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'I just thought I had nothing to lose'

Andrew McGlashan talks to Mal Loye about his experiences in Australia, being dumped for the World Cup and how he is now focussed purely on Lancashire

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan

Sweeping statement: Mal Loye refused to change the way he played when his England call came © Getty Images
While England's top-order floundered in the Caribbean there was one player who would have at least tried to clear the boundaries. But he was splitting his time between a pre-season tour of South Africa and the early throws of a domestic season. With every delivery patted down the pitch or left outside off stump the situation was crying out for Mal Loye's aggression and innovation.
Loye wouldn't have solved all England's woes and meant they were the ones lapping up the adulation of an adoring public instead of the Australians. Far from it, the one-day problems run much deeper than the top three but they are symptomatic of the larger malaise. However, Loye would have gone down blazing rather than blocking and England's total wouldn't have crept to nine runs in the seventh over of the virtual quarter-final against South Africa.
He could certainly be forgiven for feeling a little bitter about the way he was discarded by England following seven matches in the CB Series. "After missing out on the World Cup I had a bit of a sulk," he admits, "but after that all I have focused on is Lancashire, it's all I can do. It's what has made me successful."
Loye's career record reads more than 13,000 runs in first-class cricket and more than 8000 in limited overs matches. He was on the verge of a Test cap in 1998 when called up to face Sri Lanka after Mike Atherton was injured. But at the last minute the selectors had a change of heart and went for Steve James. "They wanted an opener for an opener and I was told thanks but no thanks."
Loye has had to deal with his fair share of poor communication over the years so, recently, took it as a positive that he received a phone call to tell him he wasn't in the 25-man development squad. "The selectors let me know that but that's the only contact I've had in my whole career so I'll take a positive from that. Now it's about kicking on and getting some scores under my belt." It's been a mixed start to the 2007 season for him, a century at Edgbaston and a run of innings in the thirties and forties. "It's frustrating, I keep giving it away."
The selectors let me know that but that's the only contact I've had in my whole career so I'll take a positive from that
Even if Loye's international career is done and dusted his brief stint at the top level is still packed with incident, some before he'd actually arrived in Australia. When Kevin Pietersen was hit in the ribs at the MCG, Loye was in New Zealand during a club stint with Auckland. "I was getting text messages and phone calls from people back home who were watching the TV and they were basically telling me I was in. Then Ravi [Bopara] got called up, but I knew I was close so there was still hope."
However, injuries were never far away and it wasn't long until Michael Vaughan pulled a hamstring at Hobart. "I'd actually just played my first game for Auckland after coming back from an injury," Loye explains. "Then I came off and noticed that Vaughan needed a runner and I was pretty sure after the feedback earlier that week that I had a good chance."
Two days later he walked out at The Gabba with Andrew Strauss against Australia. Nerves? "I just remember thinking I had nothing to lose. I wanted to make the most of the day because it might have been my one and only chance. If I'd been 24 I would probably have gone in very differently and put extra pressure on myself but as I was 34 I just thought I had nothing to lose." And just to show he wasn't going to hold back, the trademark sweep came out, against Brett Lee of all people. "I had a look at it and realised what a good pitch it was. Even though it was a low-scoring game it was a belter, and after watching the Ashes and a disappointing start to the one-dayers I just thought taking them on was the best way to go. Glenn McGrath said a few things but I was just enjoying it so much that I didn't hear a lot."

Taking it on the chin: Loye took some battle scars away with him from Australia © Getty Images
The results were mixed - but mainly on the low side - as Loye found out that McGrath, Lee and Co. don't take kindly to such treatment. But, given his chance again, Loye would do the same despite taking a crack on the chin in the second final at Sydney. "I wanted to do it again next ball," he said before explaining his variation of getting back on horse. "It's a bit like when I had a car crash as a kid and later that same day I wanted to drive because the longer you leave it the more you are going to doubt yourself. It's a shot like a pull or a hook which you can get hit playing and you don't stop using those."
So, having watched from the sidelines, what did one of the country's most aggressive one-day batsmen make of England's efforts in the Caribbean? "As openers now you have to have an all-round game, you can't just go in and play one way." But he still offers his support to Vaughan, the man who took his place for the World Cup. "It depends on conditions. Everyone is going on about Vaughan but I think he has the game to smack it around and also the technical ability when it is doing a bit."
Loye certainly hasn't given up hope of having another taste of the big time and the Twenty20 World Championship in September is giving him a target to focus on. "Ultimately it's always at the back of your mind and to play in a tournament like that would be amazing but it depends the route the new management wants to take. I don't know how they are thinking so all I can do is score runs for Lancashire."
For someone who waited so long for an opening it would be easy to feel contented with a handful of one-day caps and playing a helping hand in a rare one-day success. However, for Loye there is certainly not a feeling of fulfillment. "I'm not satisfied at all. To play at the highest level is to play Test cricket and if that never happens I'll look back and it will be a huge regret. But you can only do so much and the rest is in other people's hands."

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo