Katich back to deal with unfinished business
Simon Katich aims to repay the debt of gratitude he believes he owes Hampshire after returning to the Ageas Bowl as the club’s overseas player.
The Australian left-hander had played a solitary Test in 2001 when he signed for then-Hampshire skipper Shane Warne’s side in 2003.
A successful three-year stint followed and he soon returned to the Test fold, where he would remain until becoming a casualty of England’s Ashes victory Down Under in 2010/11.
By that stage Katich had played 56 Tests, averaging 45 with the bat and chipping in with 21 wickets at 30 with his left-arm wrist-spin.
The 36-year-old believes his spell in county cricket was the catalyst for rejuvenating his Test career, and with his international days probably behind him, Katich intends to focus all his energy on helping Hampshire make an instant return to Division One of the LV= County Championship.
“A big part of it is repaying the club for the opportunity they gave me way back in 2003, which certainly helped me get back into playing Test cricket for Australia,” Katich told ecb.co.uk.
“I’ve always been grateful for that and thought it would be nice at this stage of my career to come back and be part of a winning team.
“I’ll be batting at four. I said to the guys I’d fit in wherever suits the team best and that’s where (captain) Jimmy (Adams) and (first-team coach) Giles (White) thought would suit the team and myself.
“As a batsman you always want to be hungry for runs and you want to make as many as you possibly can. There’s going to be times where it's hard work - early season can be tough - and vice versa there are going to be times when you can really cash in because conditions are good.
“I’ve always prided myself on being competitive and I’m still hungry to make lots of runs.”
Katich arrived last Tuesday, but not to a winning team – at least in four-day cricket.
While Hampshire have enjoyed success in limited-overs cricket in recent years, Warne’s side produced a string of near misses in the championship.
A gradual decline since the Australian’s departure in recent seasons culminated in relegation last year, but Katich is confident a youthful side can achieve success.
“Every time I’ve come over here I’ve never set any targets runs-wise,” he added. “Obviously you want to score heavily but it’s more about trying to win games of cricket and hopefully we can get promoted in the four-day stuff.
“The boys have obviously had some success in the shorter forms of the game over the last few years so it would be nice to contribute to winning games of cricket.
“I’ve seen first-hand the last week the talent that’s on offer, so I’m looking forward to seeing it progress. There are a number of young guys here, some good talent.
“There’s no doubt the start of the season is always crucial, I think from your own confidence level, whether it’s as an individual or as a team. In this format - we’ve got about five championship games in a row - if you can get on a roll week after week it can set your season up rather than trying to play catch-up later in the year.”
While the Hampshire squad Katich joined nine years ago was packed with experience, the 2012 side is full of youngsters after a string of high-profile departures over the winter.
The likes of Dominic Cork, Nic Pothas, Michael Lumb and Imran Tahir have all moved on, and Katich accepts that he and fellow senior players such as Adams and Dimitri Mascarenhas have an important role to play in guiding the team.
“You provide another set of eyes as an experienced player and I’ve played a lot of cricket under some good captains that have taught me a lot,” he said.
“There have been some good tactics that Jimmy has used with some of the young bowlers.
“If you’ve got good players around you it always takes that pressure off. Looking at our batting line-up there are some good experienced players there. Hopefully we can all chip in.
“I’ve played with a few of the boys, but now there’s a few younger guys coming through the ranks, which is exciting as well because there are some exciting prospects there.
“My role is to score as many runs as I can, take catches, and maybe even bowl a few overs. But a big part of it too is seeing how guys are progressing and helping them out in whatever way I can - whether that’s off the field with a few words or on the field when things are happening, getting in partnerships with young batters and spending plenty of time with them.”
Katich recalls several near misses in terms of collecting silverware on the south coast, something he hopes to put right this season.
In 2005 Hampshire missed out on the championship title by only two-and-a-half points, before going on to win the C&G trophy, with Katich missing the final due to Ashes commitments.
“I played for half a season around the Ashes,” he added. “I think we came second by about a couple of points.
“The boys won the C&G that year - I was there for that season but didn’t get to play in the final which would have been nice.
“Hopefully this time we’re all making runs and winning games of cricket because that’s what it’s all about.”