After looking a million dollars in the Champions Trophy, Jonathan Trott endured a frustrating second half to the summer as his form fell away and the runs dried up. In an exclusive interview with Jo Harman, England’s No.3 opens up on the mental strain of an extended season but says that now, with batteries recharged, he can’t wait to start scrapping again.
In the past you’ve said that you consider the Ashes the absolute pinnacle, above World Cups, or even becoming the world’s No.1 Test side. Is that still how you feel as you prepare for your fourth series against Australia?
Yeah of course, it’s the pinnacle of any Test cricketer’s career. It’s got the history behind it, the rivalry, and Australia’s one of the toughest places to go. Obviously South Africa and India are tough to go to as well but Australia has its own unique challenges and I thought we did really well to conquer them last time we were here. It’s going to be a huge challenge because the way we’ve won the last two times – 3-1 and then 3-0 – means we arrive as obvious favourites, even in their own backyard. People are going to be looking at us and expecting us to win convincingly.
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Are you looking at these back-to-back series as one 10-Test series, or was it important to enjoy your success this summer in its own right?
It’s obviously unique because it’s the first time it’s happened. I don’t see it as a 10-Test series but what’s the point in doing all the hard work if we’re going to let it be undone in these next five matches? So it’s important that as a team to forget about the last five games and the score so far. It is quite clichéd but the last five games have gone now and these next five games are very important for us.
Ryan Harris has come out and said he thinks the Australian bowlers got in your head this summer. Do you just brush that off as Aussie mind-games or do you need to rethink your approach after a frustrating summer?
Ah, that’s what the Aussies do. It’s quite difficult because the last four years that I’ve played for the side we’ve been very successful and generally I’ve been pretty consistent. So as soon as something out of the norm happens in cricket it’s quite an obvious thing to notice. Yeah, I think they bowled really well at the top three in general actually; I think they had specific plans and carried them out really well. So I’ve spent these last couple of weeks working on my technique and a few things that I’ve felt that I slacked on a bit and also a few bad habits that had crept in. Now I feel really confident. We had our fitness tests and I’m the fittest and leanest I’ve ever been. That was one of my priorities before I stepped on the plane; I had to be at a certain level, not only for myself but also above the team requirements. I had to be fitter than I was because I probably wasn’t as fit as I should have been for a long season that started in February in New Zealand and then went straight through until September.
Did that long season take its toll on you?
I wasn’t really physically tired, it was more of a mental tiredness and bad habits crept into my game after a long Champions Trophy, the ups and downs, and the final down of losing the final by six runs. It was quite emotional and it does take its toll and you roll into the next game and you don’t realise it’s draining and wearing on you. Especially when after the Champions Trophy there’s a five-Test Ashes series and it’s pretty close, nip and tuck, in most games. It takes a toll on you. Come the one-dayers [against Australia] I wasn’t exactly in the best of form.
It’s interesting you say that because earlier in the summer, during the Champions Trophy, you looked like you were in the form of your life…
I was and I was feeling good in the Ashes as well. I had a weird dismissal in the second innings at Trent Bridge and it sort of went downhill from there a little bit. I got a fifty at Lord’s and then had a strange dismissal, uncharacteristic I think. The whole series and the way I played was [uncharacteristic] really. But these things happen, these things are sent to test you and hopefully it’ll be my turn in Australia and I’m definitely going to be working as hard as I can. I’ve already done stage one of getting fit and working at my game and ironing out a few technical things. Now I’m feeling excited about what the next couple of months hold.
Do you think the fact you were in such good form perhaps encouraged you to force the play more than you usually would and meant you played shots that you otherwise wouldn’t?
No, this is what a lot of people do. What you’ve done is you’ve looked at my strike-rate, compared it to my previous strike-rate and you think ‘that looks different’ so what you do is you confirm your own suspicions. You look at it on a piece of paper and then you look at my average and then my average for this series. ‘He had a bad series because he’s trying to bat quicker.’ See what I’m saying? From a piece of paper you can start making assumptions. I don’t think I did that at all. I think there were balls to be hit and I hit them.
Your frustration was pretty clear when you played on in the first innings at Trent Bridge when you were going along really nicely and looked as though you were going to smash your stumps to smithereens. You obviously thought there were big runs to be had…
Yeah, it was just a silly way to get out. I didn’t need to get out like that or play that shot. That’s what I mean by ‘uncharacteristic’. But hey, I remember when I was batting at Melbourne and I was on 40 and Ryan Harris took the new ball. I Chinese cut one and it went for four. At Trent Bridge it went onto my stumps and I was out for 40, at Melbourne I went on to get 160 not out. Sometimes you need a few things to go your way. I think it’s the easy option to say ‘Oh things just didn’t go my way and things will turn around’. I think it’s important, as I’m doing now and will continue to do, to work hard for things to go your way. Things don’t just go your way without working hard and training hard and putting in the extra effort and dedication. The desire and hunger’s still there, it’s about channelling it in the right direction because sometimes you can want it too much and you’re not quite sure the best way of going about it.
Things got a bit tasty against the Aussies this summer but you don’t mind that do you? You like a scrap?
Yeah, I don’t mind scrapping. It’s good. I don’t know if it brings the best out of me, you wouldn’t exactly want a microphone when those things are going on! But yeah, I don’t mind a bit of friction. It’s nice. I don’t go looking for it but if it finds me, I’ll push back a bit.