December 8 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Jaik Mickleburgh is not one to shirk a challenge.
Five years after making his First Class debut, the former Norfolk player has seemingly cemented his place at the top of the Essex batting order with a string of impressive performances in the summer.
Having found himself on the fringes of the first team at the start of the season, it has been a significant turnaround for the 23-year-old from Bungay, who was rewarded with the presentation of his county cap last month.
Now, instead of sitting back and reflecting on a job well done, Mickleburgh is hitting the road to take part in the Big Bike Ride, a gruelling 400-mile trip from Chester-le-Street to London in five days.
And he’s never really been one for cycling.
“The PCA (Professional Cricketers’ Association) came round at the start of the season and said they were hoping to raise £200,000 with half going to the Tom Maynard Trust,” he said, referring to the charity – set up in memory of the former Surrey batsman who died last year – which aims to help disadvantaged sports men and women. “Everyone is quite close in the cricketing world and I thought it would be a nice touch for me to do it. The other half is going to the PCA Benevolent Trust so it is two great causes.”
The ride starts at Durham’s Chester-le-Street ground on Friday and the aim is to arrive at Lord’s on October 22, having stopped off at Test match venues Headingley, Old Trafford and Trent Bridge en-route.
Mickleburgh is among 62 riders taking part, many from the cricketing world. Former England players Andrew Flintoff, Darren Gough and Marcus Trescothick are all involved and Mickleburgh will be joined by Essex colleagues Graham Napier and Tim Phillips. Current England international Jos Buttler is also on the list of confirmed riders.
“I’m hoping to raise £1,500,” said Mickleburgh. “Cookie (England captain Alastair Cook) has promised me a couple of items to auction so I’m sure the total will shoot up then (bidding for an England shirt signed by Cook ends at noon today on Mickleburgh’s Twitter account,
“I’ve been training for the last two months but it’s pretty difficult when the season gets into the last four weeks and there’s a four-day game every week and Essex were still in the hunt for promotion. I’ve just been trying to get out at weekends and do as much as I can. Cycling is pretty new to me really and it’s only this summer I’ve got into it.”
It is a punishing end to a season which extended deep into September, with Essex only missing out on promotion to Division One of the County Championship in the last match of the campaign.
But Mickleburgh, who plays club cricket for Horsford, has few complaints about how 2013 has panned out so far.
His season really kicked into gear when Essex faced England for their Ashes warm-up game at Chelmsford in June. He scored 58 and 90 against an England attack featuring Tim Bresnan, Graham Onions, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann – and never looked back.
“It’s been a big season for me,” he said. “I’ve been into the last few seasons with high ambitions but I really feel like I’ve kicked on this year, ever since the England game.
“Things went well for me then, I’ve found what works for me and I’ve stuck by that. It’s just really about keeping it simple. Cricket can be a difficult game so it’s about bringing it back to basics, things like watching the ball. Sometimes you can over complicate how you play.
“I’ve also felt really hungry for runs and I think I’ve learnt to be a bit more selfish in a way – no-one else is going to get your runs for you. It is an individual game based around a team and I’ve really taken that on board. If everyone is doing their bit then there will always be someone to get you out of a hole.
“I didn’t feel in bad touch at all leading into that England game, but I just kept finding ways to get myself out. It was a very good pitch to bat on, and it was a big occasion for me because it was on TV and we were playing against not a full strength England team, but some of the best players in the country and I really got up for that challenge.”
A career best 243 followed in the next Championship game, and Mickleburgh then had the added bonus of opening with Gautam Gambhir when the Indian Test batsman signed for Essex in August: “To open the batting with Gautam was a great experience for me and I learnt a lot from him,” said Mickleburgh. “I’ve obviously opened with Cookie as well and to have those type of guys around you is always going to be beneficial.”
To top it all, Essex recognised his contribution by awarding him a county cap, along with Reece Topley and Owais Shah – a day Mickleburgh described as “the proudest moment in my career”.
“You go through stages in your career when you have highs – signing my first pro contract was a highlight for me, but now, having played a bit of cricket as a pro, to receive my county cap was a great honour,” he added.
Having spent last winter playing in Zimbabwe, Mickleburgh is hoping to continue his good form with another trip abroad early next year: “As I’m doing the bike ride I will probably stay in England until Christmas and then have a 10-week stint away and try and get some games under my belt, either in First Class or club cricket, I’m not that fussed where it is.”
Before he can even contemplate that, Mickleburgh faces 400 miles of toil and tarmac – but don’t bet against him rising to the challenge.
To support Jaik Mickleburgh, visit https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jaikmickleburgh32
For more information on the Big Bike Ride, visit http://www.thepca.co.uk/the-big-bike-ride-bf-tmt-2013.html