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MICHAEL LUMB: I HAVE THE ODD DARK DAY

Batsman forced to retire in July tells The Cricketer of how he's adjusting... and how important it is for youngsters to plan future careers

By SAM MORSHEAD

Michael Lumb still has the odd “dark day” but he's adjusting to life after cricket; a generation ago, he might not have been so calm.

The former England international, forced out of the game by an ankle injury in July, struggled at first.

After two decades of familiar ritual - the preparation, the motivation, the action - it was all a bit too quiet.

He was part of Nottinghamshire’s preparations for T20 Finals Day in September, a competition that had brought him great success, and he felt empty.

Watching his old teammates get ready for the start of play only rammed home the fact that he was not.

Hell, even adjusting to the notion that they were in fact ‘former teammates’ was tough. Lumb wasn't ready for retirement, and why should he have been?

Michael Lumb had to retire from cricket because of an ankle injury in July

He had hit hundreds in both white and red-ball cricket, and was averaging over 30 in both first-class and 50-over formats, when he was forced to hang up his bat.

No wonder then, that facing up to the reality of life outside the dressing room was so uncomfortable.

“I struggled with that in the beginning,” Lumb told The Cricketer.

“I was helping Notts out with T20 stuff and it got to Finals Day and I was thinking ‘I should be out there playing’.”

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Lumb was given advice not to let negative thoughts linger and he took heed, agreeing to a well-received stint with Sky Sports during which he added insight and technical know-how without straying from the conversational style of the broadcaster’s T20 Blast coverage.

But it still wasn't easy.

“You have good days and you have bad days but I’m trying to put a positive spin on it. A new career is something fresh,” he says, revealing that he is yet to rule out a media spot full-time.

“I have the odd dark day here and there.”

We're talking during the PCA’s Transition Week - an event at Edgbaston which aims to inform and educate current or recently retired cricketers about their next life moves.

Lumb misses the feeling of being in the Nottinghamshire dressing room

It is initiatives like this one - a relatively new concept in the sport - which will give players a greater chance of moving on from one way of life to another.

Already, the advice offered to Lumb has helped but he feels the programme will be even more important for the next generation of county stars currently in the early years of their careers.

“It’s a good mix of guys who’ve retired and those who’re still in the game. It’s about making plans and getting aware that cricket is going to come to an end,” he said of the two-day conference during which ex-pros such as Paul Nixon and Stephen Peters spoke.

“You need to know how to cope as and when that time comes.

“It’s been eye-opening listening to ex-pros and getting their opinions on things - there’s been sessions on mindfulness and networking and finances. They’re all very insightful.

“The one thing we all should be aware of as sportsmen is that our time is going to come to an end.

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“Obviously mine was a bit abrupt and it happened sooner than I would have liked.”

Lumb emphasises how different the climate was 33 years ago, when his dad Richard retired after 15 years opening the batting for Yorkshire.

“The awareness of the transition is improving, definitely compared to my dad’s day when they said ‘you’re done mate, thanks very much, see you later’ and gave them a pat on the back,” he says.

“People are being made more aware of the intricacies of the transition, which is obviously a good thing, and then there’s people’s emotional states as well.”

The emotional states Lumb mentions evoke the stories of Monty Panesar, Steve Harmison and Graeme Fowler - players who have battled mental demons, stress and the cruel and silent disease that is depression.

The PCA initiative, and other county programmes, have been designed to counter that sense of helplessness and strengthen safeguarding practices too often neglected by a cursory “man up” in the past.

Lumb is hopeful everyone in the sport will take advantage of what's on offer and prepare for their second careers.

The former batsman will be heading to the Big Bash to manage the Sydney Sixers

“Craig White used to say ‘enjoy it because it’s over in the blink of an eye’ and he was right. It comes and goes very quickly but at the time you don’t really pay that much attention to it,” he said.

“They always say ‘plan for the future, plan for the future’ and you just laugh it off.

“All of a sudden it’s there and you’ll be thinking ‘jeez, I wish I’d listened’ so I think it’s more for the younger generation. If we can bang the drum hard enough, get them to listen and make some plans for the end then that will help them.”

As for Lumb himself, the winter has a trip to Australia in store, where he will be team manager of the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash.

Then it's a new sensation: an English pre-season without the fitness drills and nets sessions.

“That’s going to be tricky,” he says.

“When guys are going back for pre-season and you’re not involved, that’ll be a new challenge but it’s about finding new mechanisms to cope and finding new things to do.

“It’s all a little bit scary but it’s also exciting.”

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