Feb 18 2011
In this week’s Friday Feature, David Balcombe tells Simon Vincent about his return from injury, coaching side-projects and why he isn’t jealous AT ALL about not going to the West Indies!
Ask any man in the Hampshire team who the player most in need of a sun-tan is and you will inevitably get the answer, David Balcombe. Nicknamed the “Polar Bear” for his, shall we say, fair complexion he – above all others – might have fancied a trip to the Caribbean T20. Sadly it was not to be as a fractured back, sustained towards the end of last season, hadn’t healed in time.
It’s an injury which also meant he missed the tail end of the last Championship campaign. And that was a real blow for Hampshire who missed Balcombe’s guile and power in vital Championship games against Lancashire, Kent and Warwickshire. Having fought his way into the team, the right-arm seamer had taken 27 wickets at an average of 30, including five wickets against Yorkshire, and four apiece in the following two games against Essex and Kent. And, for the man himself, apart from the misery of missing out in those games, it also left him “staring down the barrel” – in his words - of an uncertain winter programme.
“I had the whole of pre-Christmas off and then, from January onwards Craig [de Weymarn – Hampshire physio] put me on an extensive rehab programme.” Adding, with a glint in his eye, “So while the lads were on the beach in Barbados... sorry, playing in Barbados... I was enjoying myself in the freezing cold, working hard at The Rose Bowl with the other injured guys – Skeg [Nic Pothas] and Kabby [Kabir Ali].
“That’s the nature of the beast with professional sport, but I’m on my way back now and I’ve started bowling so I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel finally!”
Now, at this point I should mention that when Balcs says he had the whole of pre-Christmas off, that doesn’t mean he’s been putting down roots on sofa, gaining a deep appreciation for the work of Jeremy Kyle. What he’s being too humble to mention is that he’s actually been involved in a range of projects during that time, from helping Academy Head, Tony Middleton coaching the future stars of Hampshire Cricket to holding Master-Classes with team-mates Simon Jones, Michael Lumb and Nic Pothas as part of his new venture LCA Cricket Coaching.
“It taught me a lot of stuff from working with Tone so closely that I can roll off on our courses that we run around the area. It’s been really nice to be really busy and not have too much time to think about the injury. So juggling rehab, work with the LCA, work with the Academy, delivering workshops... I’ve had quite an action packed January, actually.”
“[The Academy] are an absolutely fantastic bunch of lads. They love working hard, they enjoy it all the time and there’s quite a lot of banter in the group sessions, which is always good. It was great to work with all the young bowlers... particularly Jack Sheppard who’s going off to the [England] Under 19s [Sheppard was part of a touring squad that played against Sri Lanka last month]. I was fortunate to work with him for a few weeks and we bounced ideas off each other. It was good for me, really, and he was asking me questions about certain things. So in that regard it’s brilliant.”
And fresh from getting lessons off the youngsters, what does Balcs see as his aims for the upcoming season? Primarily a County Championship player last season, he’d love nothing more than to see the team succeed in this format first and foremost. And as the club will mark 50 years since their first title this year (with only one other Championship trophy in the intervening years - in 1973, no less!) Balcs feels it’s time to launch another major challenge.
“It’d be fantastic. We’ve got such a great bunch of lads there, everyone works hard for each other on the pitch and we’ve got strength in depth. I just hope I can carry on the position that I managed to forge in the team last year and get back to full fitness to take up that spot again.
“But if I’m not fit there’s someone else banging the door down to try to get in. Everyone’s competing but, also, everyone’s working together to get in the side. If we can really nail down the Championship this season it’d be a great achievement because it’s something I think we’ve got in us and we just need to get over that line in those first few games. The 8th of April is Durham at home; it’s going to be an interesting first game. We’re all really looking forward to it and it’s something which I’ve really targeted to get back fit for. I’ve just got to see how it goes, though.”
For the record, Balcs will be travelling to Barbados for pre-season training with the rest of the squad, meaning he’ll at last be given some of that sunshine he’s been looking forward to throughout his long, hard winter. With any luck he’ll be well on his way back to full fitness on his return. And that’s a bit of news to brighten up everyone’s day.
- Simon Vincent