areth Batty says he knows when the time will be right to call it a day. But at the age of 43, on the eve of his 25th season of county cricket and in his new role as player-coach for Surrey, do not assume it will be any time soon.
“I want to finish when I’m not selected because I’m not good enough, or I am physically unable to play,” he says. “The proof is in the pudding for every player every season. You have to show what you can do. It’s no different to being a kid, and that’s exciting.
“The unfortunate thing is there’s a number there that people will see and make assumptions about. But I’m certainly not thinking about the retirement side of life.”
Batty guided Surrey to the Vitality Blast’s final last year, picking up 10 wickets along the way. Since, he has signed a new contract as a player-coach, and has been running the second team. Around a month ago, he turned his focus to playing again.
The Blast begins with four matches today, before the action rolls into the capital for the London derby between Middlesex and Surrey at Lord’s tomorrow night. Surrey will name a strong squad today, led by Batty and featuring the Curran brothers and Jason Roy.
“I think when you are still playing there is always something to prove,” he says. “The day you feel you’ve got nothing to prove is the day you hang your shirt up. Some days there’s an even bigger point to prove as you get older, as you’re written off more.
“With kids, if you’re good enough you’re old enough. For me it’s the other way round. I have to prove I’m still good enough. I’m lucky that the likes of Darren Stevens are playing first-class cricket and still doing well, ploughing away that’s a bit older than me. That takes a little bit of the pressure off. Still got that want and desire to get a little bit better. While that hunger is there, I will carry on.”
Batty has found coaching “a hell of a lot harder than playing”, and sees his biggest challenger as juggling his two jobs.
“Playing is the easy bit, that’s what I’ve done for 20-odd years,” he says. “The coaching bit is new, so it’s harder.”
Batty believes it is down to players like himself to keep Surrey’s side solid as they juggle absentees on international duty.
“We have a wonderful squad, but that’s just names on paper,” he says. “The challenge is always players coming and going. The constants have to stand up, and make life easier for the internationals who are in and out. The more right we get that, the more chance we have of being where we want to be – and that’s not as silver medallists again.”