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Paul Nixon column – Playing at home is great, but keep focused

As the Champions Trophy draws ever nearer, it makes me remember the only international tournament that I was ever involved in with England. It’s ten years ago since we went over to the Caribbean for the 2007 World Cup, and while we didn’t do particularly well on the field, it was a great experience.

It’s something you dream about and there are only a few that get to experience that international competition more than once in their lifetime. Representing your country in a major tournament is something you dream about and it was definitely a dream come true for me.

In 2007 we had come off the back of a brilliant win in the triangular series between ourselves, Australia and New Zealand Down Under. In that series I felt like I kept wicket well but didn’t get the runs I would have liked to have got.

That was because I was trying to play catch-up too quickly and therefore didn’t give myself a chance.

In the World Cup I made sure I gave myself a chance and got in so I felt like I had a decent tournament, even if we didn’t always get the results we wanted.

The boys this year have got a home competition. There are positives and negatives to that, in the sense that you have your home surroundings but there are probably a few more distractions about.

In the West Indies it may have seemed like we were in a little bubble but you have to make sure you immerse yourself in it.

You have to keep your focus, it’s easy to lose that over a long period of time.

Management will have to be aware of what their guys are doing this year and trying to keep them together as much as they can, but still understanding the players’ needs. It’s a really fine balance for what’s right for the team and for individuals.

The World Cup ten years ago was good fun, and if we had got over the line against Sri Lanka early in the Super Eight stage it may have been more successful on the pitch.

Off it, current Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove had an amazing 150ft yacht we spent a lot of time on, and Ian Botham was there a fair bit, too. Myself, Vaughany, KP, Straussy and Colly played a bit of golf and we relaxed as much as we could.

You have to get away from the public domain as much as you can because it just clears your mind. Everywhere that the public are, you’re in demand.

Whether it’s a picture, autograph or just a chat, you’re non-stop. It’s lovely but you do need your personal time.

That might be what the guys this year find difficult but they’re a strong group. Obviously the set-up has evolved since a decade ago and this group are young and fresh.

They have all come through age group squads and academies so they’ve been learning their trade from good coaches and senior players since a young age.

The boys there now are likely to be the base of the group for the next five years or so, but a bad tournament can change that. When we had a poor World Cup changes were made.

I feel that if Duncan Fletcher had stayed in charge I would have played the next Test match. But you have to respect new coaches’ decisions and they have to set their plan out.

I was still as fit and motivated as anybody in the team. I was 36, though I played on until a month before my 42nd birthday.

The difference is that now, even if England do have a disastrous Champions Trophy, the consistency is still there and the core of that squad will play the ODI series against West Indies later in the summer.

Those guys will need to be challenged, and they will from guys in county cricket, but the likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes are very experienced despite only being in their mid-20s.

England games come thick and fast so the demands are tough but it means you gain experience ultra quickly. That helps for years down the line when you’ve already seen and done the majority of things that you will face.

You’ve got that little bit of experience coming through from Jason Roy and Sam Billings, who are not going back to the IPL but choosing to hone their 50-over skills in county cricket.

They’ll benefit from a little bit more rest and they’ll know what their bodies need.

I made my ODI debut in my mid-30s. By the time the majority of this squad reach that age, they will have been playing international cricket for a decade!

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, May 12 2017

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