One of my first cricketing memories is being taken to the local park by my father and uncle and batting while they bowled and fielded.
I remember the tree stump I was defending and the slope of the ground which made the ball bounce up high, making it difficult for me to hit.
This weekend I watched Roger Federer win the Wimbledon men's singles title for the third year in a row. He had been so much better than any of his opponents in the previous rounds, and he continued that dominance against the next best player in the tennis world.
I envied him for having the chance to show how great he was in his sport's biggest event, and I applauded him when he had demonstrated his sublime mastery of the game. He embodied all I wanted to be when I was fending off those deliveries from my uncle and father.
The desire to play for England has never been far from my thoughts. It has sustained me through lonely sessions in the gym, helped me concentrate on the cricket pitch, and has provided a constant guiding light through my career.
There have been times when I think it has been too prominent in my thoughts, making minor setbacks seem insurmountable, or transforming an innings into an immutable test of my international credentials.
At the start of last season, I had a sense that it was make or break, now or never. I was the fittest I had ever been; I had practised every shot thousands of time in the indoor school, and I had spent hours mentally rehearsing each aspect of my game, from taking a great catch, to playing James Kirtley's away swinger.
My preparation couldn't have been more exhaustive and I felt relaxed going into the season knowing that I couldn't have done any more.
My failure to break into the international team has forced me to readdress my longest standing ambition, the bedrock of my motivations.
So what does playing for England mean to me? When I think of a Test match, it seems to me that every action or decision has relevance. There is never a boundary that isn't greeted with appreciation, a good bowling spell always brings hearty applause. It is on this stage that the hard work that produced your game is rewarded.
This atmosphere is the one I crave, the one in which I am tested by the best in the world, where success implies real achievement. Of course, there is still a huge challenge in county cricket, but there is an added intensity to the contest on the international stage commensurate with the quality of participants.
This weekend also saw the England team tie with Australia in the final of the oneday triangular tournament. Watching this game on television evoked a sense of something I had not to that point really felt while watching sport - pure patriotism. Seeing several people I have played with and talked to take on the best cricket team of my generation, had me yelling my support at the TV, cheering every run, until I was hoarse.
The England team had inspired a collection of disparate feelings and memories to coalesce, under the banner of the Union flag: I've never been prouder to be British.
My international ambition has never been my only motivating factor. The joy in winning, the comradeship of playing in a team, and the many personal challenges posed by the game, have spurred me on throughout my career. The desire to play for my country still burns strong (how could it do otherwise?), but I am focusing on it a little less, because if I don't I will be hounded by a sense of failure.
There are many goals that I want to achieve and I want to fashion a career of which I can be proud. I only hope that one day I can fulfil the dreams of that small boy in the park.