I think one of the questions that people ask me more often (and I am sure others of my era) is how has the game changed since ‘your day’? The brief answer is ‘not as much as it did while I was playing!!’
I played over an era where changes happened and at a faster rate than ever before covering three main topics, all huge. One day cricket, overseas players and Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Twenty20 has brought about a few changes but the biggest change is the way the batsmen slog the quick bowlers. The number of times bowlers with the pace of Brett Lee and Shaun Tait get hit back straight over their heads into the stands has increased enormously.
However, if there was one word to sum up the biggest change, in all forms of cricket, including test, then it would have to be INTENSITY!!! All forms of practice, training, fielding practise, and the physicals are subject to a higher level of ‘intensity.’
I am not sure that batting and bowling techniques are worked on any harder but more time and thought goes into training and ‘fielding techniques.’ ‘Sliding’ is a relatively new aspect but this also brings about more injuries and this should be weighed up when contemplating the gains from sliding.
There were times when players leaving a Test Match would go straight into a County Match the next day. This would be much harder now as the player would have been wound up to a higher level during the Test Match and pitching up at the County ground at 9.00am the next day for training would be pretty exhausting, especially considering a twelve month programme that many now endure.
The players are paid much more now and that is very necessary with their current workload. Most County players have an 8 or 9 month programme, even if it is only part time in the winter months. There was a time when County players endeavoured to get a winter job but this cannot happen now. There are many players leaving the game at, say, 30 to 35 and have no experience of any other businesses. They have none or little experience of how companies, offices, marketing plans, budgets or other business aspects work. Cricket has always been a short term career, but, now it is even shorter, and those fringe players who were knocking on the door of test cricket without achieving that level, face a tougher time now than a few years ago. For those players who are unable to secure a regular County place it’s even tougher.
All this has to be weighed up when considering what is, after all, ‘a brilliant way to earn a living!!