Crook calls time-out on career
What does a county cricketer do when he is released?
Thanks to the sterling work of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, many map out a career plan to prevent them from being left with nothing when the dreaded P45 comes through.
But instead of falling off the radar, Steven Crook, a 26-year-old all-rounder who had spells at Lancashire and Northamptonshire, enjoyed a greater taste of the limelight last summer.
Crook’s band, Juliet the Sun, provided the inspiration for England during the Ashes and even became brief tabloid darlings when it emerged that former team-mates James Anderson and Monty Panesar were blasting out their signature tune, Time for Heroes, in the dressing room in between sessions.
Music has taken on a more prominent role while Crook has been battled with the numerous injuries at Wantage Road that eventually led to his departure in August.
“Music has really come to the forefront over the last few years,” Crook told ecb.co.uk.
“I’ve struggled a lot with injuries, so the time off has really allowed me to be able to get in the studio and write songs.
“I love cricket, I always have and I always will. At this moment in time, during these last few whirlwind months with the band, music is my focus.
“Everybody at the PCA has been fantastic since I left Northants. Jason Ratcliffe is a great person to talk to about anything.
“I can’t praise them enough for them for the work that they do. They’ve shown great moral support.”
Many Northants fans will have positive memories of Crook, both on and off the pitch.
Joining them from Lancashire in late 2005, he was a tricky customer down the order, a wholehearted seamer and an outstanding fielder.
Those who watched him turn a NatWest Pro40 match against Sussex with the ball in 2006, or hold the Steelbacks innings together with a fighting 72 in the Friends Provident Trophy at Chelmsford in April, will wonder how things got to this stage.
Crook even claimed a career-best 5-71 in his final first-class game for the county, leading the attack against Essex.
But after a knee injury compounded an earlier side strain, club and player decided to part company in August.
“I am disappointed that my body isn’t able to cope with the demands of first-class cricket because I feel there’s no question that I’m good enough to play professional cricket,” Crook maintained.
“But at this moment in time my body’s struggling a little bit. A decision was reached between Northants and myself that it was best to part company. You just move on. I finished at Lancs as well, so every ending is a new beginning.
“I’ve felt that I’ve been a good contributor and performer when I’ve played. I could easily be sitting here reflecting on how well my season went.”
Crook revealed that he held talks with a number of counties upon his release but, rather than rush into a decision, he has made the mature choice to take a recess from the game.
“I look forward to coming back into the game and continuing my career, but taking a bit of time out of the game could be good for me,” he explained.
“I need some time out to be 100% fit and give me the recovery time I haven’t got over the years.
“I was talking to a few counties once I parted company with Northants. I had a decision in my mind. The music didn’t have a massive influence on my cricket career. I reached that decision based on injuries.
“In six months or a year’s time I might have a different answer for you. But now my decision is to take some time out.”