Guest column from Lancashire batsman Paul Horton
THIS time of year is always exciting for the 350 or so professional cricketers around the country. With gym programmes complete and all the fitness testing done, most will have or be embarking on an overseas pre-season tour to sunnier climates; and for me that’s Dubai with Lancashire.
At the age of 31 this is nothing new now and I would be regarded as a ‘seasoned pro’; however, it feels different. For a few county cricketers, this summer offers them the opportunity to transform themselves into international cricketers by the end of it.
The question I ask myself, why not me? Of course there is a long line of quality batsmen in county cricket who, if given the opportunity, would do well in Test cricket. And I feel I’m one of them. If I didn’t believe in myself then I don’t think there would be any reason to play the game.
It’s my profession and it pays the bills, but the endless journey of mastering the ‘art’ of batting and being tested at the highest level drives my ambition for greater things. For the first time in a number of years there are potential spots in the England team.
No KP, no concrete opening batsman to partner Alastair Cook, and potentially some room in the middle order after Jonathan Trott’s recent troubles. I hope the England selectors don’t over-look players over the age of 30, as I think it’s a dangerous policy used too often when sides are struggling.
I accept we need to look to the future and bring the next generation of England cricketers through, but I also feel a reliance only of youthful players could bring a string of inconsistent performances. I also think we can learn a little from what Australia and their coach Darren Lehmann have done.
They really seem to have found the balance between youth and experienced players, such as Chris Rogers, Ryan Harris, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson. Each player has been instrumental in Australia’s recent turnaround and they are all 30-plus.
For further proof you only need look at Australia’s current World t20 squad, which includes 43-year-old Brad Hogg and 39-year-old Brad Hodge. Would England pick a 43-year-old? This has not always been the case in Australian cricket, so much so that, until recently, there was a restriction of the number of over 25’s you could play in state 2nd XI competition.
My hope is that the England selectors realise that a balance of talented youth and experienced performers is the way to re-build the national team, and not just select those who show glimpses of a great future or have a preferable date of birth.
Now if that phone doesn’t ring for me this summer to represent England or England Lions all is not lost. It’s a huge year for Lancashire and there is a real feel-good factor around the club.
Over the last three seasons we’ve experienced our single greatest high (Championship success in 2011) as well as the biggest low (relegation in 2012) and another sense of accomplishment after winning promotion back at the first attempt in 2013.
I’ve likened it to climbing a mountain, where in 2011 we reached the summit when nobody thought we had the right equipment to do it, only to fall even quicker to the base again. The 2013 season was to show everybody we could climb again and climb we did!
Once again the summit is in sight and this current 2014 Lancashire squad want to get there and get there fast! The single biggest reason we have the feel-good factor is through the changes our head coach brought with him after he was surplus to requirements at international level.
Peter Moores has changed our culture, our philosophy, how we train and generally how we operate as a squad. The belief you hear in my voice about playing for England has been instilled in me by him and I’m not the only one to benefit from this.
Look at Simon Kerrigan and Stephen Parry playing for England, Luis Reece who has almost emerged from nowhere to do so well opening the batting for us. The fine form with the ball Kyle Hogg has showed in recent seasons, Glen Chapple continuing into his 40th year… I could go on.
Now this belief is not based on airy fairy talk but a look at the brutal facts and what each of us need to do to be the best we can and remembering that it’s an honour not only to play sport professionally but to wear the Red Rose.
The question is not if, but when, Peter Moores decides to test himself in international cricket again. I just hope it’s after my playing days are over.