For any cricketer, or indeed any sportsperson, captaining your country is a great honour. While thousands will be watching every move that Andrew Strauss and Graeme Smith make as they lead their teams during a much-anticipated Test series later this summer, former Essex fast bowler John Lever will also be captaining his country, all the while hoping Strauss's men can take a glorious victory.
He gives England a good chance of maintaining their spot at the top of the Test rankings, but first, he has to pull the whites on himself and lead by example as on 26th July, Lever will be leading an Old England XI against a Neston Select XI in a charity match which aims to raise thousands of pounds for North West Cancer Research Fund.
"It's a game that we've played over the last couple of years, raising quite a bit of money for charity. Were looking forward to it, it's a nice ground to come and play at," Lever told Cricket World.
"We do rely quite a bit on experience, we can't run around in the field the way we use to, but it should be good fun. They always have quite a strong team up at Neston, so we'll have to pull out a few stops and a few early nights before we get the players up there."
Sound advice indeed, and you imagine that with thoughts of facing Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis at the forefront of their minds, England's batsmen may well follow it later this summer.
Lever believes the series will be a close one, and he isn't backing against England taking victory.
"It will be a very tough series, they are a good side," he said, when asked about South Africa. "They have some pretty good bowlers, Steyn and Morkel in particular.
"They have plenty of batsman and probably the best all-rounder in cricket today, very under-rated really - Jacques Kallis has a fantastic record as an all-rounder.
"They certainly won't be an easy side to beat. It will depend a little bit on the sort of pitches we play them on, but in saying that we have to fancy our chances."
England's rise to the top of the rankings has been built on so many solid foundations, one of which has been the number of fast bowlers available to Strauss and Andy Flower, and for Lever - himself a fast bowler of some repute - it is a key factor.
"I have to say we have a stable of quick bowlers - opening bowlers, new-ball bowlers - that would grace any Test side, I think that's part of the rise to the top," he said.
Lever played some 529 first-class matches for Essex, England, MCC and Natal in a career that started in 1967 and ended in 1990, taking in 481 one-day matches as well. By the time Twenty20 cricket came along to shake up the world order, Lever had taken his bow but what does he make of the shortest form of the game?
Unsurprisingly, he says he would have enjoyed playing the game, especially as has become a major draw for crowds all around the world.
"I think any professional cricketer would have enjoyed playing in front of huge crowds, and I would have been no different," he said.
"I think we are starting to see clever bowlers come to the fore in this competition. It started out as a 'wham bam whack it around' sort of game, and now the spinners and the bowlers with subtle variation have actually been the match-winners.
"I am a little bit concerned about it, not taking over from Test cricket, but people wanting to play just T20 and no other form.
"You have to make a reputation in Test cricket for people come and want to watch you play. It's got its place, but we mustn't overdo it."
John Lever was talking to Cricket World to promote the Old England XI v Neston Select XI match at Neston CC on 26th July. For more information about the game, click here.
John Lever factfile
|Left-arm fast medium, right-hand bat|
|Played 529 first-class matches and 481 one-day games between 1967 and 1990, including 21 Test matches and 22 One-Day Internationals|
|Took 7-46 on debut against India and scored a half-century.|
|Took 73 Test wickets, 1,722 first-class scalps and 674 one-day wickets in a 23-year career|
|Was a key member of the Essex squad that enjoyed unprecedented success at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s|
|Awarded the MBE for services to cricket|
© Cricket World 2012
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