Exclusive Matt Prior Interview - Making Huge Steps

Cricket World's Richard Reardon caught up with Sussex and England wicket-keeper-batsman Matt Prior shortly after he had been named in England's provisional 30-man squad for the ICC Champions Trophy. Prior, a Slazenger brand ambassador who uses the Slazenger Power Blade bat (other Slazenger brand ambassadors include Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell), spoke about his England prospects, his progress this year as well as his county's chances of glory in 2008. Congratulations on the ICC Champions Trophy squad call up; do you think you could get a place in the team as a batsman alone? We’ll have to wait and see, I think I could and I’ll be more than happy to hold my own just as a batter but the squad’s being cut to 15 and the only thing I can concentrate on is performing well, scoring runs and putting my name in that hat. You’ve been working with Alec Stewart what have you learnt from him? He's been brilliant, to have him at the end of a phone has been awesome, going through the good times but also through the not so good times. It’s been awesome to have someone of that experience; obviously he’s done it all and seen it all. I’ve spoken to him more on mental stuff rather than tactical stuff which has been fantastic. Have you noticed any improvement in your keeping? Definitely, my game in general made huge steps forward since that Sri Lanka series. I’ve matured massively both on & off the pitch. I’ve learnt my game especially batting and I feel very confident at the moment with the keeping as well. I’ve worked really hard with 'Stewy' and made some really good progress. How’s it gone down with him being a Surrey man? We had to get him in the Sussex tracksuit kicking and screaming, but we got him into the navy blue in the end and out of that horrible brown. To have someone like him down at the ground is fantastic not just for me but for everyone. We all know how good a bloke like Stewy is, what he can bring to any team and it's great to have him at Sussex helping us out. There were some surprises in the Southern Division of the Twenty20 Cup this year - have teams been taking the competition more seriously this year? I don’t know about taking it more seriously, I can only speak from Sussex’s point of view. In every competition we enter we want to do as well as possible and hopefully win. Every game you go out to play in you want to win. So I don’t think it's taking it more seriously - it’s just once you get on a roll in the competition you can almost take it through the entire competition. If you start badly it’s very had to get momentum halfway through the competition. From that point of view the teams that started well have finished well. They are all good teams in the competition as well, especially in the Southern Division. The England selectors seem set on fielding as similar teams for Test matches and One Dayers as possible, what do you think about this? My philosophy on it all is pretty simple, you play what you feel is your best 11, whether it be Test cricket or One Day cricket. For me personally I’ve got to make sure I’m pushing myself and knocking on the door so I can be one of those eleven, whether it be in Test cricket or One Day cricket. You’ve had a glimpse of what life might be like without Mushtaq Ahmed this year, how hard will it be for Sussex when he leaves? It’s plain to see its going to be very hard when he leaves. Mushtaq brings a lot to the team, not only in his bowling but the person is massive. But you know Sussex haven’t had Mushy and we’ve had a glimpse of what it would be like without him. We’ve had other things go against us as well, we’ve had injuries to other main players like Jason Lewry and James Kirtley, people like that which has made it a tricky start to the season. But having Mushy in the team makes a huge difference as it would to any team. Is there an over-reliance on overseas players around the counties? At most clubs it’s fine; every team needs a superstar and a match winner. You look at England during the 2005 Ashes, Freddie was the superstar and every team needs that if they want to win trophies. Murray Goodwin has scored huge amounts of runs and is second only to Mark Ramprakash over the last five years in runs scored and average. But I agree when you see two teams - I think it was Northamptonshire and Leicestershire - the first six bowlers were all South Africans you just think 'something is not quite right here'. I think most clubs and counties have got it right but there are one or two unfortunately that are getting a bit ridiculous. Matt Prior has played 22 One Day Internationals and 10 Tests for England, hitting a century on debut against the West Indies at Lord's in 2006. He has also played 5 Twenty20 Internationals and been part of Sussex's three County Championship-winning teams in 2003, 2006, and 2007. © Cricket World 2008