'I think I've been underrated as a bowler'

Ryan Sidebottom talks about his England and county achievements, his dad, and choosing between football and cricket

Interview by Crispin Andrews  |  

"I'd like to think that people respected me, that they thought: 'Ryan Sidebottom: good bowler, nice lad'" © Getty Images

It was harder getting into the Yorkshire team when I first started than it is now, aged 38.

Peter Moores and Michael Vaughan got the best out of me. They said, you're here because you bowl how you bowl. You pitch the ball up and you swing the ball.

I set up a cricket foundation for underprivileged children. One of the business people I met during my England days has funded a group of 20 local youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds to come for coaching every Tuesday night. These lads beat my dad's school, Woodhouse Grove [a top independent school], in two six-a-side games.

I'd pick up wickets for Yorkshire, but when the England guys came back from international duty I was always the one to miss out. That's why I left for Nottinghamshire.

The best I bowled was in a Test against India at Trent Bridge in 2007. I only got one wicket, MS Dhoni, caught behind, but I made Sachin Tendulkar play and miss 20 or 30 times and I bowled 20 overs for 19 runs. People won't give a toss about that, but for me that meant a lot, because I was bowling fantastically well. You're noticed if you get five-fors and that was a little bit overlooked actually, and I bowled really well that day.

I remember watching dad [Arnie Sidebottom] hit a six off the last ball to win a one-day game against Northants. I was in my grandparents' house, watching on TV.

"When I stop playing I'd love to be a bowling coach. Maybe working freelance around the country mentoring young left-armers"

I know I'll play 10 or 12 games a season, and if I contribute, I know that I'm helping my team win. To be part of a winning team, during the twilight of my career, over the past few seasons has been a pleasure.

Cricket is a game where people from all walks of life can play together. Boys, girls, different ethnic groups.

My career record speaks for itself. I'm not being big-headed, I'm a modest lad, but it's a better record than most.

I had to deal with a lot of negativity when I was growing up. My dad, played for Yorkshire and Manchester United and there was a lot of talk that I wasn't good enough to follow in his footsteps. That drove me on, made me more determined to prove a point, and be thick-skinned.

For someone to play two sports, both with some of the greats, that's a fantastic achievement. He doesn't really talk about it when he probably should. But me, no. Rubbish. I was hopeless at football.

I want to get children off the street and playing cricket. Whether they become the next Joe Root or Moeen Ali or just play league cricket, they're going to develop into good people - hard-working and honest.

When your fellow professionals respect you as a bowler, that's enough for me.

When I came back to Yorkshire people kept asking me if I would do any coaching. I didn't at the time, but the time was right to set up my own cricket academy.

Everybody bats these days. You have to contribute. Lower order makes important runs.

Enjoy what you're doing, work hard and have goals. Never give up.

When I first started, you'd count on one hand how many left-armers there were in the county game and around the world. Now each international team has two or three. In the IPL there are always two or three.

"I was hopeless at football" © Getty Images

I got a lot of criticism going into the 2010 World T20. Jimmy Anderson was on that tour and there was absolute uproar because he wasn't picked and I was. I've never let anyone down in the field. I've always been pretty consistent. That upset me because I'd been bowling really well. I bowled well in the 2009 World T20 and so I got picked on merit.

Sometimes when you're consistent, you're overlooked. To be seen as talented, you've got to do it once every ten games.

I played football for Huddersfield boys through the age groups. I was then lucky enough to get a scholarship for Sheffield United. At the time, though, I realised that I wasn't going to be good enough to play professional football. And cricket was always going to be my No. 1. Football was overlapping, so I had to choose between the two.

I didn't feel very welcome when I played my first Test for England. England had a great team around that time, some fantastic players, but as a youngster coming in, I found it hard to gel with the team. I was just a young lad, I'd only played a handful of games for Yorkshire. I suppose I was overawed a bit by the occasion. Didn't take a wicket.

The best thing I ever did in my career was move to Nottinghamshire.

I remember staying in the same room, in digs, as Adrian Littlejohn, who was in the Sheffield United first team, and being too overawed to say two words to him.

"Peter Moores and Michael Vaughan got the best out of me. They said, you're here because you bowl how you bowl"

I only play Championship cricket these days.

People said to me that my dad should have played more Test matches.

Greatest living Yorkshireman? Will not Sir Geoffrey say that it's him? He lives down the road from me, so I'd better say it's him.

England overlooked me when Duncan Fletcher was coach. I was bowling well at Nottinghamshire under Stephen Fleming, learning from one of the best captains around. I was consistent, not going for many runs. What was always said to me, was: "You're not fast enough." That was difficult to take at the time. It was more about my pace than my skills.

When I was 16, I remember having a conversation with dad, honest, upfront, and saying, "What do you think I should do? Where am I best suited? Where have I got more chance of maintaining myself?" And cricket came out first.

I was successful for those three or four years in Test cricket. I've got a decent record in Tests. I thought maybe I should have played a little bit more.

To come back and win two more trophies at Yorkshire, at my age. Even though I'm not very old, in sporting terms I should be using a Zimmer frame.

The best I bowled, I got eight wickets in the 2007 home series against India. And then the following winter, in Sri Lanka. I bowled fantastically well, felt in great rhythm, but I just didn't get the wickets that I probably deserved.

Look at Jimmy Anderson now. He's not express pace, is he? He's bowling, what, 82 or 83mph? A little bit quicker, but he's got amazing skills.

"To win five Championships, wow! Hundreds of players go through careers and don't win one" © Getty Images

If I can play another year, next year, which will be my 20th season, I will gladly hang my boots up.

Under Andy Flower, I was in and out, not playing regularly. Again, when we had a chat, all he spoke about was, "You're not fast enough. Not quick enough to bowl in the first 15 overs."

I gave up Sheffield United and went on the YTS at Headingley to try and get a professional contract at Yorkshire.

What can I say about England's World T20 win in the West Indies? It's there in history. England got to the final this year, but they might never win another tournament for another 40 years. To be part of that team was amazing. Leading wicket-taker with Swanny [Graeme Swann], even better. I was there, up front, opened the bowling and bowled at the death as well. Two wickets in the final. I bowled as well as anyone. It was two fingers up to those people who, for some reason, don't think you're good enough.

I met Denis Law and Bobby Charlton. Dad still gets tickets to Manchester United matches. I went down with him a few times and met Alex Ferguson.

I wanted a four-year contract with Notts, but they made a number of excuses like, we don't know if they were going to get a Test match, or if things would work out for me. That really disappointed me, after what I'd done. But that's sport isn't it. Yorkshire offered me a three-year deal so I jumped at the chance to go back.

"There was a lot of talk that I wasn't good enough to follow in dad's footsteps. That drove me on, made me more determined to prove a point, and be thick-skinned"

I love playing and contributing. Coming in every day, even though I'm 38. I still love taking wickets.

Kim Barnett was the most annoying batsman to play against. He'd bat another set of stumps outside leg stump and he'd walk right across. You'd think you'd get him out lbw or bowled. And then he would time it beautifully. He was an absolute nightmare.

Not being arrogant, but I think I've been underrated as a bowler. I got my 1000th wicket across all formats in April, and there wasn't much mentioned about it, to be honest.

When I stop playing I'd love to be a bowling coach. Maybe working freelance around the country mentoring young left-armers.

Graeme Swann is a close friend of mine, an amazing cricketer, but he never shuts up. I played with him at Nottinghamshire and for England. It's the Graeme Swann Show. He keeps you laughing, entertained. Keeps you going. You think his mouth would get tired and he'll have a couple of minutes' rest at some point.

My dad is quite shy and humble. I hear a lot of guys talk about themselves but they haven't actually achieved anything.

On his father, Arnie Sidebottom:

On his father, Arnie Sidebottom: "For someone to play two sports, both with some of the greats, that's a fantastic achievement. He doesn't really talk about it when he probably should" © PA Photos

I'd had seven great years at Nottinghamshire, and then in 2010, they only offered me a one-year contract. I was bemused. I had been consistent. We'd won two titles. I'd retired from England to prolong my county career.

I didn't see my dad play his only Test, against the Aussies in 1985. I heard everything about it, though. I've got all the cuttings and his England cap and his Man United things.

I've got an amazing forward defence, absolutely fantastic. That's about the only shot I've got now.

Yorkshire is where I'm from. It's where I was brought up. It's what I know.

I just got the one game for England and then I was dropped, which again made me more determined. Rather than harping on and being upset, thinking that I might never play for England again, I told myself I needed to go away and work harder, start swinging the ball, challenging batsmen a bit more.

"What was always said to me, was: 'You're not fast enough.' It was more about my pace than my skills"

To win five Championships, wow! That's something I'll always cherish. Hundreds of players go through careers and don't win one.

England were all out for 51 against West Indies at Sabina Park in 2010. One of those horrendous, shocking England collapses that you don't come to see much, any more. We weren't playing that good cricket at the time. We didn't have that togetherness as a team.

Under Mooresy and Vaughany my role in the one-day side was to attack. To open the bowling, swing it and take wickets. I had that clarity of role. Under Flower, I didn't really know my role. I'd open the bowling one game. Then I'd bowl in the middle, then at the death.

Guys who have a couple of decent games, it's like, "Well done, you're amazing, you should be playing for England."

I went out there and gave my best, played with a smile on my face.

Martyn Moxon told me that Yorkshire had this talented group of players, who in two or three years' time could play for England and contribute to Yorkshire winning trophies. I suppose he wasn't wrong, was he?

When I finished, I'd like to think that people respected me. That they thought: Ryan Sidebottom: good bowler, nice lad.