It has been a very satisfying start to the summer for me personally, having managed to score some runs to help Surrey to victory against Leicestershire in a comeback match that arrived earlier than I had anticipated when I had my knee operation during the winter. Most importantly of all, however, I am genuinely excited at the progress now being made by the Surrey team.
My great frustration over the past few years at the Oval has been the lack of progression at Surrey. The side I joined in 2000 was a wonderful team, and it peaked in 2002 and 2003. Since then, until now, there have been some tough times and I felt for long periods during those years that we were just treading water.
No longer. We have had one bad game, when we lost by an innings against Middlesex at Lord’s the week before the Leicestershire victory, but overall the team has played well both in County Championship and Clydesdale Bank 40 matches. What is more, I can now see that a real progression is being made, and that makes me very happy.
It is kind of people to congratulate me on my own comeback, and I really appreciate it, but what I want more than anything during the last years of my playing career is to be involved in a successful team again. I have extended my current Surrey contract, until the end of the 2012 summer, precisely because I believe that this success is now very achievable.
Towards the end of my rehabilitation following surgery, which was a long and hard process, I batted quite a bit in the nets against our Surrey bowlers in a bid to get myself up to speed for playing that first game back. And it was very tough! The Surrey attack is a serious one, what with fast bowlers of the quality of Chris Tremlett, Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker and Yasir Arafat around. When you net against them, you have to be up for it.
But it is not just our bowling options which excite me at the moment. I look around the dressing room and I see quality everywhere, and I also see a lot of young and predominantly Surrey-raised players who have the ability to go on win international honours as well as win things for the county.
Alongside Meaker and Dernbach there is the likes of Jason Roy, Tom Maynard, Steve Davies and the captain himself, Rory Hamilton-Brown. These are very talented young players and it has been disappointing to read certain recent articles in the media criticising the club for its failure to bring through its own young players in addition to signing cricketers from other clubs. I think that criticism has been inaccurate and unfair.
Someone like Jason Roy has been progressing through Surrey’s academy for many years now. I myself have coached Jason and many of the other youngsters. He is a batsman who plays with no fear. He has been compared to Alistair Brown, although Chris Adams also recently referred to him as ‘a mini KP’ and suggested he had the ability to play strokes and impose himself on opposing attacks in the way Kevin Pietersen has done throughout his career.
What I like about Jason is that he hits in the ‘V’ and has a straightforward and simple way of playing the game. He is mentally very good and has huge flair. To him, whatever the situation and whoever is bowling at him, he has no fear of failure. It will be fascinating to see him develop during future weeks and months and, as with all the younger players, I am always around if they have any questions to ask.
Rory Hamilton-Brown is another who impresses me more and more. Batting with these younger players in the middle helps me to set an example, and to help them when necessary, but Rory has matured a lot during the past winter – which he spent predominantly in Australia – and in terms of attitude as well as ability these younger guys are doing really well. Again, that is not something I have always been able to say about Surrey players in more recent times.
The acquisition of both Arafat and Zander de Bruyn during the winter has also been a wise bit of business by Chris Adams and the club’s officials. Both these players have a wealth of experience, and they are also very calm personalities with terrific temperaments. Their level-headed approach, alongside other experienced players like Gareth Batty and myself, is just what our younger players need. These are exciting times to be at Surrey.