this season in terms of his international chances.
I’d be very surprised if England aren’t interested, particularly with the way he plays, he’s such a quick player now.
He’s now the England Lions captain and the skipper for us in both one-day formats, so I reckon things will happen for him quite quickly now, which I hope it does. Obviously we’d miss him, but we’ve got younger players coming through and we all want him to play for England, so hopefully he will.
Obviously a lot of international players come from Division One, which is understandable given that the standards are higher, but if he has a season like he did last year (Division Two leading run-scorer with 1525 runs), it’s impossible to look away from him.
Looking back on England and the World Cup, it’s fair to say it was a disappointment. Something like an English Premier League has to come into English cricket. Looking at it from afar, teams like India, Australia and even New Zealand now are one step of England in the one-day format in the way that they play the game.
It’s been spoken about over the past few weeks, but whether something like that will be implemented I’m not quite sure. It really is a must now though, we’re so far behind and we’ll really improve English cricket by having that. It would be a shorter competition, and would attract big international players, therefore we would play against all of the best players all of the time. We do get good overseas names here, but we don’t necessarily get the best because it’s spread over a season and people can’t commit for that period of time whilst only playing once a week.
You have tournaments like the Big Bash where the best players are playing T20 cricket constantly, whereas we don’t really have that in England, particularly with the schedule we have in place. It’s all about how it would be scheduled. Obviously you don’t want to take the Championship element out of the game, but it seems that English cricket may have to roll with the times.