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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Prior to amassing runs, Matt endured challenging times

Prior to amassing runs, Matt endured challenging times

Last updated on: July 27, 2011 11:34 IST

A turnaround of fortunes for Prior

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Bikash Mohapatra in Nottingham

When India and England met in 2007, Matt Prior was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Now, says Bikash Mohapatra, after a splendid showing in the Lord's Test, the stumper could leave a significant impact on the ongoing series.

If consistency is the lone barometer, then Matt Prior was the best player in the just-concluded Lord's Test.

The England stumper made significant contributions with the bat in both the innings and did a good job with his 'keeping responsibilities. 

While his 74 in the first innings -- putting on a 120-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Kevin Pietersen (202 not out) -- was impressive, it was his unbeaten 103 in the second that turned out to be significant.

The 29-year-old's sixth Test hundred, his first against India, as also his unbroken 162-run seventh wicket stand with Stuart Broad (74 not out), helped England recover from a precarious 107 for six and set what eventually turned out to be an unreachable target (458).

It was a complete turnaround of fortunes for Prior. A look at the series between the two countries in 2007 shows nothing went right for him.

While he managed only 73 runs in six innings (@ 14.60) and was erratic behind the stumps, it was his on-and-off the field shenanigans that made the headlines.


Image: Matt Prior
Photographs: Getty Images
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Reputation battered!

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Playing in just his second major series, Prior was in the news for all the wrong reasons.

There were a series of incidents in that period and the Sussex 'keeper was accused of being the leader of the pack. His problems compounded during the second Test at Trent Bridge (Nottingham) when he was alleged to pass a caustic remark at Sachin Tendulkar. And that was followed by the infamous jellybean incident involving Zaheer Khan.

To his bad luck, England lost that Test and, subsequently, the series.

Prior was made the scapegoat, booed by English fans and forced to ask his parents to abandon their plans of coming to the ground.

"For the rest of the tour, I was public enemy number one, sworn at left, right and centre by India's players when I went out to bat, knowing I would be chastised if I reacted," he was quoted as saying later.

Another poor show away in Sri Lanka meant he was dropped from the squad for the tour of New Zealand, and a much younger Craig Kieswetter picked in his place.


Image: Matt Prior

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Reputation restored!

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While he slowly but steadily made it back to the Test squad, the tougher task was of restoring his reputation.

 "I have gone through some challenging times," admitted Prior, adding, "But it is not just about going through those times but also coming out of them.

 "It is about what you learn about yourself and how you improve and conquer the demons that might have crept in.

 "That's been one of my biggest challenges and to be able to turn it around is very pleasing."

The 29-year-old said he considers the ongoing series his retribution.

"For me it is a huge series this, for those reasons, more than anything else," he admitted.


Image: Matt Prior

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Reputation recharged!

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Now that he has admitted the significance of the series for his self, it was imperative to quiz him how he prepared himself for the ordeal.

"Going into a Test series, you always look into your opposite man (MS Dhoni, in this case) and say 'let's try and have a better series than that man'," he explained.

"That, in essence, will help the team.

"And that's something I do going into every series."

The stumper subsequently expressed confidence at leaving a significant impact on the series.

"I have got a good start," he continued. "There is a long way to go though. Hopefully I can keep performing."


Image: Matt Prior

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Reputation enhanced!

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Prior's effort against India, coupled with his recent good show against Sri Lanka, prompted the legendary Ian Botham to say he is the best in the business in Test cricket. Ask him that and Prior comes up with a pragmatic response.

"Obviously, getting compliments from guys who have played a huge role in English cricket, and watched a fair bit, is always nice. But I think you just need to keep working hard.

"It's a fickle world," he explained.

Having learnt his lessons the hard way, Prior had a complete change of priority.

"As long as I am scoring runs and taking catches, or catching more than I drop, I will be happy.

"More importantly, as long as I am part of a winning English team, it will keep me going," he said.


Image: Matt Prior

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