Ahead of this week’s final Test match of the summer, there’s much speculation about England’s touring party for the winter’s Ashes tour to Australia. One prime candidate is the Thornton Heath-born Michael Carberry, who tells us how winter running training sessions at Croydon Arena have helped rescue his career
Michael Carberry has gone from nearly quitting cricket to winning his first England Test cap, a revitalisation he puts down to some degree to track training with another Croydon sports star, international athlete Donna Fraser.
Track sprinting and running sessions back at his family home near Thornton Heath with Fraser and Croydon Harriers helped Carberry achieve fitness in the cricket off-season during the past three winters that has coincided with the revival of his career.
The 29-year-old opening batsman is enjoying his best ever county season for Hampshire, and he figures in many pundits’ likely England squads for the ultimate cricket tour, the defence of the Ashes in Australia this winter.
That’s a startling turnaround in fortunes for a batsman who a couple of summers ago could not even get a game with the Kent first XI.
“I was pretty close to quitting,” Carberry said.
“Those who are closest to me know the tough time I had at Kent, not through lack of performances but because my face didn’t fit and they messed me about quite a lot. I was pretty despondent,” the former England under-19 and Surrey player said.
Fraser, who placed fourth in the historic 400 metres final at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, is still training, despite having retired from competitive athletics at the end of last season.
“Michael’s an old friend. We grew up together in Thornton Heath,” Fraser said. “He joined our group a couple of winters ago to try to get fitter in the off-season.
“It seems to have worked. We were thrilled when we heard he’d got called up to go out to South Africa before Christmas,” she said.
Fraser has no illusions about how demanding six-hour-plus days can be in the cricket field, especially in baking hot conditions, and Carberry agrees that the track work is paying dividends, and not only by speeding up his running between the wickets.
Carberry said, “I’ve had issues with cramp in the past. I’d always done lots of weight training, and wanted to see whether a different type of training would help. I wanted to get anaerobically fitter and stronger.
“Training with Donna’s group is quite varied. We’ll do track work 12×400 metres with timed recoveries, heel sprints, looking at the technical side of sprinting, maybe doing 30-metre sprints, 60-metre sprints, 100-metre sprints.
“I was doing core work. Initially to see whether I could actually handle it, but it became my main physical work throughout the winter. I was training five or six times a week,” Carberry said.
“The track training has really helped my concentration, as I feel like I can last longer with the extra fitness,” he says. “It’s been something different and I’ve really enjoyed the change to the routine and learning from different athletes.”
Time off with a broken finger last summer even allowed him the chance of going to watch some live athletics. “I’ve been to a few meets now and really enjoy it,” Carberry said. “It’s interesting to watch the techniques of the different sprinters.”
Judging by the kind of speed work Carberry has been doing, his England batting partners had better be ready to go for quick singles.