What do you think about the future of Test cricket? Do we need to shorten it or produce more sporting pitches? (Nasih Ul Wadud Alam, ) I don’t think we need to shorten Test cricket and the wickets are actually pretty sporting these days. The key is to avoid extremes. The best pitches have a bit of seam and a bit of spin but are good to bat on too.
Being so elegant and seemingly effortless at batting, do you find that people think you are not trying when you are in a bad run of form? (Jack Counsell) For sure. But that’s been the case since I was young. If I got out people would say it was a lazy shot or I wasn’t interested. I am interested, it’s just my style and it looks like that. I feel like anyone else on the inside, and commit to shots the same. But I think commentators understand it more these days. Someone like David Gower moving into the commentary box probably helped. He almost gave players like myself a voice among all the analysis.
Are you more nervous coming out to bat or before you bowl your first ball? (Chloe Hole) Definitely before bowling my first ball. The responsibility I have with the ball, especially in Test matches, is a lot more than my batting. I’m still nervous before batting, don’t get me wrong, it’s just there’s more on me as a bowler, especially if I’m the only spinner in the team. The more you play the more you get used to the nerves and start to embrace them.
What advice would you give boys and girls thinking about trying to make a career out of cricket? (Rob Hamill) The cliche about working hard is true. But beyond this, I would tell any young cricketer to make sure they really enjoy the company and camaraderie. Runs and wickets are one thing, but the friendships you make during your playing days, and the times you enjoy together, will stay with you for ever.
Hardest away ground you’ve played at? (Charlie @crobertson95
Toughest place to tour? Declan Heels) Australia is for me, personally, the hardest place to tour. The wickets are so good for batting, which made bowling hard, and mentally it was quite challenging. In terms of the ground, Newlands in Cape Town is pretty tough to bowl on as a spinner.
When was the last time you played a game for your local club side and how did it go? And do you think you’ll be tempted to play club cricket again when you eventually retire? (Tony Medlock) It was probably in 2014, a week before my Test debut. I have no idea how I got on, though. This year I have signed up for West Bromwich Dartmouth CC, where my two brothers (Kadeer and Omar) and cousin (Kabir) play. Any spare weekend, I’ll join them – if we get a season. I’ll play professionally for as long as I can and I’ll definitely play club cricket after that, probably until I can’t physically do it any more. There’s no ego. I don’t mind if the eyes go and some rubbish bowlers get me out – I’ve got out loads of times!
The one thing you would change about cricket? (Sam @sam_willet) I’d probably say slightly fewer international fixtures or cut down some of the bigger tours length-wise – it can get very hard if you play all formats. One thing I wish we could change overall would be the price of equipment. It’s a very expensive sport to take up for kids if they want good-quality kit. Especially in England.
What is the biggest meltdown you’ve witnessed when a dismissed batsman has returned to the dressing room? (Dan Davis) At Worcestershire it was Vikram Solanki putting his foot through a wall and getting it stuck in there. For England it was Alex Hales smashing his helmet up into the smallest pieces I’ve ever seen using his bat. Both were pretty funny.
Which English Test ground is your favourite to bowl on and why? (Nathan Boroda) There’s two. Old Trafford for the bounce, which all spinners enjoy, and then also Lord’s for the slope. Even if there’s not much turn from the pitch, it gives you some natural variation to work with from either end.
What style of batting best suits your game in the long format? You have been moved around the order with mixed success, but seem at your best when taking on the bowling. (Tom Barrington) It’s changed over time. When I first came in I was a bit more reserved, like during my first Test hundred at Headingley. That was the best of my five. But lower down the order I’ve always felt putting pressure back on the bowlers is the way to go. It has made trying to switch back and grind it out harder.
How do you think I can get my young nephew and niece interested in the game? (Michael Brenna) Play the game with them and keep the drills very simple so that when they make those little improvements through repetition, it sparks their interest more and more.
Do you ever see yourself captaining England and is it something you aspire to do? (James Hancock and Dave Churchley) There would probably need to be four players injured. I enjoy captaining Worcestershire and we’ve had success but with England it’s not something I’ve thought about too much. You have ambitions like anyone but, realistically, it’s not really crossed my mind.
Favourite curry house in Birmingham? (Jack Downes) I don’t tend to go to them because the food at home is usually better. I like Lebanese or Moroccan restaurants when I’m out. My current favourite is Al-Bader, a Lebanese on Ladypool Road in Birmingham.
When do you think you will be ready to return to the England Test set-up or do you consider your Test career done now? (David Shankland) I think I’d probably be ready now, to be honest. Clearly I would have to be playing well and win a spot back on merit but in terms of being available – and obviously I’m speaking hypothetically – if there was a Test match tomorrow and I got the call, I’d say ‘yes’. We’re all missing cricket right now and the coronavirus [hiatus] makes you realise what you love. It could take out the whole summer and that would be a big thing.
Thoughts on Headingley 2014? You scored an unbeaten hundred and almost denied Sri Lanka a win only for Jimmy Anderson, last man in, to get out off the penultimate delivery. (Rex Clementine @RexClementine) The memories are a little bit bitter because we lost. But the innings did so much for my self-belief and knowing I could play at international level. It’s a shame too because if we’d saved the match that innings might have been spoken about more. We lost and it almost became a bit, yeah, whatever.
Who is the greatest all-rounder, Kallis or Stokes? (Al Prince) It’s a tough one. You’d probably have to go Kallis as it stands because his body of work is so much bigger: more runs, wickets, catches etc. But if Stokesy carries on like he is he will become one of the greatest players to ever play the game. No doubt.
Does racism still exist in top-flight cricket? (Stuart Drysdalen) I don’t really experience it these days. Maybe you hear the odd comment or a stereotype that sounds like it could be a bit ‘that way’. But I don’t think it’s really in the sport.
Do you realise how much the majority of England fans love you and do you use a sports psychologist? (Simon Brett) The sports psychologists use me, rather than the other way around. In all seriousness, I do a bit but I also think there are limits and sometimes only a player or coach who has experienced the same problem as you’re facing can help.
Yes and no on the fans question. You know there are a lot of fans and it’s nice to hear when they say they enjoy watching you play. True fans get it. But it doesn’t matter who you are, even Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli, there will always be people against you for whatever reason. It’s not always cricket-related either.
This current break has made me realise that when you find yourself surrounded by a few negative comments, somehow it’s all you can focus on. You have to be mentally stronger and filter more of it out.
With so much happening in the world right now, this has been time to reflect. You realise you don’t know how long you are on earth and so what people might say about you really doesn’t matter. If that’s someone in the media talking about your cricket, they’re just doing their job and there is no point getting affected.
It’s almost been a case of forgiving anyone who has ever said anything I didn’t like and now looking to start afresh when we get back playing. I may have felt like a scapegoat at times in the past but I’m over it now. It’s time to move on.