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Small advice for England

Gladstone Small speaks to Glen Robertson about how he grasped his opportunity when it arrived in the 1986-87 Ashes series in Australia.

During an Ashes series, every member of the touring squad will play an important part whether or not they are involved in the Tests.

Several players will be watching on from the sidelines during each match, but every one still has a significant role to play both on and off the pitch throughout the winter.

During the 1986-87 campaign Down Under, Gladstone Small found himself watching on from the sidelines to begin with.

But after impressing during the tour matches that winter, he was ready and waiting for his opportunity in the first team and it duly arrived on Boxing Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the fourth Test, in which England would wrap up the series with victory.

Small did not disappoint. He took a five-wicket haul on the first day and held the catch that completed a resounding innings-and-14-run victory.

“Taking five wickets in my first Test match in Australia was a huge moment,” Small recalled to “At the MCG on Boxing Day, all that sort of stuff involved; it was an important game, a big game - one up with two Tests to play - so we knew that if we put in a good performance in that one there was no way back for the Australians.

“It was great to be able to contribute to the team's success in such a huge way. It's still one of the biggest moments in my career, playing in the Ashes in a winning side and being involved in a touring party that had a lot of fun.

Gladstone Small celebrates victory after his five-for in the fourth Ashes Test of 1986-87 at the MCG as England secured the urn“It was great fun touring with the likes of (Ian) Botham and (David) Gower and (Allan) Lamb and Mike Gatting, our captain. We had a lot of fun together and after a troublesome first month or so we managed to gel and play some wonderful cricket and didn't look back.”

Small had been watching on from the sidelines in the opening three Tests but instantly took his opportunity when it came.

“Thankfully touring back then in the 80s, we played a lot in between Test matches, so when the likes of Botham, (Graham) Dilley and those guys had a break, people like myself and Neil Foster got a chance to have a go,” explained Small when asked how he kept focussed.

“They were all tough games, the Australian state sides playing the Poms, they wanted to beat you as well, so they were all very competitive matches. There were no easy games of cricket in Australia.

“I was having a good tour, I think I ended up the leading wicket-taker in all matches, including the tour matches. I was in good form, I was confident in what I was doing and I was enjoying playing in Australia, so I was feeling very confident that I was going to be able to do what I needed to do.

“Unfortunately Graham Dilley failed a fitness Test that Boxing Day morning and Mike Gatting came in half an hour before the game and said ‘Stoney, stop mixing the drinks mate, you're going to be playing’.

“I didn't have any real anxieties or fears, obviously a little bit of nerves, everyone has nerves, but I wasn't phased by it. I was looking forward to getting involved and getting stuck in for the team.”

While he acknowledges that it is harder for players to get into the same rhythm with limited chances to play between Tests, he has some sound advice for those players who find themselves on the sidelines in the early stages.

He said: “It's a lot tougher these days on tours. The guys are playing just a few warm-up games and once the Test match gets under way there is very little cricket for the guys who didn't make the first Test team.

“It's a matter of when you do get a chance, try and make it your Test match. Make sure you stake your claim. That's what someone like (Michael) Carberry’s just done. He got picked in a supporting role, got a chance to open the batting.

“So that's what you've got to do. And if you aren't in that Test team you still have to think that there's a lot of cricket to play. You have to make sure when you do get a chance in the nets, you have to make sure you're focussed and enjoy it, that's the key.

“Don't be miserable if you don't get in that Test team. You still have to help out your team-mates.

“Touring is not just about the 11 guys who are playing, the whole party has to be together. The guys who don't play have an important role to play as well.

“If you start feeling sorry for yourself and downhearted then you become a passenger and that's hard for the rest of the guys.

“You've just got to do what you need to do, keep involved, keep your chin up, keep the smile on your face so when your chance does come you're in a good state of mind to do your job.”

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