Liam Plunkett, the England fast bowler, is finding inspiration in athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James, who have maintained high standards of excellence even into their mid-30s, as he looks to extend his career and shoot for that one last chance to play in a World Cup.
Plunkett, who will turn 34 later this week, has 116 wickets from 78 one-day internationals and was the standout bowler for England in 2017. However, with the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 around the corner, his performances have fallen slightly, and he's struggled to maintain his pace.
He missed part of England's tour to Sri Lanka last year as a change in schedule clashed with his wedding. Then, on the tour of the West Indies, while he finished with an impressive 2/8 in the final Twenty20 International, he had just one wicket in the four ODIs and had to manage a foot injury.
Now, in the run-up to the World Cup at home, he's doing all he can to give himself the best chance to be in the England squad. "I feel like I should be in that 15," he said in an interview to ESPNcricinfo. "I feel like I've played well and been one of England's best seamers in the last two or three years.
"I'm hoping they [the selectors] will back me, because I feel like I've done a good job. I feel as fit as I've ever been, and I feel like my pace was coming back towards the end of that [West Indies] trip."
Plunkett, who could bowl in the late-80mphs, is working especially hard on regaining his speed – and thus his variations – while staying fit.
"You don't want to go away from what works but you need to improve on that," he said. "Do you need to get lighter as you get older to get that snap? That's what I've tried to do over the last two months, to train different. I always feel like I'm in good shape but do you get lighter?
"Reading articles about the best sportsmen, [such as] Ronaldo and LeBron James, they get lighter and they get more powerful. That's something I'm working on, because I still want to run up and bowl 90mph.
"I'm pretty much teetotal for the summer, because this is probably my last chance to play in the World Cup, and I'm looking at my rest and recovery, because sometimes you over-train and when it comes to the game, you don't always bowl as quick as you want, because you've burnt yourself out a little bit."
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