<i>Chief Cricket Writer George Dobell hears Edgbaston's new captain explain his future vision...</i>
Heath Streak has reasserted his commitment to Warwick-shire, confirming his decision not to play for Zimbabwe and expressing the ambition to finish his career at Edgbaston.
Warwickshire's new captain returned to Birmingham this week after a uncharacteristic period of rest, exuding health and enthusiasm for the coming season.
Streak is 32 next week. True, he may have a few miles on the clock and some of the pace may have gone from his bowling. Yet he remains a class act. As he showed at Stratford and Gloucester last season, he's still capable of destroying teams given any assistance from the pitch and he remains, by a distance, Warwickshire's most formidable seamer. Much rests on his broad shoulders.
"I've played cricket solidly for about five years, so to have had a period off since Christmas has been helpful," he told The Post. "I should start the season fit and fresh.
"I've committed my future to Warwickshire. I'm not just a player now. I've added responsibility as captain and it's something I'm looking forward to. There's management and planning required and I'm not really thinking about anything else.
"I want to continue my career in county cricket and as long as I do I want it to be here.
"I first played county cricket [for Hampshire] in 1995 and there's no doubt it has improved a great deal. All the best players want to play here - Warne, Ponting, Fleming. The standard is substantially improved."
Streak takes his turn on the phones today as Warwick-shire's players continue to call-up lapsed members in an enterprising attempt to invite them back into the fold. He is positively relishing the prospect.
"I've always had a good relationship with the members and I credit them with some of the success the team have had," he said.
"Their support is a boost and I'm glad they feel they have access to the players. It's the way it should be."
As a proud Zimbabwean, Streak admits to pain at watching the dismal state to which his country's cricketing fortunes have sunk. Their recent struggles against Kenya represented a new low and only the most partial can believe they still warrant their Test status.
"What's gone on in Zimbabwe cricket is desperately disappointing," he admits. "It took generations for us to gain Test status but there's an air of inevitability over the impending loss of it. Zimbabwe cricket is disintegrating rapidly.
"For people like my father [former Zimbabwe stalwart Denis Streak] and Duncan Fletcher who helped us earn Test status, it's painful. If my son is good enough to play international cricket, it's likely he'll have to leave Zimbabwe."
There is a possibility that he could still represent Zimbabwe in next year's World Cup. He remains an overseas rather than Kolpak registration and the tournament (which finishes in April) would probably only require
him to miss a single Championship game.
"It's possible," he admits, "I still believe Zimbabwe could be a force in world cricket if everyone was available."
Warwickshire are his priority, however, and his optimism is palpable.
"We have excellent balance in this side," he said. "We have a great blend of youth and experience and Daniel Vettori's signing looks smart.
"I'm fortunate to follow on from Nick Knight and John Inverarity. There's a great base here. We have the talent. Now we have to show more consistency and we'll be looking towards the likes of Jim Troughton and Jonathan
Trott to take more responsibility.
"Of course we aim to win trophies but I don't want people to lose focus. We have to live in the moment; each ball, each over and each session. If we do well in those battles we will do well as a hole.
"A key objective is role definition. Everyone needs to know their place in the Championship and one-day side. They have to know what is required of them.
"Young players will get their chances and some capped players will be forced to play second team cricket. We have strength in depth and I anticipate tough competition for places."