First, some good news. I feel ready to play again whenever the ECB give me the all-clear and I believe I’m on course for the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s.
This week, I have been able to bowl two spells daily in the nets at Hove and it no longer feels like those making decisions on my rehabilitation programme are hiding me away. I am free to do whatever in terms of practice and I have been training with the full Sussex squad.
Jon Lewis, England’s bowling coach, and Craig de Weymarn, the England physio, have been around me quite a lot because this is an important time in my return to playing, which I hope will be for the second XI against Surrey starting next Tuesday or in the County Championship match versus Northamptonshire two days later.
England star Jofra Archer has been ramping up his recovery over the last couple of weeks
Playing in one of those will show how match-fit I am. Until then it is too soon to say whether my most recent injection in my right elbow worked. It is game situations, with their added intensity, that test out injuries like this.
But after ramping up my workload over the last couple of weeks, I’m pretty happy with where I am and if these next two to three weeks go all right, I believe I will be ready to play for England at the start of the international summer.
I’ve been doing fitness for the past month and been bowling since the cast came off my right hand a fortnight ago. At the start of last week, I was bowling at about 60-70 per cent and it wasn’t long before I was up to full pace.
Like any cricketer, I just want to get back on the field.
FIT AND FIRING FOR ENGLAND
The hand issue I had throughout the India tour, and which eventually led to surgery, no doubt took people by surprise.
The problem developed when, after returning to Hove in the new year from seeing my family in Barbados, I was cleaning out a fish tank in readiness for getting some new fish.
I’ve been working with England bowling coach Jon Lewis (R) this week down in Hove
The water was a bit murky, and I was tipping it into the bath when it slipped from my hand. I tried to catch it, but it dropped and broke in the tub. The bit that I was holding turned into a point and jabbed me.
The cut didn’t need stitches. I just bandaged it up and it healed pretty quickly during my six-day quarantine period in India. The problem was the swelling never went down.
We had ultrasounds on it because there was no reason it should have been swollen two months later, and the surgery I was booked in for as a result was exploratory, not designed to find the glass.
Doug Campbell, the surgeon, simply wanted to open my hand up to inspect it — but it is fair to say that when he found the last fragment with literally the last bit of cleaning he was scheduled to do, he was very excited!
PLAYING IN PAIN IS NO FUN
It was my right elbow that was causing me problems in India, though, and that left me in a difficult position because I didn’t want to be missing matches — but I didn’t want to be playing in pain, either.
There is nothing worse for a bowler than knowing you cannot give your all. If you try to, you can mess yourself up for the future, so you are torn between that and protecting your body. You simply cannot do both. With focus on the elbow, I didn’t care what was happening with my hand through the Test series. It was the least of my worries.
Then, when I got home, I was sent to Mr Campbell, the hand specialist used by the ECB, in Leeds.
HEARTACHE AT MISSING IPL
It was tough not to go to the Indian Premier League. It had always been my intention to do so and watching from home, seeing Rajasthan down the bottom of the table, knowing that the results are partly my fault, has been hard.
Getting the combinations right in a team is a huge part of Twenty20 cricket and I would have been part of those best XI combinations, along with Ben Stokes.
It is tough to see Rajasthan Royals at the bottom of the table in the Indian Premier League
I am not saying that I would have helped Rajasthan win the tournament, but I do feel a responsibility for where the season has gone so far.
When you have been at a team for a long time and they make you feel comfortable, as the Royals have, it is natural to develop a loyalty and I so wanted to be out there giving my best.
The Covid situation in India didn’t deter me because I felt I would be safe within the IPL biosecure bubble.
The one stumbling block was the mandatory eight-day quarantine upon arrival that would have put me back in my rehab programme.
When it came to fitness and returning to bowling, I didn’t have the luxury of taking days off, so effectively the decision was made for me.
WHY I BACK SOCIAL MEDIA BOYCOTT
I am totally behind the boycott of social media this weekend by sporting bodies such as the Premier League and the ECB, because as far as I am concerned any action against racism is good action.
Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha took a stance when he reported 50 people who had racially abused him last year and demanded stronger sanctions. I am not sure that has followed.
Premier League clubs will unite in a widespread blackout of social media next weekend
Unfortunately, the powers that be act like it’s not a crime to be racist when it should be. Clubs should ban these people for life.
Without stiffer penalties, there is no reason for people to change their ways. All too often, the response from the companies involved is too slow, allowing the keyboard warriors to shut their accounts down and open others to spread their hate. More should be done quicker.
I can’t wait for the day when these people finally realise what they’re doing is not cool.
I’ve never understood why anyone would be treated differently because of the colour of their skin and, trust me, since I was racially abused in New Zealand a couple of years ago, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it.