Mal Loye says he has put 18 months of injury and form hell firmly behind him, and has revealed his burning desire to play a major part in the county's search for some silverware in 2009.
The 36 year-old batsman recently returned to the Old Trafford nets in preparation for what will be his 19th season on the county circuit, and his seventh season with the Red Rose.
After slipping a disc prior to the Twenty20 Cup semi-final against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston in 2007, Loye struggled to regain form and retain his place in most forms of the game last season.
Not only did he have to find form, but he had a much deserved benefit year to keep afloat.
“If you ask anybody I have got a massive attention to detail, which is pretty hard to keep up when other things are going on,” said a chipper Loye, just after whipping the pads off following a session peppering the bowling machine to all parts. “Through the month of June, it was pretty impossible.
“Yes, it was a very disappointing year on and off the field for me, but I can also say that I learned from it. I probably learned more life-wise than I had done in the 34 years previous.”
Averaging 11.71 from just nine County Championship games last term stung Loye badly, but an impressive season’s high of 61 in the final game against Somerset at Taunton has re-invigorated him.
“To end the season that way was nice personally, and to end the season with a win at Taunton against a pretty good Somerset side was great,” he continued.
“It would have been nice to finish with a hundred, which I would usually have done at that stage on a wicket such as the one at Taunton, but it was a big relief for the club to avoid relegation because that would have been absolutely disastrous.
“The following week I went to Grenada to play a Twenty20 muck about game against the West Indies Legends, and I felt in good nick there. It was time to kick on. It’s been a bit of a long gap since!
“I had a net before Christmas, and I just know when things are right. I don’t want to say too much, but I am quietly confident. There are still a few little things I need to work on. I want to get to the fittest I have ever been, and the timing of that is crucial. I want to peak at the right time.
“I have sorted out a few things in my game that have been going on for a few years, not just last year. I have always had a very good natural eye, which at times has got me out of trouble. Technically now I believe I have got that sussed. I am quietly confident that things are looking good. I have everything in place, and I don’t want things to ruin it like injuries. I also don’t want to think negatively either.”
Despite exciting many an onlooker in all forms down the years, Loye has never actually won a domestic trophy. The only time he tasted success was as part of England’s one-day team when they beat Australia and New Zealand to win the Commonwealth Bank series against all the odds in 2006.
And a domestic trophy is right at the top of his New Year’s wish list, without a doubt.
“This season is up there with the biggest challenges of my life. I haven’t had this feeling for a good 18 months. All I want to do is play cricket,” he continued. “My ambition, I keep saying it every year, is to win the Championship.
“I have been in county cricket for 20 years, and I haven’t won anything. That has always been what I have played for. That is my main objective.”
Photos: Ken Grime
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd