Ryan Sidebottom: Surrey can dominate County Championship for years

BY MARCUS HOOK

Surrey’s bowling consultant Ryan Sidebottom reckons the Oval outfit have what it takes to continue dominating the County Championship.

The former England paceman – speaking before the South London club wrapped up their first title in 16 years – has also made no secret of the difficulties he has had to overcome since hanging up his bowling boots at the end of last season.

“Surrey have some great youngsters and they have a togetherness,” said Sidebottom. 

“They know each other’s games, plus there are quality overseas players and fantastic signings like Jordan Clark and Liam Plunkett to come in.

“It’s similar to how it was when I was at Yorkshire. Surrey could dominate for a while. It just remains to be seen how many players will go to England. But they have a good battery of fast bowlers. County cricket can be tough on the body, so you need a good squad of 20 players to win championships, and Surrey have got that.”

Nevertheless, as the Oval outfit proved, even title winners-elect have their off days – a case in point being a middling bowling display on day one at Worcester.

“We bowled outstandingly on the first morning,” said Sidebottom. “We could have quite easily got three or four wickets with how we bowled. But, after tea, I felt the game just drifted away from us a bit.

“We were a little bit lacklustre in terms of getting back into the contest. We didn’t bowl as a unit and we basically allowed the likes of Ross Whiteley [who made 91] to play well.

“All in all, we bowled at 80 per cent of what we have done throughout the season, but Worcestershire played well. They battled hard and credit to them.”

Sidebottom added that Surrey travelled to New Road knowing their hosts would put up a fight, despite the fact Worcestershire were propping up the table.

Surrey’s Rikki Clarke and Morne Morkel celebrate victory over Worcestershire and clinching the Specsavers County Championship title at Blackfinch New Road, Worcester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. 

“This division is really tough, especially now we are in the back of the season,” said the former Yorkshire and Notts left-arm seamer. 

“Every team from fourth place down can go down still. They are all going to be up for the challenge and Worcestershire made it tough.”

Sidebottom has admitted that adjusting to life after playing has been a struggle.

“I went on The Wright Stuff [TV programme] to talk about it. It is important. 

“Anxiety and depression can really hit people in sport – finishing at an early age, not knowing what you are going to do, with 30-40 years still to work. How I am going to look after my family, pay the mortgage and bills? It is scary. You can fall into alcohol, gambling and drugs. Winters can be hard. You need goals in life, a bucket list, and you need to stay active.

“My dad Arnie, had a 17-year career as a footballer for Manchester United and Huddersfield Town and then as a cricketer for Yorkshire, but couldn’t find a job for a couple of years after he stopped playing.

“He really struggled with stress and the nervousness of not knowing what the future held, as well as trying to support the family.

“As a young boy I’d always worry about my career and if I’d make it as a pro. I put myself under so much pressure and believe this triggered the eczema and psoriasis on my scalp I had at that time.

“When you’re playing you become insular. Sport is the main focus. Back then I’d stress about having a bad game, but now I know there’s more to life. 

“Men struggle because of the whole macho attitude, but it’s not a weakness to open up and talk to people about how you’re feeling.”

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