BRETT Eldridge is confident he will be fit, healthy and in enough form to lead the Warrnambool and District squad at Melbourne Country Week.
The sidelined Nestles captain is on the road to recovery after a severe bout of pneumonia in late August knocked him for six. He spent three weeks in hospital, split between Warrnambool and Melbourne, and only started working again this week.
The illness prompted Eldridge, 30, to readjust his ambitions for season 2013-14 — a campaign which had begun with so much promise.
The explosive left-hander had started a lengthy pre-season fitness campaign, braving the mid-winter chill, in a bid to get fit for cricket.
But his goals have changed starkly since the illness. He hopes to start running again next month, with a view to pulling on the whites again in January.
“I guess the irony is I put a lot of emphasis on getting fit for cricket and the representative stuff,” he said yesterday.
“It’s the fittest I’ve ever been. To get knocked down with this is bad timing.
“I caught up with the surgeon this morning, we’re looking at this stage that I won’t play cricket before Christmas.
“Hopefully I can start running in a month and then see after that how it’s progressing. The last fortnight has progressed quite well.”
Eldridge said the illness, particularly in its early stages, had rattled him.
“Everyone sees themselves as a little bit bulletproof,” he said.
“You don’t see how serious it is until the people around you make you understand.
“The doctors and surgeons made me aware of that without trying to dramatise it.”
Eldridge was an interested spectator as Nestles opened its WDCA Twenty20 campaign with two wins, against Dennington and Wesley-CBC.
His replacement as captain, opening batsman Geoff Williams, produced the individual performance of the day in knocking up scores of 53 and 56.
Eldridge said he handled watching from the sidelines well, despite describing himself as “a terrible spectator”.
He believed the club would not feel his absence as much as it might have in previous seasons.
“We made a conscious effort at the start of the season to recruit for depth, rather than top-up for a premiership,” he said.
“While we consider ourselves a top-four side this year, we see ourselves as being a top club for the next decade or ago.”
On an individual level, Eldridge hoped to be available to play in lead-up matches to Melbourne Country Week in February.
Warrnambool will likely take on Mount Gambier and Hamilton to prepare for its MCW division two campaign.
“I’ll use those games as extra opportunities to get a hit,” Eldridge said.
“Country Week is still very much a priority and something I see as being fairly realistic.
“I’ll have had six weeks of cricket and I’d like to think I’ll be fairly hungry for runs.”