A former under-19 World Cup winner with England, Graham Napier initially found life as a professional cricketer for Essex a tougher proposition.
He also suffered a bad run of injuries and only in the past two seasons has he finally shown his potential.
A pugnacious all-rounder ideally suited to one-day cricket, the 24-year-old is currently at Loughborough with the England Academy.
This interview is re-printed with permission from the official Essex website.
So, what's life like at the Academy?
"They say the Academy is the best training facility in the world and it's certainly the best I've ever seen by miles.
"They even have Hawkeye in the indoor nets so all the bowlers can analyse themselves in terms of whether they are swinging it, what areas they are pitching it and so on."
"We start training fitness work at 7am for an hour before breakfast. After that you have a net session until midday. After lunch there might be a track session to work on your running techniques and maybe a bit of speed and agility work chasing a ball.
"They want England to be the fittest international outfit by 2007, in time for the next World Cup.
"Then we have might have an afternoon course - perhaps on dealing with the media or something.
"Finally, we have the occasional lecture in the evening from people like the Blackwatch squadron, who came in and gave us a talk on the Iraqi war."
Does [Academy director] Rod Marsh instil an Australian mentality into the Academy players?
"Rod has said he doesn't want cricketers who are going to play for England, he wants cricketers who are going to win games for England.
"It's not so much an Australian mentality, more a mentality of winning.
"He recognises people who have a bit of grit and mental toughness and for those that don't he can find those qualities in them."
The schedule is pretty tough at the Academy - can you stick it out?
"It's a small sacrifice - getting up early, going to bed early - for what could ultimately be an opportunity to play for England and if you do well the rewards are immense.
"So I've got no qualms about having to get up early and doing a bit of hard graft."
What are your plans for playing for England?
"My foot in the door is going to be in the one-day set-up at the moment but that's not to say I am counting myself out of the Test squad.
"I've just got to keep working hard and hope the one-day game will keep me in the limelight. Then hopefully I'll also do well enough in Championship cricket to earn me a Test spot."
Do you think your time with the Academy will serve Essex well for next year?
"If I come back in great shape looking to earn an England place it can only benefit the Essex dressing-room.
"If they pick up the good habits that I do then that can only be good for the side in general."