County cricket April 6, 2011

Sidebottom back where it all began

Jon Culley
Last season Ryan Sidebottom played a key role in Nottinghamshire's Championship success but he is now aiming to end his career back with his Yorkshire roots

Much has changed at Headingley since Ryan Sidebottom left in 2003 but it has not taken long for the game's most recognisable left-arm fast bowler to discover that the burning desire to succeed for Yorkshire never goes away.

"It's every Yorkshire lad's dream to play cricket for the county and to spend his whole career there and to leave as I did remains one of the biggest decisions I've had to make," he said. "I had a great time at Nottinghamshire, where my game improved tenfold and gave me the chance to achieve my ambitions and play for England again. But now I'm back I feel at home and to be back where my career started is very exciting."

"My family are here and also, having left under a bit of a cloud, there is a chance maybe to prove a point. But probably the number one attraction was the number of talented young players coming through. I'm an experienced, senior player now and while the main thing is to take wickets the chance to work with those young lads, to help them develop their game, is a great opportunity."

Given that changing jobs, moving house and starting a family supposedly figure amongst the most stressful life experiences, Sidebottom might have been forgiven for looking a little frazzled after upping sticks in Southwell in Nottinghamshire to install wife Kate and 17-month-old Indiana Nell in their new Wetherby home, with another baby due in June.

But at 33 he claims to feel in sound physical shape, largely thanks to a rigorous fitness programme under conditioning coach Tom Summers that began on November 1.

"It has been as tough a winter in terms of training as I have had for years, a long way removed from when I started here and certainly from my dad's time," he said. "In his day, pre-season would amount to turning up for nets a few weeks before the start. A lot of the lads would have had jobs during the winter."

Dad, of course, was Arnie Sidebottom, who took 596 first-class wickets for Yorkshire between 1973 and 1991 as well as forging a successful football career with Manchester United and Huddersfield Town.

"I speak to him a lot and there have been a few expletives when I've told him the kind of things we do for fitness work. I've lost a bit of weight and having all these young lads running past me up the hills of Headingley has been interesting. But it is what you have to do now to keep the body in shape."

I think there is no end to the possibilities of what this group can achieve. Maybe they are still young yet, still a bit naïve but they are maturing every day
Ryan Sidebottom on Yorkshire's chances

Worcestershire, Yorkshire's first opponents when the season begins in earnest on Friday, were among several teams in a queue for Sidebottom's signature when he turned down the contract offered at Trent Bridge last autumn, along with Durham, Hampshire and Surrey.

He says that rejecting them all for Yorkshire was a "no brainer" but insists the choice was right for professional as well as emotional reasons.

"I'm coming to the end of my career and I had to do what's right for my family. The long-term contract that Yorkshire offered was one I couldn't turn down. And in an ideal world I'd also like to become a bowling coach when I finish playing. I told Yorkshire that was what I wanted to do and they've backed me in that. I'm going to take my badges at the end of this year and working with the young players here is a really exciting prospect.

"Oliver Hannon-Dalby is ever improving, Moin Ashraf burst on to the scene in the last month of last season and there are a number of batters, such as young Joe Root. There is a left-arm spinner, Gurman Randhawa, with big potential - plenty to choose from.

"I think there is no end to the possibilities of what this group can achieve. Maybe they are still young yet, still a bit naïve but they are maturing every day and in a year's time I believe Yorkshire will be a force to be reckoned with."

After three Championship titles, a World Twenty20 winner's medal and 22 Test caps, Sidebottom is driven less by personal ambition as the shared goals of his new team as Yorkshire push to improve on last season's third place under captain Andrew Gale but, apart from spending as much time indulging his passion for rugby league as his commitments will spare, he has one target he would like to reach.

"It would be nice to overhaul my dad's personal tally of wickets. I'm about a hundred or so short," he said. "I'd quite like to beat that, it would be good to follow in his footsteps."