Wednesday 9 April 2008 

Steve Kirby Interview - &#34I Am As Fit And Strong As Ever&#34

Gloucestershire and England Lions fast bowler Steve Kirby spoke to Cricket World's Jim White at Lord's ahead of the county season.

After last year and now looking ahead, how is the winter training going?

The winter training has been awesome. Personally and as a team we have all been in training since about November time as we are all on 12 month contracts now. We also have a fitness guy who certainly does put us through our paces and up until Christmas time that was really full on. I am feeling as fit and as strong as ever before and I was fortunate enough to get a nice little phone call asking to me to go on the England Lions tour in January – that was absolutely excellent as I really enjoyed it, even though it was a bit of a shock, but a nice shock. In fact I actually missed the family holiday to go on so the missus was not very happy about that! Going on a trip like that though has put me in good stead for the season.

With the training going well, have you and the team set any targets for the season?

Personally I try and set myself some sort of targets wickets wise in every competition. By no means do you need to get fixated by these and have to accomplish them as they are only there as a guideline to show the progress you are making over the year. I will ask myself how I took those wickets and what do I need to do day to day to be successful. Over the last two or three seasons that has definitely helped me out and I have seen a more consistent performance from myself. As a team we have got some big goals, obviously to get out of the second division is one of them and to carry on playing very well in the one day cricket which we have an good history in. More than anything, we need to perform on a day to day basis like I have said before. The county season is very long season and getting yourself up to play on a daily basis is a challenge in itself.

I was going to say, as a bowler, when will you get your time to recover due to the amount of cricket you play and how do you feel about a major emphasis being put on the fitness of cricketers now. With you going to bowl a lot of overs do you feel the need to remain as fit as possible?

It is interesting you say that actually. I think that if you can not get yourself ready for the next day with the requirements needed, such as the ice baths that are horrible to get in and eating properly. The Holy Grail really is getting four or five days off between the next game as you get the opportunity to prepare properly for your opponents. It is no coincidence that the guys who put in more hours training, stay professional and remain fit and focussed are the ones who perform better and stay in the game. Obviously with the county season being so long, it is important for the ground staff to look at the whole squad and give everyone a chance to perform.

With regards to the whole squad, is it important for younger players to mix with the experienced players in the team?

Well look at Gloucestershire for example, we have got some good experienced players that play well but we also have some very good young players. We have young bowlers such as Anthony Ireland, Carl Greenidge and Will Rudge who are working hard every day and it is important for them to know that they will get opportunities this year and who ever is chosen must grab the shirt and take their chance. In previous years, young players have not got the guidance from the senior players but at Gloucestershire this does not happen. Definitely the senior players help the young players out here and it will benefit them.

A side who works as a team has usually seen to perform better than ones with individuals. Are Gloucestershire a side that work well together during the season and really have a good relationship between the players?

I have always known the Gloucestershire team as being a brilliant unit. We hustle together in the field and have a player called Chris Taylor – who is arguably one of the best fielders in the country and is now actually our fielding coach. In training we are now working in twos, popping the ball up to each other and getting the teamwork going. We really do squeeze in the field and it is no coincidence that we do well in the one day competitions.

How important is it for the whole side to know their team targets? We see so many times that during a run chase the innings breaks down and fails because they panic and don’t understand the situation at the crease?

Absolutely, you break it down and it becomes much easier. I mean if you are chasing 300 and think of it as it as a whole then it is a big total where as you need to focus on targets. This is why I really like the NatWest Pro40, as it is kind of like a double Twenty20 match and you can break it down into blocks. If you break it down then you can chase down loads of runs, as we have seen, Twenty20 has shown that big scores are not impossible to get.

These kind of competitions really bring the community together, with schools and young children coming to watch some cricket. What’s it like for Gloucestershire?

Just the showing through the gates we get for Twenty20 and the Pro40 is making cricket popular again. Its exciting and is opening it up to a new market. With the youngsters getting involved, it makes it more exciting to play in front of them and a big crowd. In these competitions, every ball is an event with big sixes and wickets. It not great when you’re the bowler and going out of the park but its good to see the crowd full.

Was going with the England Lions on the tour of India a great experience for you?

It was a wonderful experience and to be honest I really didn’t expect to go. I had resigned myself to playing another county season and doing well there and maybe getting a shot like that but to get this recognition for your hard work was really nice. Of course getting as many wickets or runs as you can on those trips but it’s also about being professional and how you come across. Wickets this year will be ever so important or it will mean nothing.

Obviously it was a step up in standard, how did you find that?

The standard was great, I remember playing out in India previously four years ago and we got absolutely hammered. But this year we played in the Duleep Trophy that brought together the best Indian players from North, East, South and West into their regional side – meaning that it was a quality team to play against. The conditions out there were very very hot and it was difficult but a brilliant experience.

After this trip do you feel that you will have more experience and be able to say to the players in your team when you are struggling that you have been there and add to the mindset on field?

One of our main goals for Gloucestershire is to do well in Championship cricket. Take the early season out of imagination where wickets are green and do a bit, Gloucestershire wickets are predominately quite slow meaning that you have to be patient. The wickets in India were slow and you do have to be boring in Championship cricket as the most important thing is to take 20 wickets.