RYAN SIDEBOTTOM is confident he can continue to roll back the years at the age of 34 and play on for another “four or five seasons”.
The former England left-armer, who returned to Yorkshire on a three-year contract in October 2010, says he feels fit enough to keep representing his beloved White Rose for a good while yet.
Sidebottom was comfortably Yorkshire’s best bowler last season after rejoining the club following seven years with Nottinghamshire.
He took 62 County Championship wickets at 22.00 – the best return of his career – and 16 wickets in one-day cricket, while he also played a number of handy innings.
But at an age when many pace bowlers are starting to wind down, like a pendulum slowing on a grandfather clock, Sidebottom insists he is fully fit and determined to keep playing as long as possible.
“I had possibly my best season last year,” said Sidebottom, who captured 131 wickets for England before retiring from international cricket shortly before returning to Headingley Carnegie.
“The last two or three years have been really good on a personal level, and I’m thoroughly enjoying every minute of my cricket.
“I feel fit, happy, and I want to keep doing well for Yorkshire and the club’s loyal supporters.
“Provided I stay fit, there’s no reason I can’t carry on for another four or five seasons because I want to keep playing as long as possible.”
Sidebottom credits Yorkshire’s strength and conditioning coach Tom Summers and physiotherapist Scot McAllister with having played a key role in keeping him on the field.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid and Sidebottom were Yorkshire’s ever-present duo in last season’s Championship as he defied those who thought advancing age might be a problem.
“Credit must go to Tom Summers and Scot McAllister because they helped to keep me on the park last year,” added Sidebottom ahead of Thursday’s opening game against Kent at Headingley.
“They devised a training programme which suited me and my body and it was their efforts which helped me to reap my rewards.
“Those guys do a lot of important work behind the scenes and provide great support to all the players, not just myself. I felt great last year and very strong towards the end of the season, which was a tribute to Tom and Scot and the way they looked after me.”
Having made mincemeat of First Division batsmen last summer, Sidebottom is surely set for further success at the lower level this time around.
It is a season when the Yorkshire side in general will be expected to perform as they seek to bounce back following relegation.
New club president Geoffrey Boycott has already turned up the heat by insisting that Yorkshire must get promoted this year – a sentiment echoed by chairman Colin Graves. Sidebottom believes high expectations are eminently justified.
“There will be pressure on us this year,” he admitted. “Everybody will expect us to do well and there is pressure at Yorkshire because it’s a big club.
“We need to do a lot better this year because last season was really disappointing.
“You look back at the odd game that we should have won and didn’t quite make it, and there were lots of little things – sessions where we didn’t quite play well enough that all added up and made a difference.
“Hopefully, this year we can do better, and I think it’s right that we set our sights high.
“That’s not being arrogant or getting carried away; there are some good teams in the Second Division and every team can beat every other team. I’m sure that clubs will come to Yorkshire and raise their game five-10 per cent.
“But we need to be ready for that and make sure we give 100 per cent all the time.”
Not only does Boycott want Yorkshire to win promotion this summer, he also wants them to have a crack at the Championship outright in 2013.
Sidebottom has previous in achieving Second Division promotion one year and following it up with the First Division title the next – with Notts in 2004-2005.
“If we can repeat that here at Yorkshire it would be fantastic, and there’s no reason why we can’t aspire to that,” he added.
“If we play to our potential, we feel we can beat anyone, and the new coaches (Jason Gillespie and Paul Farbrace) basically want us to go out and enjoy ourselves and play without fear.
“This is going to be a big year for a lot of the players within the club – myself included – and we have to write off last season now and forget about it. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but we’ve got a lot of talented guys who are working very hard, and if we play better as a team I think we can achieve anything.”
Anthony McGrath made 94, Joe Root 72 and Jonny Bairstow 55 as Yorkshire completed a practice match against Durham yesterday.
Their efforts helped Yorkshire to 286-5 at Chester-le-Street in reply to Durham’s total of 337.