Keeping an eye on the future
Posted in England in South Africa 2009-10
Christmas was a really sedate time for me. I went into hospital on December 14 to have my hip resurfaced. It had been giving me problems for about a year and had got so bad I couldn't even tie up my shoelaces.
It was quite a major procedure and I now have a 12 inch scar. I am on crutches until the end of the month but should be able to push myself a bit harder from then on.
Being laid up meant I have seen all of the Tests in South Africa. Having fought so hard to draw those two Tests it was disappointing the boys could not hold on in Johannesburg. It has still been a successful tour though, having won the one-day series and drawn the Tests.
South Africa are a good side - they have won in Australia in the last 12 months - so a drawn series is very respectable. We have had to fight and scrap.
I enjoyed the Durban Test where we won so well. I was so pleased that Ian Bell scored a hundred in that match. Technically he is one of the best players in the side but he kept getting out to poor shots. The best players don't do that very often. Hopefully he will now kick on and be a big player for England. I would like to see him bat at number three in the future.
Graeme Swann has been excellent this winter - he's been a revelation since he came into the England side. He's finally showing that potential that people knew he had all those years ago. Let's hope he can continue in that form.
I'm very interested to see how England Under-19s get on at the World Cup in New Zealand. They have already beaten Hong Kong and Afghanistan and play India on Thursday.
We haven't done very well at the age group recently. It's 12 years since Owais Shah captained England to win the World Cup. We need to keep an eye on this age group as it is one of our player pathways. It is a good chance for the players to learn more about the game.
I played for the Under-19s back in 1976. We went to the West Indies in the middle of the summer which caused a real problem with the counties as 13 of the 16 selected were playing first-class cricket.
It was a tricky one for me as I was a regular in the Middlesex side and wanted to establish myself, while on the other hand I wanted to play for England.
We had a good side, many of whom played for England - myself, David Gower, Chris Cowdrey, Paul Downton, Paul Allott and Ian Gould. We got a first look at Malcolm Marshall when we were out there. I remember him putting Gunner [Gould] on his backside.
We won the only Test which was played in Trinidad. They needed 40 runs on the final morning with five wickets in hand but they didn't get them though as Ian Wilks, who was at Surrey, and a certain M Gatting bowled us to victory. We were an unlikely bowling combination - he was even shorter than me and that's saying something.
I'm expecting a busy few weeks here at ECB. We are running a pilot project in Lewisham where we are regenerating two Victorian pitches. It is being part funded by ECB, the government and the local council with the aim of increasing participation. At the moment local clubs and schools are having to travel to play sport which isn't good enough.
We have made a lot of ground with indoor cricket which is another attempt to provide cricket for as many people as possible - men, women, children as well as disabled cricketers. In the past there were 30 indoor facilities but most of these had to close when business rates went through the roof.
Indoor cricket is an all year round sport – it doesn’t stop during the winter. These facilities are there and have to be capitalised on. We have been working with cricket boards, councils and local health authorities to try and this form of the game.