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Interview: Ashes star Ashley Giles

Last summer Ashley Giles was one of the heroes of England’s first Test series victory over Australia since 1987. England lost the first match heavily but bounced back to win 2-1 with Giles playing a crucial role. The Warwickshire spin bowler talks to ICONS about his love of cricket and explains why the sport is an English icon.

What inspired you to begin playing cricket?

I grew up playing cricket the old-fashioned way, on the village green, in Ripley, in Surrey, where my whole family was involved. Uncles, cousins, my brother – everyone played and Mum made the teas. For me that’s the purest form of the game and it’s still great to go back to watch games.

Did you have a cricketing idol?

Like most kids my age it was Ian Botham, an all rounder who had great character.

Did anyone have a big influence on you?

When I eventually stepped up to a higher standard there was a chap called Brian Ruby who was a coach at Guildford. He was like a cricket guru. He used to eff and blind at me but he was a superb coach.

What does playing cricket at the highest level mean to you?

Obviously I love the game but it’s the idea of playing and having fun with your mates and all the camaraderie that comes with it. Then there is the adrenaline buzz when you are facing a very quick bowler, or you take a very good catch, or bowl a great delivery. I am lucky that I have played a sport that I love. It’s a great profession to be in.

Can you describe how it feels to play for your country?

It gives me a huge amount of pride. It’s a one in a million chance to be able to pull on one of those shirts with the lions on the chest. I have achieved one of life’s dreams. To have played against the Australians and have beaten them makes it even more satisfying.

Why does cricket deserve to be an English icon?

Cricket might not quite be the gentleman’s game that it used to be but it still generates the sort of respect that other sports don’t have. Cricket is English through and through. The levels of sportsmanship are high – I think we saw that particularly last year in the Ashes series when the game was played hard but fair and afterwards we all met up for a beer.

What was your personal highlight of the Ashes victory?

On the last day at the Oval I batted for three hours with Kevin Pietersen. We had been in a position where we might lose [Giles made his highest Test score of 59]. Another highlight was taking the wicket of Ricky Ponting [Australia’s captain] at Edgbaston. He was scoring freely and I came on and got him out.

How did that compare with playing for England for the first time?

Much better! When I made my debut against South Africa, at Old Trafford, in 1998, I was a bag of nerves.

What are your ambitions?

I’d like to go to Australia and bring the Ashes home. Having beaten them here the ultimate challenge is to go and win in their own back yard.

Apart from cricket, can you give us your English icon?

I’d have to nominate the English countryside in summer. I live in Worcestershire and nothing beats being out walking in the countryside. When I am abroad touring one thing I look forward to is flying back over the green fields of England.

  • Ashley Giles is having his benefit season this year. Visit www.ashleygilesbenefit.com