Good will aids Goodwin
It takes less than a minute in the company of Murray Goodwin to get an idea of why the Zimbabwean batsman has enjoyed such success.
Since arriving at Sussex in 2001, initially as a short-term replacement for Michael Bevan, Goodwin has proven one of the most reliable performers on the county circuit.
Yet while his batting statistics alone - he has compiled 14,212 first-class runs for Sussex at an average of 52 - are hugely impressive, it is perhaps more refreshing to witness the humility and desire that continues to drive a man who will turn 40 in December.
Goodwin has played an integral role in bringing unprecedented success to Hove, the club having secured three LV= County Championship titles, two Pro40 crowns and further silverware in the C&G Trophy and Twenty20 Cup during his stint on the south coast.
However, as he begins his 12th season at Sussex with a championship game away to Surrey from today, the veteran retains a modest outlook on his achievements.
“It’s amazing. When I retired from (international cricket with) Zimbabwe I was just trying to get a gig on the county scene,” he explained to ecb.co.uk.
“When Michael Bevan was picked in the Ashes touring squad and Sussex got me over I was absolutely thrilled, and then to perform and for us to win the Second Division that year was just a bonus really.
“For them to keep me on and pay Michael Bevan out, well that was a double bonus. It was nice to be rewarded that way and it has just been a huge honour to play for a club for so long. I do respect the fact that they have valued my performances and offered me contracts.”
Arguably the most impressive aspect of Goodwin’s career has been his ability to excel on a consistent basis.
He has only twice failed to pass 1,000 runs in an English first-class season, in 2004 and 2009, and showed little sign of slowing up last summer, contributing five centuries across all forms to take his tally for the club to 60.
Despite this, Goodwin openly admits he will not be able to perform at such a high level for much longer, his attitude representing a welcome contrast to those of the many elder sportsmen who adopt a prickly manner when quizzed on the subject of retirement.
Asked if it was a challenge to defy his advancing years, he replied: “It is. I noticed it more so last year than any other year.
“It was one thing that really hit home at the end of the season at Trent Bridge. I felt every bit of my body hurting and mentally I was pretty drained.
“I think as I’m talking to you now, before this season, I can handle this year and next year, but time will tell at the end of this season.”
In a bid to maintain his form, Goodwin has been paying extra attention to his mental approach.
“I just try to set my standards pretty high and try and stick to those. If I’m doing that generally I perform,” he continued.
“I found it tough last year when I was a bit sore and a bit tired, just to go that extra yard in practice and to make sure that you’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s.
“Sometimes you get lazy and you think, ‘oh, it will be all right’. When that starts happening I think you are letting yourself down and then indirectly you’ll let the team down, so that’s something I’ve been working on mentally.
“It’s a huge thing, when you’re sore and you’re tired, to mentally switch on and just try and keep your standards high.
“I think physically you can push yourself training-wise, but it’s the endurance of cricket day-in, day-out over here which is quite tough. Making sure that your body and mind can recover; that’s the hardest thing when you get older.”
For the time being, however, Goodwin is confident he can enjoy another prosperous year.
“It’s not easy, but I still feel fit enough and still feel good enough to hold my spot in the team,” he said in typically unassuming fashion.
“I just want to keep being consistent in all formats and if I can do that and keep to my standards I’ll be happy.”
Not content to rest on his laurels, he also has a daunting milestone in his sights.
“I’ve always had a target of scoring 2,000 runs in four-day cricket but I’ve never achieved that,” he revealed.
“You’ve seen once or twice that guys have achieved it and it’s something that has always been on my radar.”
Few would set such a difficult target, but there are few like Murray Goodwin.