The Team Always Comes First - Paul Nixon
Former England international Paul Nixon has been enjoying a busy summer promoting his autobiography Keeping Quiet, but he has also found time to work hard as one of a number of ex-players involved in the Andrew Flintoff Cricket Academy camps.
Backed by Activate Sport and Co-Operative, they are providing youngsters with the opportunity to try out the game, learn new skills and benefit from the wealth of knowledge that Nixon and the likes of Flintoff, Luke Sutton and Dean Headley can offer from their experience within the game.
Although expressed as part of his thoughts on Kevin Pietersen, he has an important message that is valid for any young cricketer picking up a bat or ball: the team must always come first.
Before that though, excited youngsters even got to try to dismiss the former Leicestershire and Kent gloveman during an event in Hampshire.
"We went indoors and the kids all bowled at me trying to get me out, which was good fun. And then we had a little question and answer which was good for the kids - some fantastic questions," he said.
"Kids are having a good time, enjoying the game outdoors, fresh air, meeting new friends and having a team and making an effort with each other. It's great for their self confidence and they're doing healthy things and getting in the great outdoors and learning key skills, which is wonderful," he added.
While Nixon was focussing on youngsters with their sporting future ahead of them, the recent past has dominated the airwaves, television screens and social media with an excellent effort from South Africa in the ongoing Test series overshadowed by the text message controversy surrounding Kevin Pietersen and his subsequent axing from the team.
"It's escalated out of control," Nixon said when asked about the situation. "First and foremost he wanted a bit of a rest, after being the busiest England player over the years, and that's fair enough, but it's about how you go about your business that counts.
"Kevin mentioned on his YouTube clip that he perhaps hadn't gone about his business in the right way, off the pitch and his comments, he's learned from that and is trying to go forward. Obviously now the text messages that he sent haven't gone down well with England management.
"There was a little bit of disunity happening in the dressing room so England decided for the good of the team not to pick him. The team always come first - that's a non-negotiable; Andy Flower and Andy Strauss are good blokes, they're straight blokes, they're doing the right thing for England and you have to respect that."
Putting all that to one side, however, Nixon believes that England are still good enough - even without Pietersen - to retain their status as the number one ranked Test team.
"South Africa have the momentum, they've played very good cricket and put England under pressure. England have always been on the back foot with the exception of the first couple of sessions in the first Test, but we've struggled. South Africa have done the basics better than England and England have just been off the ball. It's time in this last Test to put things right and get a draw at least."
As a post-script, it is worth remembering that the last time Nixon offered us a prediction, he was spot on, telling us that England would win the Ashes in 2010/11.
The Andrew Flintoff Cricket Academy, in partnership with the Co-operative gives aspiring young children the opportunity to learn new cricket skills or perfect their tactics and game by qualified coaches in a fun environment.
Flintoff and Activate Sport are looking all round the country for new talent this Summer. “The academy has grown year after year and this year we have 60 venues. It's great, as we get to see so many kids of different abilities enjoying the game, being active and playing with a smile on their face, all over the country.”
© Cricket World 2012
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