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Richardson hails the new way of thinking
WHEN a still wet-behind-the-ears Alan Richardson made his first tentative steps into the Derbyshire dressing room nearly two decades ago, he probably struggled to see all of his fellow team-mates through the clouds of cigarette smoke.
Cricket now, however, is a vastly different game to when Richardson, who played a second XI match for the New Road side in 1993 alongside Vikram Solanki , made his first-class debut back in 1995.
In fact, the Worcestershire stalwart insists he would not be playing now if the rudimentary training preparation methods from those early days were still in existence.
The evergreen 37-year-old, who has already scooped 37 LV= County Championship Division One wickets at a little more than 15 this season despite missing two games through injury, has hailed the professional approach to training in the modern game for extending his career.
“I first started playing this game as a professional some 18 years ago and the differences in fitness levels between then and now are almost off the scale,” he said in his blog on LivingCricket.co.uk.
“Back then, guys looked after their own bodies and some even sneered at the idea of doing extra training to try and get into shape.
“Cigarettes were still commonplace in the changing room too. Nowadays, there are very few smokers left and, instead of thinking about getting fit a few weeks before the start of the summer, our latest pre-season at Worcestershire started on November 1, six months before the current campaign.
“I can honestly say that, if we were still doing the same pre-season routine we were doing back when I first started, I would not be playing now.”
Since joining Worcestershire from Middlesex in 2009, Richardson has been the club’s talisman and his unstinting efforts with the ball were rewarded with a new two-year deal earlier this summer.
In 2011, he claimed 73 first-class scalps on his way to the prestigious accolade of being named one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year. A return that is certainly worth all the hard work that has gone in to prolonging his career.
Richardson added: “The attention to detail put in by the clubs now to get their guys in tip-top shape is incredible and, at 37, I have never felt stronger or fitter.
“That is a testament to the strength and conditioning guys here — and the introduction of those guys to county clubs was really the beginning of a sea change towards what we have now.
“One of the best things that the English Cricket Board have ever done is to force every county to have a full-time strength and conditioning coach.
“Those guys had a tough job when they first came into the game trying to change the way players both thought and operated. “There was plenty of objection from some of the older guys in most changing rooms. But, gradually, they became accepted. “Even now, their job is a tough one. We all like to bat and bowl but the fitness side of the game can be a slog at times. Those guys have to make sure we stick to our programmes.
“In the early days of my career, every away fixture was like a stag do. It was criminal not to go out and have a few beers.
“I am not saying that never happens nowadays. When we beat Lancashire inside three days this season, we took the opportunity to stay up there, go out and have a laugh together.
“But we are all aware of the trappings of letting ourselves go too often. The culture has changed.”