Australia v England, 2nd ODI, Hobart January 20, 2011

'It feels like I've come home again' - Prior


In the aftermath of England's embarrassing 2007 World Cup campaign the first wicketkeeper selected was Matt Prior. Nearly four years on, and a month away from the next global tournament, he is again in possession but that doesn't mean it's been a smooth ride. Prior has been dropped three times in that period, the most recent 10 months ago in Bangladesh, as the selectors tried various options before deciding their original choice was the best.

When Steve Davies was given the gloves against Pakistan last year, following a brief stint for Craig Kieswetter, and retained for the one-day series against Australia it appeared Prior's World Cup chance had gone. But he'd finished the Ashes in prime form with 118 at Sydney and, wisely, took up the chance to play Twenty20 cricket for Victoria.

"I wasn't expecting it, to be honest," Prior said. "Obviously I was hoping, you always do when the team is getting selected, and I've always said that whenever England are playing I want to be the man with the gloves on. I'm absolutely delighted with the selection. It feels like I've come home again."

Prior has never hidden his drive to be England's keeper in all three formats. He has sometimes felt harshly treated over one-day cricket and his desire for self-improvement was evident when he took up the Big Bash offer rather than return home after the Ashes.

"When the option was thrown at to me either go home or stay here playing cricket it was a pretty simple decision for me," he said. "I've stated for a long time that I want to play one-day international cricket again and flying home to sit in the snow in England wasn't going to better my chances at all.

"I've been in positions before when I've felt I've done okay and then been dropped, but that's international sport. The one thing you do is go back to the drawing board, dust yourself down and come back harder. I've put a lot of hard work into my one-day game, it hasn't just happened overnight. There are obviously reasons why I'm here and it's now down to me to prove that by performing well."

However, the recall doesn't mean all the tricky decisions are made. A feature of Prior's 55-match one-day career is how many positions he has filled in the order; everywhere apart from Nos.5, 10 and 11, while his last 50-over outings were at No.6. This constant movement hasn't helped his development and the next stage of his career will be back as an opener, where he has batted on 27 occasions.

He has never been a complete failure in the one-day side, but his career to date is characterised by how many starts he has made only to then fall without dominating. He has just two half-centuries, with a top score of 87 against West Indies, but has been dismissed between 20 and 50 on 18 occasions - 13 of those as an opener. Prior, though, remains convinced that's his best position rather than a middle-order worker.

"That's where I want to play in one-day cricket," he said. "Andrew Strauss and I will form a pretty good partnership, we get on well and run well between the wickets. I'm a very different player to the guy who opened the batting however many years ago. Getting the starts wasn't a problem, or getting in against the new ball, I was always seemed to get good starts but I didn't have the experience at the time to then make the match-winning score.

"If you look at Shane Watson in the last game with 161, those are the type of innings all batsmen are trying to get. Forties and fifties don't win games and that's certainly what I'll be trying to do once I get in and make a start."

Another factor in Prior's return is the part he plays in the field, not just as a much-improved and now world-class keeper but also the central focus of the fielding unit. Prior's constant chirping and encouragement is not to everyone's taste, but the coach Andy Flower made specific reference to the energy he brings to the side.

"I've taken it upon myself to lead the fielding unit," he said. "As an England team we thrive on setting very high standards in the field. I like to try and push the boys as much as possible with that. When I'm out there it's one of my roles - I want to score runs and catch more than I drop - to make sure I'm pulling people with me and making sure our standards in the field remain very high."

The remainder of the one-day series in Australia will see Prior and Davies travelling together as part of the squad, but Prior doesn't foresee there being any issues with the man he has just pushed out of a World Cup berth.

"We are the keepers' union and have been for the whole of this trip. We go a long way back," he said. "I think we both know that we are pushing for the same place and all you can do is try your best to perform. Whoever gets the nod on the day fair play to them. It works that way, it is international sport and cut-throat at times but everyone has been through it."

Prior knows only too well the feeling of losing his place, and having earned it back, he wants to keep it for a long time to come.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on January 21, 2011, 13:01 GMT

    Well I'm sure Prior is very happy with his contribution to his comeback match. Zero dismissals and an equal number of runs. Invaluable.

  • Vikram on January 21, 2011, 0:53 GMT

    who was this English guy who was a part of the previous tour to Australia, and the commentators were raving about his one particular slog shot? I remember that he did manage to hit that stylish-6 once, and then got hit in the body when he tried to repeat it again. I don't think he has played for England since.

  • John on January 20, 2011, 22:46 GMT

    When Prior first came on the scene, he was a talented but undisciplined bat, a so-so keeper and not much of a leader. What has set him apart is that he has worked his butt off to become better in all three areas. He's now a very reliable keeper, a batsman who has been in very good form for the last couple of years and one of the leaders on the field. I think Steve Davies is a better natural keeper and at least as good a batsman, but at 24 he doesn't give England the leadership on the field that Prior provides. It's Prior's attitude that England want and what this England side is all about.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 18:04 GMT

    @Meety - No they are the worst out of himself, Davies and Kieswetter. In fact they are on a par with Chris Read, James Foster and Geraint Jones. Not sure about this move at all. Davies should be given another go.

    Another (ex) Worcester guy gets shafted. Vikram's last score was 50 odd (and he kept wicket)

  • Simon on January 20, 2011, 11:42 GMT

    Best all-round keeper-batsman in England, possibly second only to Foster in keeping ability.

    Still, I'd really like to see Foster play in the T20 side, we have enough batting in the side to be able to select an out and out keeper.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 11:32 GMT

    The problem with him in ODIs according to experts is that he does not try to occupy the crease for a longer period of time in ODIs as he does in the Test matches. He has to change this thing in ODi as well. He comes and straight away plays his strokes which are not on always. Needs to be calm down in one days, take his time get settled and then go the a fire and have a go and blast.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 10:43 GMT

    I should say it's really very simple. It's the World Cup. It's not about developing players, it's about winning the thing. When push comes to shove with England batting, and needing 30 off the last three overs with 5 wickets down, or with England fielding in the reverse of that situation, you want the EXPERIENCED MAN, the SAFE OPTION. Prior now is that experienced man. Davies is quite brilliant, and clearly Engalnd's wicketkeeper-elect, and he's sufficiently younger than Prior to know that his time wil come. AT the NEXT world cup, Davies wil be 28 - the age Prior is now - and Prior will be 33. If no-one else comes along in the meantime, England wil likely go for the younger man (indeed, Davies may play him out of the side in the interim {he's essentially a slightly better player in both departments}) but, for now, they select the seasoned pro - and rightly so.

  • Lalith on January 20, 2011, 10:38 GMT

    Good move. I am sure Prior will prove his critics tomorrow.

  • ashok on January 20, 2011, 9:09 GMT

    I think, after Kieswetter has recovered from the injury, he can bounce back and shorter formats will be opened and gloved by him.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 8:25 GMT

    Good news for the Bushrangers. Matt Prior cost them the game the other night.

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