They say a week is a long time in sport, in which case 24 years must be the equivalent to an eternity. Chris Tremlett was just 7 the previous time England won the Ashes down under, but as the 4th ball of his 21st over gently dislodged the bails from Michael Beer’s off-stump, the man from Southampton etched his name into cricket folklore.
“It was quite a surreal tour for me really,” says Tremlett. “It had been a while since I had played for England but in the back of my mind I sort of knew I would get another opportunity at some point, so to play the final three test matches, all of which were absolutely vital and to take the final wicket was awesome.”
Many players do not truly appreciate their achievements until well into their retirement years, so it must be hard for Tremlett to fathom that just that single ball will be talked about as part of Ashes legend.
“It probably didn’t sink in until I got home a couple of months after (England immediately headed off to the World Cup in India) and watching the highlights on the TV and thinking that I had actually been involved with that and how much people had been following it at home. When you’re involved you don’t really realise how much it means to people at home.”
Since that fateful day at a Barmy SCG, Tremlett’s international ambitions have been interrupted by hamstring and back problems respectively. The Surrey man’s Test Stats make for unusual reading.
An international career that began back in 2007 has still only yielded 11 caps, yet his figures are too impressive for such limited international experience spread over half a decade. His average of 26.75 is superior to all the current competitors for a spot in England’s three-ma pace attack.
The Ashes have made fleeting heroes of many a past English cricketer before seeing them fall back into obscurity and for the past couple of years Chris Tremlett has been the forgotten man of English cricket. But with back-to-back Ashes on the horizon, the paceman might just have timed his return to perfection.
Named in the England performance squad and given a central contract, Tremlett may have temporarily slipped out the minds of the general public, but he is clearly still very much at the forefront of the selector’s thoughts.
“It’s in the back of my mind I guess and it’s a nice boost to be selected in that squad, to know that they’re still thinking about me and I’m sure there is space for me in that team if I can get back to the way I was bowling before. If I can take wickets for Surrey and get games under my belt then hopefully I can work towards that and it would be great to get back into the England team and the Ashes.”
Evidently England is also very much in the forefront of Tremlett’s thoughts, but he is facing a battle against time. With just 45 days until the first Test at Trent Bridge he has played just two Championship games this season and admits he is yet to cement his place in a competitive Surrey attack.
“It’s been tough and when you haven’t played for a year and being a bit older to can take time to adjust back into 4-day cricket. We’ve got a strong squad at Surrey so it’s quite hard getting back into that team let alone the England set-up.
Tremlett has faced a lengthy lay-off since injuring his back during the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai in 2011, undergoing surgery for a bulging disc 15 months ago. Many sporting stars have lamented the mental frustrations of injury lay-offs, but the former Hampshire man says he can draw strength from his Ashes glory.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries in my time and coming back from operations is hard. You go through a lot of pain and you have to be patient so to have those memories in the back of my mind when I’m doing all that fitness work, it’s good to remember that feeling of what it was like to place in those games, so I hold those memories very closely. It’s definitely the main motivation to keep going.”
In an era where it is becoming more and more commonplace for promising fast-bowlers to have their international dreams forever put on hold by their fragile bodies. One hopes Tremlett’s name will not be added to the list of might-have-beens, whose careers have been ruined by the stresses and strains of the modern game.
With an ever congested fixture schedule, England’s selectors have become ever more conscious of the demands they are placing on their pacemen and have come under attack, even from within their own camp, for their policy of rotating and resting their fast bowlers. Tremlett, however, is a man who knows only too well the importance of looking after your body and is in full support of the pragmatism of the England hierarchy.
“I don’t think the schedule is going to change that much. It’s just the way it is and you just have to accept it so us bowlers have to do what we can to recover as much as we can and the selectors need to be sensible, which they are doing, in resting and rotating guys at the right time.”
So do the selectors know what is better for the players than the players themselves? Was James Anderson a little too vocal in his criticism of England’s rotation policy?
“There’s been a couple of tours which Jimmy Anderson has missed out on which he wouldn’t have wanted to, but I think in the long-term it will turn out best for him and I think that is one of the reasons he doesn’t get injured as much.”
Upon Michael Owen’s retirement, the striker said that he wished he had not been overplayed as a youngster and wanted to stay in the game so he could make sure the young stars of today would not make the same mistakes he did. So looking back on his career, does this 6ft 7inch giant have any passing words of wisdom to the future generation of fast bowlers?
“They just need to tap into our knowledge and as long as they listen it will certainly help them when they get to a professional leve. Teams are getting better at it though. When I was 19 or 20 I’d never stepped into a gym before and I didn’t know where I had to be strong and what work-outs to do, I just ran up and bowled a cricket ball. But now at 15 or 16 these youngers guys are being told what they should be doing and they’re learning about the rights foods and the right training and they are getting that bit stronger at a younger age.”
At 31 Tremlett is moving into the realm of veteran at his club, imparting his knowledge and experience of the game to Surrey’s young and talented crop of seamers. But at the same time you can’t help but feel that Tremlett’s career is yet to really get going. His return from injury is as exciting as waiting to see a promising debutant unleash his potential on the world scene. A return to the international fold would be in England’s interest. This man is too good to never pull on those Three Lions again.
Tremlett on Oxford
Chris Tremlett was speaking as Surrey CCC took on Oxford MCCU in a 3-day match at the Parks. The England star gave his verdict on the Parks and the opposition:
“It’s been a great experience. Oxford have got some really good players here as well. We never thought we were just going to come here and roll them over. Tom Fell (who scored 56) looks a good player and Owain Jones played some really nice shots, so there is definitely talent there for the future.”
Leading the stats
1. Chris Tremlett: 11 Tests, 49 wickets @ 26.75
2. Steven Finn: 21 Tests, 84 wickets @ 28.94
3. James Anderson : 81 Tests, 305 wickets @ 30.14
4. Stuart Broad: 56 Tests, 191 wickets @ 31.15
Stats correct as of 26th May
PHOTOS/adam.gasson; PlasticYabby; alan gilmour