Steven Croft is confident he can win back his place in Lancashire's LV= County Championship team next summer - and he is also targeting an England call-up in limited overs cricket.
The newly married Blackpool-born all-rounder endured a frustrating 2013, in which he believes his development plateaued following a steady progression throughout each previous year of his career so far.
Croft scored 379 runs from ten Championship matches, including one century. But he found himself out of the side for the latter stages of the season. It was no surprise to hear him say it was a call that hurt him.
But, with a good winter’s work in the indoor school at Emirates Old Trafford behind him, he is confident he can regain his place in the side and do so as a more rounded player to boot.
“I didn’t really feel out of form,” he said earlier this week. “I was averaging around 40 at the time, and it was a little bit of a shock. It hurts you when you’re not playing or are injured. But some time away from it, and you do take it for granted when you are in the side.
“Hopefully when I get back in, it should be an extra boost to try and stay in there and perform.
“I’d sort of progressed each season in my career, but last season felt like I stalled. I was disappointed at the end of it not to have progressed again.
“With dropping out, you do start to look at your game a bit more and where you can improve. I’m not saying I needed it, but every sportsman who experiences it generally comes back a better player.”
In terms of limited overs cricket, Croft continues to be one of the Lightning’s most valuable assets. An explosive batsman and fielder, he is also more than useful with the ball in his hand.
He gained recognition from the England selectors last year when he was named in the provisional 30 for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, but he did not make the final squad. Now he wants to go one step further with a 50-over World Cup on the horizon in Australia and New Zealand at the start of 2015.
“I missed the back end of the four-day stuff last season, and I was probably down on volume of runs in one-day and Twenty20 cricket as well,” added the 29-year-old, who recently married his fiancee Georgina.
“Hopefully I’ll get those back up and running and score some big scores. I’d also like to push on into the development squad and move through to make the final England squad.
“One-dayers and Twenty20s, I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience now. I’ve played in a couple of different countries, and I feel like I’ve done relatively well.”
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh