October 13, 2000

Steve James: fit for the challenge

Steve James
Steve James
Photo © Dave Pinegar Associated Sports Photography

Steve James is bracing himself for one of the most demanding and challenging years of his career, where money, silverware and reputation are all at stake.

Not only has the 33 year-old Glamorgan batsman taken on the county captaincy, following in the footsteps of the widely respected Matthew Maynard, but he is also on the brink of launching his benefit year after 15 years of service to the Welsh county.

The supremely fit James, who is as well-known for his intensive training as the volume of runs he produces for his county, knows he will have his work cut out juggling the two jobs but unlike some captains who have resigned the post to concentrate on their benefits, James remains undaunted.

"Matthew took over the captaincy in his benefit year and he did really well," he said, pointing to Maynard's baptism season in 1996 when he scored the fastest ever century for Glamorgan in one-day cricket, and finished as a member of England's squad after making 1610 runs in first-class games at an average of 61.62.

"I thought about it very hard and talked with Matthew but I decided I could do it - I have an excellent benefit committee so I will be leaving a lot of it to them," he said.

"It is a big step into the unknown for me but I am excited. Being captain in cricket involves much more than in other team sports - you are also a manager and coach - but I am happy with that. I played under Hugh Morris and Matthew, and had some success as vice-captain last summer so I have had the chance to watch and learn.

"The secret to being a good captain is having good players. We have had a couple of dodgy years, but Glamorgan have some very good cricketers and it is down to me to get the best out of them. Hopefully we will have Jacques Kallis for part of next summer and we will be looking to make additions during the winter.

"The captaincy is not something that I have been hankering after for years. It was something that just popped up," said James, who was chosen ahead of county colleagues Robert Croft and Adrian Dale.

"Hopefully I have set a good example over the years in terms of my fitness and the effort I have put into my cricket. Hard work has been my mantra," added James, who has a degree in classics and has his sights set on a post-cricket career in journalism alongside his good friend Mike Atherton as columnist on the Sunday Telegraph.

"Management and communication skills are vital and one of the hardest things will be selection - it will require me to be thick skinned though the important thing is to communicate the decisions so players don't take them personally."

Last season, James created a new club record with an unbeaten ten-hour 309 - the highest ever individual innings in the club's history. Such performances keep alive his hopes of playing again for England.

With two international caps in his trophy cabinet, he feels the promotion of his former Glamorgan coach Duncan Fletcher to the England post, might help his chances if the runs are coming in torrents at county level.

It may also help the chances of the younger talent and James is hopeful that both Alex Wharf and Mike Powell will attract Fletcher's attention next summer with some outstanding cricket, to boost Glamorgan's prospects as well as their own careers.

"My plan is to make sure we stay in the first division. Having got here, we do not want to go straight back down," he commented.

"We will be making a challenge on the championship but will also be working to move up from the second division in the National League."