Match Analysis

Outlook brighter for Davies

Steve Davies has put some tough times behind him and hopes the influence of Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen will spark a successful phase in his career

Steven Davies was run out for 34, Surrey v Warwickshire, The Oval, May, 23, 2012

Steven Davies recognises he faces an important season  •  Getty Images

That Steven Davies can reflect on such a devastating part of his life with such candour, barely two years on, speaks volumes. Both his strength of character as a person, and the support offered to him from his family, friends and Surrey have allowed him to emerge from dark days that no one could blame him for succumbing to.
Prior to a traumatic 2012 season, he had passed 1,000 runs in each of the previous three years. After the death of Tom Maynard, he carried on selflessly but to the detriment of his own game and well-being. He finished the summer with just 438 Championship runs, battled depression and seriously contemplated giving up the game altogether.
"I've never really dealt with death before," he said. "My grandparents died but, you know, they were old and is an expected sort of thing. To lose one of my best friends and a close teammate was really tough."
"If I'm honest, I don't think I should have carried on playing that year. I had a long discussion with my parents and I thought, with me as a senior player, I've got a responsibility to help the younger players who are also dealing with what I'm dealing with. I tried to hang in there."
High-profile support came from Elton John, who was able to relate to Davies' close, personal loss. As well as an empathetic ear, he also offered him sanctuary in the form of time away from the game - a three month period where cricket rarely crossed his mind. It did Davies the world of good. The 2013 season was approached with a sense of perspective and a great deal of hunger.
"I was pumped for last season," he states, pretty emphatically. "But while I played pretty well [867 runs at 45.63, with two centuries] it was a huge shame we got relegated. A big club like this needs to be playing first division cricket. Hopefully this year we can put that right."
A familiar frustration for Surrey fans is Davies' knack of getting out after playing himself in. His "negligence", if that's not too harsh a term, is all the more frustrating given how effortless he makes batting look. When he gets going, there are few better players to watch. It's a chink in his game that he has been seriously addressing.
He began the season well, sharing a stand of 122 in 50 overs with Zafar Ansari against Glamorgan. Davies' contribution of 67 off 153 balls contained a great deal of restraint as usual moments of class you expect from a player with his range of shots. It seems he is already reaping the rewards of a winter spent curbing his enthusiasm.
"It really is as simple as batting in a net and focussing on leaving more balls. For me, that was quite a big thing as I'd say, maybe a few years ago, I'd be playing shots in the nets, feeling good and all that. But in the winter I solely focussed some sessions to just not getting out.
"I think I did that fairly well yesterday. It was pretty difficult but I was happy with my tempo. It wasn't my usual innings but it felt pretty good."
Davies was also part of the group of players that attended Kevin Pietersen's spin masterclass at The Oval's indoor school. As evidenced by his Sky Sports masterclass with Ian Ward, Pietersen has no trouble articulating his brilliant yet unorthodox methodology. Even Davies, a good player of spin bowling, learned a lot.
"A lot of what he was talking to us about was self-belief. As players, we were discussing it before we went down there: "Oh, is he going to be talking to us about switch-hitting a guy for six? We can't do that!" We're not Kevin Pietersen, you know what I mean?
"But it was all stuff that he learned over his career, because he's had his issues with spin and overcome them. People like Graham Ford, Graeme Smith and Kev have huge amounts of international experience, and that's where I want to be -playing international cricket. Just to be around to learn and talk to these guys is great."
England's winter of discontent, and the casualties taken, mean a host of positions are up for grabs, including that of wicketkeeper after Matt Prior was dropped for the final Ashes Test and Jonny Bairstow deputised in less than convincing fashion. For the first time in a while, Davies has allowed himself to set his sights on adding to his 13 international appearances to date.
"I've been on a few Test tours and, if I'm honest, I never felt I was going to play, with Matt Prior doing so well. I wasn't in a great mental place in the last few years and England wasn't something at the forefront of my mind.
"Now, with everything that went on in Australia, I genuinely feel now it's a great opportunity for someone to take that spot, whether that's me or someone else."
"That in itself means it's a big year for me."
Promotion, as he recognised only too well, would do for a start.