AS ALASTAIR Cook’s one-day team toil on the Subcontinent against an Indian side intent on righting the wrongs of their catastrophic summer tour, arguably England’s most destructive batsman sits at home, almost resigned to the fact the book has been closed on his limited-overs international career.
Championed, legitimately so on the evidence of this summer’s exploits, as England’s answer to Adam Gilchrist in the role of wicketkeeper-batsman, Matt Prior could justifiably feel aggrieved at having been made the highest-profile casualty of England’s World Cup campaign back in March.
Prior, who passed 50 only once in what are likely to represent the final 24 matches of his ODI stint, however, sees it differently.
“I had 67 games so I can’t argue I didn’t have a pretty good go at it,” said the 29-year-old, who made his debut back in 2004. “There are so many reasons I could offer as to why it never worked out. I batted up and down the order and didn’t have a long enough run.
“But ultimately I had all those matches and didn’t perform to the level I would’ve wanted to. When you get given chances in professional sport you have to take them and when you look back at it I have to admit I didn’t.
“I’ll keep working hard like I always do and maybe I can work my way back into that side but there are about four 20-year-olds so I’m probably at the back of a very long line.”
While the Hampshire stalwart is considered surplus to requirements in the shorter formats, Prior has become an integral part of Andrew Strauss’s all-conquering Test side.
He has transformed himself from a middle-order biffer who kept a bit into an orthodox game-changing batsman now worth his place in the side on the strength of his keeping alone.
Opportunities for Prior to showcase his talent are becoming depressingly less frequent, however, as the popularity of Test cricket decreases and the authorities milk the Twenty20 cash cow dry. Strauss yesterday voiced fears for the future of five-day cricket in the wake of the decision to abandon plans for a World Test Championships, which had been due to be held in 2013.
And for Prior, a player who looks destined to earn his keep in white rather than coloured clothing, that news came as a bitter blow.
He said: “Obviously that’s disappointing for me. Test cricket is my priority, I absolutely love the game and it’s the best form of the game. It would have been great to have an actual competition rather than play series after series.
“You see the scenes from the World Twenty20 finals and the England guys getting to celebrate when it’s not based on things like points and rankings. Something like that for Test cricket would’ve been great.”
Prior’s enforced break at least means he has time to reflect on an outstanding summer’s work in which he made centuries in both Tests at Lord’s against Sri Lanka and India.
Unfortunately, Prior’s most memorable act of the summer came at HQ in the draw against Sri Lanka when, after being run out in a mix-up with Ian Bell, he took his frustration out on a window in the Lord’s pavilion.
“If you smash a window at Lord’s and it makes that much noise people are always going to talk about it,” he said. “Especially when it’s a very boring day of Test cricket and there’s nothing else to talk about.
“That’s part and parcel of it but hopefully everyone can move on from that now because it was a fantastic summer for me personally, especially against India, and I took a huge amount of pride from it.”
Matt Prior was supporting the NatWest OSCAs at Lord's, held annually to reward volunteers and celebrate the unsung heroes of the game. Find out more at natwest.com/cricket