Caddick has quick answer

John Collis talks to the bowler with the ability to unsettle the best
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The Independent Online
When Andy Caddick is fully fit, firing on all physical and mental cylinders, there is no finer fast bowler in England. His elbow-pumping run-up is angular but beautifully, classically rhythmed, he is capable of disconcerting late swing as well as the steepling bounce that his 6ft 5in frame allows, and he is genuinely quick.

And yet at the age of 27 he is only just beginning a determined attempt to re-establish himself as an international bowler. Injury blighted his first effort after England's West Indies tour in 1994, but he took his first steps back in the big time in the draw against Pakistan at Headingley, where he took three wickets in each innings and at times looked a genuinely awkward proposition. He hopes to continue the process at the Oval on Thursday, on a pitch which should suit him rather more than the bland surface at Headingley. If he fulfils himself, he could yet emerge as the cutting edge England's attack has so desperately lacked.

Caddick arrived in Britain from New Zealand in 1987, staying initially in London, before he began to make life a little awkward for batsmen in the Three Counties League as a player for Clevedon, near Bristol. In 1991 he took 96 wickets for Somerset's Second XI, at a remarkable average cost of 12.84. Although not yet allowed to play Championship cricket, he opened Somerset's bowling against the West Indies that year, surprising Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson by sheer pace, and reducing the tourists to 21 for two. The sight of the great Haynes jumping around his crease, before surrendering for one run, was hugely appreciated around Taunton.

A year later Caddick secured 71 first-class wickets. The comparisons with Richard Hadlee's approach and delivery stride were inevitable and accurate, and the class was obvious. He also bowled more overs for Somerset than anyone else, a fact that is easy to overlook given his subsequent fitness problems.

So this week's news that he had stayed behind in Taunton while the Somerset team travelled to Canterbury for the Championship match, will have caused a frisson with those who believe that Caddick's thoroughbred bowling can still prove an England trump card. Could it be that his troublesome legs have let him down again?

"No, it's just a precaution," he says. "I've got a pinched nerve in my back, that's all. I've been in contact with the England camp and I intend to play in the Sunday league game. Hopefully, that'll prove that I'm fit. It's just one of these things that fast bowlers get occasionally, an occupational hazard. Obviously it's got to clear up properly before I could hope to play at the Oval, but I'm pretty optimistic."

It has been a slow and often painful comeback for Caddick after the shin problems that curtailed his international career following his West Indies tour, when he took 18 Test wickets at a shade above 30. Although the effectiveness of his bowling was noted, some were more concerned at the time he spent phoning home from the press box, and he gained a reputation for being somewhat aloof.

He managed 11 Championship matches that summer but things clearly weren't right, he missed most of 1995. "I felt fine mentally when I came back from the West Indies," Caddick said. "It's just that my legs couldn't carry me through, and it's hard to bowl when you can't even walk properly. But the problem is completely cleared up now - in the end the only answer was an operation, a slow build-up and then intensive training. My main concern was simply getting back into first-class cricket. I always reckoned that anything else would be a bonus."

Although Caddick professes himself pretty confident of landing a winter job on one of the England tours, it's naturally the Test squad that interests him, particularly since it would mean a return to Christchurch, where he grew up. "I'm thinking positively about the winter. And, yes, a paid trip to see my family would be very nice indeed."

Meanwhile, there's a series to square by Monday night. "I think we can come back at the Oval," he says. "Everything's to our advantage, and hopefully that includes the groundsman. I honestly think that we outplayed them at Headingley. It was generally a good performance, but we were let down by little things that later turn out to be so important - the odd dropped catch, me getting Moin out on a no ball, and so on. But one thing's for sure, we've learned how to draw matches. Now we've just got to learn how to take it one stage further."