Ryan Sidebottom’s passion for cricket never disappeared after his retirement from the international scene. In an interview to Noy Shani, he speaks about his new coaching endeavours and England’s chances in the upcoming Cricket World Cup.
I caught former England cricketer Ryan Sidebottom, for a phone chat shortly after he finished a training session at his own cricket academy. As we spoke, I couldn’t stay indifferent to the excitement in his voice; it felt like I was right out there overlooking one of his training camps. I have spoken to a lot of sports personnel as a journalist in my career, but there seems to be something uniquely captivating about how Sidebottom describes his everyday life with such passion – it really caught me.
Ryan’s dad, Arnie Sidebottom played cricket for Yorkshire, as well as one test match for England and professional football for Manchester United. Speaking about his choice in cricket over football he said: “I still love football but I was stronger in cricket. I had the drive and determination to succeed in that game.”
“I’m sort of coming to the end of my career and it’s all about putting things back into the game,” said Sidebottom, who became a prolific bowler for England around 2007 and retired from internationals in 2010.
“It really drives me to improve all round techniques and abilities for both girls and boys, to improve their cricket skills. I want to pass my passion and drive as a player onto the kids.
“I love coming in every week and seeing the improvement and the enjoyment, smiles on faces, I really love it,“ he continued excitedly.
Suited to a Huddersfield-born Yorkshire man, Sidebottom’s academy is based around the Leeds and Wakefield area and he wishes to help budding young stars from Yorkshire improve, whether they play local league cricket, for Yorkshire or for England.
Speaking about how this can become a reality, Ryan shared with me a story about a very kind gentleman he met, who agreed to sponsor and fund 20 underprivileged boys to be with him for 8 years.
“He requested to remain unnamed. It’s amazing. I’d like to get more scholarships and more sponsorship and again, to get those children that maybe don’t get that chance, don’t have the money to go and join an academy or a school programme… it will give them a chance in the game.
“We gave the boys just after Christmas, a shirt each and a bag with a water bottle, just the excitement and the smiles on their faces… I went home absolutely beaming. To do something like that is really close to my heart. Hopefully, I can get more kids off the streets and coming on a scholarship basis and playing the game of cricket. They are all very, very talented children which is amazing.”
Ryan will be cheering for England as they compete in the upcoming ICC cricket World Cup which starts mid-February in Australia and New Zealand. “I’m excited for England – there should be no fear – you should just go out there and want to win and play as a team. There are a lot of good individuals,” he said.
“India are always favourites, they are always very strong, but Australia, on home soil and with their home crowd are serious contenders too.
“Going into tournaments, it’s almost like a clean slate, regardless of what’s happened and you know England are a very young side, they have many very talented players. They’ve all been a bit inconsistent as a team, but I think, individually, there have been some really good performances, some real positives.
“From my point of view, we performed really badly in the Twenty20 World Cup at home in 2009, we lost to Holland. We absolutely hammered India, you know, because everyone had just written us off, but it was just a very bad tournament.
But England came out on top a year later and won the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies: “We were very meticulous as a team. We knew the opposition batsmen, we knew the opposition bowlers. We were very confident as a team and we had done our homework and I think we had very good balanced side.”
I asked him if he thinks England has a chance on the big stage next month: “I think England just need to be a little bit more consistent and they need to find that balance. You know, in Australia the ball comes onto the bat, the grounds are big and whether they’ll play two spinners, they’ll have probably done their homework on how all the wickets are going to play.
“Again, there’s a lot of England players playing in the Big Bash and doing really well. Yes, I know it’s a shorter format but I just think that England are learning and they can take stock from everything. You know how the game’s played out there and how the wickets play.”
Speaking about England’s key players Sidebottom believe that a lot will rest on Moeen Ali’s shoulders: “he’s a big player in form, he’s opening the batting and he could really take the game to the opposition.”
He also believes Kevin Pietersen, who won’t be playing for England next month, would have contributed to Peter Moores’ side: “He’s one of those players who can put pressure on bowlers and teams and it makes captains change the way they think. He can certainly do that, he changes the game, with bat and ball.”
So will a Pietersen-less England leave their mark on the World Cup next month? We’ll have to wait and see. Ryan promised to come back to me with some commentary. If England are half as excited as he has been whilst speaking to me, they will certainly be in a shout.
For more from Noy, visit www.noyshani.com