York­shire had so much qual­ity and play­ers like Batty had to go

The Cricket Paper - - ACTION REPLAY - MATTHEW WOOD York­shire and Glam­or­gan bats­man

Ifell in love with the game in the clas­sic way. My dad played for his lo­cal club and I loved go­ing down and watch­ing him, I learned so much in those early years.

I took a dif­fer­ent route to most be­cause I did not play a lot of age-group stuff. I started at U15 and I had no real thoughts of play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally.

I was cu­ri­ous about how good I could be.York­shire opened one of the first acad­e­mies and I grew into it. I played ev­ery day and when they of­fered me a route in I was think­ing about be­ing a fire­man or some­thing nor­mal so it came at the right time.

We had a very com­pet­i­tive 2nd XI, peo­ple like Gareth Batty and Richard Ket­tle­bor­ough left to go elsewhere – it was top qual­ity.

My de­but was in 1997 ver­sus Lan­cashire and I made a few and, al­though I did not play for the rest of the sea­son, I was scor­ing heav­ily in the 2nd XI and my chance came the following year.

I made a hun­dred early which helped and that gave me the be­lief I could do it at that level.

I had a lot of great times. I scored a hun­dred in the Cham­pi­onship-win­ning game against Glam­or­gan at Scar­bor­ough, the morn­ing af­ter Si­mon Jones sent me to hospi­tal with a sharp de­liv­ery which got through the grille. It was per­fect.

I had some great sea­sons and some medi­ocre ones but 2003 was when I played my best. I got nearly 1,500 runs that sum­mer.

How­ever, such was the strength of the side back then, I was al­most dropped af­ter I had bagged a pair at Leeds against Durham.

I was re­ally up against it for the match with Som­er­set and it was a last-chance sa­loon, but I just went out and man­aged to play so well. That saved me then from the drop, and helped me on my way to that great sea­son.

An Eng­land call-up was re­al­is­tic at that time, too. But when you are part of an age group that good, you need to hit the scores at the right time and make the head­lines, and un­for­tu­nately I didn’t and it passed me by.

As time went on,York­shire started to strug­gle and so did I. In 2006, I hardly played or scored runs and that was the most frus­trat­ing time of my ca­reer be­cause I knew I was bet­ter than that.

I could have been play­ing the best stuff of my life back then and I learned a lot in those pe­ri­ods. The next sea­son I was re­leased, which was very tough.

It was not a fairy­tale exit and it does hurt but I look back and am very proud of the con­tri­bu­tion I made.

There were some good play­ers com­ing through like Joe Say­ers and Adam Lyth, and hav­ing been a vice­cap­tain, I knew the game and how it worked.

I went to Glam­or­gan, mainly be­cause of Matt May­nard who I al­ways ad­mired. But lo­gis­ti­cally it be­came very tough be­cause my wife fell preg­nant with twins while I was there so it did not work out.

I re­tired in 2009 at only 31 be­cause I had not played for a long time and lost con­fi­dence, and prob­a­bly for­got what I could do.

Af­ter cricket, I got of­fered a job in ice cream, some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. I needed that time away from the game and it was re­ally good for me, but I was ready to go back in 2011. I started work­ing with the PCA, look­ing af­ter York­shire, Lan­cashire and Not­ting­hamshire, help­ing play­ers in any way. Not many spend a life in cricket and I am very proud of all I have done and achieved.

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