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Edward Craig speaks to Phil DeFreitas who retired in 2005 after a 21-year career
Phil DeFreitas experienced everything cricket has to offer in a 21-year career. He retires disillusioned but with fuel left in the tank
What are you planning to do with your retirement?
Sadly, I haven't earned enough playing cricket just to play golf! I am off to Hong Kong this winter, coaching the Hong Kong Cricket Club. Then I will coach at a private school and I could be playing for Lashings next season. I am trying to put back into cricket what it has given me. I am available as a freelance coach if counties need me - especially young bowlers. I have played first-class cricket for 21 years including 12 years at the top level and I have experienced everything. I was dropped by England numerous times and always came back.
Are you sad to be retiring and leaving Leicestershire?
The last two years at Leicestershire have been the most disappointing two years of first-class cricket I have ever played. I have not enjoyed being in the changing room. I have wanted to play, to carry on and prove myself, but it has been horrendous. The club has not been as professional as I thought it should have been. The treatment I received has been a disgrace. I felt there was no respect. Other cricketers respect me and wish me well but I didn't receive that at Leicestershire. I will not miss it at all, I am quite happy to get away from it. I started at Leicester and I came back to finish my career at Leicester - I wish I hadn't.
What will you miss about county cricket?
The pre-season, meeting up to start indoor nets after being away from the lads for six months. I will miss that but that's about it. The last two years have left a bitter taste - my taste for the game has gone. That is what they have done to me. If I was needed, I could continue in first-class cricket for another two or three years. You do have to move aside and let the youngsters come through, I support that, but I am still fit and I still enjoy cricket. That's why the last two years have been sad.
You won the Ashes in 1986-87. Did England's Ashes victory this year bring back memories?
It is strange to think the last time we won was 18 years ago. It was good to see and good to see the public get behind the boys as well. Australia have been a great side for a period of time but we have always had decent players. It's down to what Duncan Fletcher has done with first Nasser Hussain and then Michael Vaughan.
How would you have coped if you had consistency of selection and central contracts when you were an international player?
I would have been better off and played more. When I played for England, I gave my all, I was mentally and physically tired straight after a Test match. I'd then drive 150 miles the day the Test ended to start a county game the next morning. You are on a massive high after a Test match, then you come down to county cricket and you get accused of not trying. Now England players have no pressure to play county cricket, they can rest and prepare themselves for the next Test match.
Are you envious that central contracts were not around when you played?
I suppose but what's done is done. I am pleased that the players these days are treated well and looked after. They are treated like true professional sportsmen.
Has it changed the culture at England level?
When I played you had loads of characters, Botham, Lamb and Gower and you got on with playing. Now, from the outside looking in, the culture looks totally different. It looks wonderful, England look professional. But still in my day, the players were very professional - they were powerful players and naturally gifted who could turn it on any time they wanted to. The game is moving forward now, it is moving from every level. Australia started the culture and every country is following. You can't be unprofessional, you can't be unfit. You end up losing and suffering.
Has this change affected county cricket as well?
Definitely, it has all changed, now you have everything - whatever the players need, it is there. When I started, you did it for yourself. When you wanted help you went to someone and they'd help you. If you waited for someone to help you it wouldn't happen. Now people are going to players, whatever they need, it is there for them.
Does this mean players are not so self-sufficient?
It depends on the character. I personally would go looking for help if I had a problem with my game. Certain modern players might think "why aren't you helping me?" - that is the difference. If a player is struggling and the coach does not immediately help out, players might use it as an excuse - it works both ways. Good players who play at the top for a period go looking for advice and help.
So has county cricket gone soft?
I always looked forward to playing against the best players. As a professional cricketer if you don't look forward to playing against the best, why are you playing? You should want to play against the Australian touring side or Freddie Flintoff. Then you can assess where you are as a cricketer. I have seen players avoid the big games to stay in their comfort zone. This happens more now than early in my career.
This article was first published in the November issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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