CHORLEY'S Tom Smith made a triumphant return to the Lancashire side this week, but admitted his 13-month absence from the game had got him thinking about his post-cricket career.
The 30-year-old was forced to hand over the Red Rose captaincy to Steven Croft after just one County Championship game last season due to a back injury that required surgery.
He missed the rest of the 2015 season, and although he made a comeback in pre-season a hamstring problem kept him sidelined until this week.
Lancashire were beaten in his T20 return against Derbyshire last Saturday, but he made a half-century as they stormed to an innings win over Surrey at Old Trafford to move top of the County Championship table.
Smith documented his rehab and battle to return to cricket, as well as Lancashire's successful 2015 season, in a book called Boulder Rolling, and speaking to club psychologist Lee Richardson, a former Blackburn Rovers player, was a huge help.
"It’s big in cricket I think, we’ve been at the forefront for quite a few years," Smith said of the ability to speak openly about his feelings.
"You look at people in the game who have been openly encouraged to discuss their problems or issues.
"It’s like anything, if you pull a hamstring then you fix that. If you have something you want to get off your chest or you’re worried about then you fix that as well.
"Cricket’s a very simple game we complicate very well, so the more you can make it simple in your mind the better it is. You can do that with psychologists or whoever you trust."
Smith enjoyed his chats with Richardson so much that he is now considering a career in sports psychology himself.
"It’s been a great time for me to consider other options because cricket doesn’t last forever, we have to explore the other side of things, so it was a chance to see what options are out there and what I might enjoy," he said of his time out of the game.
"The psychology side is something that has always interested me, I’m doing my coaching badges at the moment and did a lot of work with the academy in the winter.
"I watched cricket from a different side last summer, I knew I wasn’t going to play so to watch how the lads go about it and be a fan again helped me get over the mental side of things. It gave me something to do."
As well as making 59 in his role as an opener against Surrey, Smith also bowled nine overs in the first innings, his first bowl in the Championship since April 22, 2015.
"It took a while to get trust back in my action," he said. "There was a moment in the winter when I was running into bowl indoors and we had the blue mats down and I got my foot stuck and face planted straight into the floor. Everyone turned around and stopped in horror, I got up and was ‘I’m ok’.
"I’ve changed a few little things to make it safer. I’ve generally had a repeatable action but there were a few areas I could work on and I’ve done that with Glen Chapple."