Jaik follows Cook’s recipe
Jaik Mickleburgh is determined to follow the example of Essex colleague Alastair Cook, after witnessing at first hand the England opener's stunning Ashes exploits.
Mickleburgh, 21, who plays club cricket for Horsford, spent the winter in Australia at the Darren Lehmann Academy and played for Adelaide Cricket Club. He was able to take in Cook's century in England's second Test victory at Adelaide, before witnessing another starring role by the Essex man in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne.
Former Bungay High School pupil Mickleburgh admits Cook – who scored 766 runs in the series – is the perfect role model: 'It was an unbelievable achievement,' he said. 'He struggled a bit last summer, he is the first to admit that, but his sheer dedication and hard work has paid off.
'He's now back at Essex until the Test matches start. He's been training hard as usual and you expect nothing less from him. He comes across as a nice guy and that's how he actually is. He puts in 100pc all the time – he's the first one in the nets and the last out, the first one in the gym and the last one out.
'I guess his success is down to sheer hard work and this year especially, just having him around for the last six weeks or so has really rubbed off on me and the other boys.'
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Now Mickleburgh, who scored his maiden first class century last summer, is keen to use his experience in Australia to good effect.
He said: 'It basically just gave me a chance to go away, work on all areas of my game and to put some hours of practice in. The aim was to come back a better player which I feel I have done.
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'With the Ashes going on, Graham Gooch (Essex batting coach) was over there with England and I got to do some work with him which was good, as always. I went to the Adelaide Test and the Melbourne Boxing Day Test, and obviously it was a good time to be out there as an Englishman! Myself and Scott Borthwick from Durham, who was also at the academy, went on the morning of some of the days and did some training with Goochie and a few of the England lads who weren't playing, which was all good experience.'
After a pre-season tour to Barbados with Essex, Mickleburgh is in the squad for the opening County Championship match against Kent at Chelmsford today – his cause having been helped by a half-century in the final warm-up match against Cambridge MCCU: 'My 50 was made in quite challenging conditions, so it was very pleasing,' he said. 'I had to work hard, it wasn't just a case of rocking up against a uni team and going through the motions, they put up a good fight against us.'
Essex signed England international Owais Shah in the winter, adding to the competition Mickleburgh faces for a place in the side. He said: 'We've spoken about the fact that everyone is in good nick and that it is healthy competition. I've had to work harder than ever this year, I'll admit that. I've spent more hours on the bowling machine and practising than ever. You've just got to put in your very best and hope that you are included.
'I was pleased with the way it went last year. I got a lot out of playing a full county season. There were times when I did struggle, but the coaches showed faith in me and I think I'm all the better for it. Hopefully this year if I get in those sticky situations again I can learn from my experiences, kick on and secure a place in the side.'