Durham's Graham Onions hopes for England recall
PUBLISHED: 01:16 12 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:21 20 February 2013
Few cricketers will be more looking forward to the new season than Durham's most frustrated England fan. Roger Tames talks to the pace bowler who missed out
To be named one of Wisdens Five Cricketers of the Year is one of the most prestigious accolades the game has to offer. Yet by the time the esteemed yellow-jacketed bible had published in April last year, Graham Onions was already on course for the worst year of his sporting life.
The Durham bowler had pulled out of Englands tour to South Africa with a recurrent back problem after playing in the Third Test in Cape Town. That was January 2010. It would be 15 months before hed run up to the wicket again.
That meant the Gateshead-born lad whod been part of the 2009 Ashes winning squad had to sit at home with the rest of us and stay up into the night to watch England retain the Ashes on TV.
Yet Onions coped admirably with the disappointment. Last summer, before I had surgery on my back, I would be watching everyone bowling and thinking that should be me, admits the highly likeable 28-year-old.
But once Id had the operation, I knew I was out for at least six months and couldnt do anything about it. So I settled down and could rest.
The operation referred to meant that a broken bone in his lower back which wouldnt heal was finally screwed together. After the resting, the rehabilitation would involve long weeks in the gym under the control of Durhams attentive medical staff.
The attitude and application of Durhams deceptively easy-going England star on the long road back has won the admiration of the countys cricketing sage, Geoff Cook.
Its tough to go from being one of Wisdens Five Cricketers of the Year to absolutely nowhere, sympathised the Director of Cricket. But Graham is very ambitious and very determined.
His approach was extremely methodical and he had to put his faith in a lot of people. Now hes got his reward.
Cook knows only too well that Onions return to his previous Test-playing peak would be Englands gain and Durhams inevitable loss. But with a wonderful mix of professional judgement and near-paternal pride he dismisses doubts of an England recall by muttering a better than the rest of em throwaway.
The former Gateshead Fell bowler is a little more circumspect about his international future, while acknowledging his first loyalty will always be to his own county.
I owe everything to Durham - everything Ive learned about the game - but England is where I want to be, even if its just for one more game, says the recently-married Onions.
In the back of your mind you do wonder: "Am I going to be OK? Will I bowl again? Will I be as good?" Its like riding a bike, though, you dont lose how to bowl an inswinger or an outswinger.
Its just a case of having the trust in my back. The surgeon has told me I dont need to see him again and that everything is in place. So can I cope? Of course I can. Im hungrier than ever. I feel like a new academy lad waiting to play. It might take a month or so to be one hundred per cent confident. But Im not far off.
And that is exciting