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Shirin Sadikot in Johannesburg

When Sidebottom chose cricket over football

Yorkshire pacer talks about his Man U star dad, mentor Fleming and T20 bowling

Tall, strapping and flaunting his long, curly mane, Ryan Sidebottom looks more like a footballer than a cricketer. And had he not been “hopeless at football”, he could well have followed his father, Arnie’s footsteps and played for Manchester United. Instead, he picked up the cricket ball and started decided to bowl fast.

The Yorkshire pacer, who is in South Africa for the 2012 edition of CLT20, caught up with clt20.com and shared some interesting stories about his decade-long, eventful international career. He also spoke about the art of bowling in Twenty20s and the importance of tournaments like the CLT20 in developing young cricketers.

I loved football as a kid and played it as much as possible. But I knew I didn’t have a chance in football as much as I did in cricket. Although I’d have preferred to play football with all the money in it but it wasn’t to be. But I’ve been playing cricket for 15 years now and I’m still enjoying it. There are a lot of young kids in our team who still keep me fit and keep me going. I still live the game and love it.

My father Arnie Sidebottom was my inspiration. He was a fine footballer and played for Manchester United. He also played a Test for England. As a kid I had paper cuttings of his days with Man U and Huddersfield and I just wanted to grow up and be like him. But as it turned out, I was pretty hopeless at football and fast bowling was the only option for me. I really appreciate what my father has done for me. He’s always given me the right words of wisdom and I’ve always wanted to do well for him.

I was probably a bit young coming in to Test cricket, having played only a handful of county matches. I was a little overawed by the situation, playing my first game at the Lord’s. But you learn from your experiences, wins and losses.

I played my second Test six years after making my Test debut (in 2001) and it was totally different then. It was almost like a second debut. I didn’t quite believe it was happening. I was back at Headingly where it had all started for me. I was like a little kid filled with enthusiasm. My entire family was watching me; my uncles, aunties and cousins, they were all there. It was like starting all over again. I was a 20-year-old again.

Stephen Fleming has a lot to do with my comeback in Test cricket. I moved to Nottinghamshire in 2004 and that’s where I met him. He was our captain there and he really looked after me. I think it was he who pushed me back into contention with England.

Winning the World Twenty20 in 2010 and the Test hat-trick against New Zealand in 2008 are special memories from my international career. At the T20 World Cup, no one quite gave us a chance. To beat our old nemesis Australia in the final is something I’ll never forget.

Champions League Twenty20 is wonderful. As cricketers we always want to play in big tournaments and it doesn’t get bigger than the CLT20. To be playing against the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag and others is wonderful. We’ll first have to qualify for the main draw and even if we don’t win, hopefully the youngsters will learn a lot from this experience like I did when I was younger.

For a young bowler playing in a tournament like CLT20 it’s important to keep things simple and try not to get overawed by the occasion. Give yourself enough time to think about your game and don’t try to do too many things at the same time. At some point you’re going to get hit for boundaries but it’s important not to panic.

When in pressure, go for the yorker. I think the yorker is still a bowler’s best weapon in all formats. Its value in T20s is underestimated. The best T20 bowler in the world currently, Lasith Malinga, has nailed the yorker and they can’t hit him anywhere. I watched plenty of the recent World Twenty20 and didn’t see this delivery being bowled too often. England fell down in the death overs with the ball because instead of going for the yorkers, they focused their energies on getting too many variations.

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