Cricket: Caddick quick to play role of the catalyst

`I apply the same principles as I did when I was building. I'm there to bowl, to work hard'; Stephen Brenkley charts the reversal of fortunes for a primed paceman
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IF ENGLAND are to emerge from this series with anything but team spirit and a craving for life without bodyguards, the likelihood is that Andrew Caddick will have played a prominent role. During the six months since his recall to the Test team, in the wake of a promise from the new captain, Nasser Hussain, that all slates were to be wiped clean, the Somerset fast bowler has travelled the long journey from troublesome to indispensable.

Earlier this year it was possible to imagine that Caddick would never appear for an England side again; now it is impossible to envisage one without him. This is not down only to his development as a No 8 batsman, averaging 30 in the present series. Darren Gough may be the showman and a wholehearted, slippery customer who is never less than value for money, but Caddick has established considerable claims to being the best bowler in the country.

As one of his colleagues in the touring squad observed: "He can do things with a ball that nobody else can, put it where he wants. It's not that he makes it talk exactly, but it kind of fizzes." A haul, though that is hardly the apposite description, of four wickets in the opening two matches of the series does not speak of a deep influence on proceedings, but it is difficult to resist the feeling that several South African batsmen are in the queue to pay for that.

Caddick did not take full advantage of friendly conditions in the First Test in Johannesburg when he relied on his customary length - probably a tad too short in the circumstances - but nor was it an undeserving performance, as some suggested. In the second match at Port Elizabeth he bowled a compelling spell in the second innings, a model of new-ball perfection, and his figures of 2 for 29 in 18 overs were not a fitting reward.

"I never regarded myself as a troublemaker or difficult or anything like that," he said, referring to a reputation which was apparently instrumental in keeping him out of England's side for more than a year before Hussain assumed the throne. "What I do know is that cricket teams have 11 players, 11 different personalities. They're all part of a team and they all have to be treated as individuals. We're all different."

This analysis might be self-evident, but it has not always seemed to touch a chord with the selectors . Similarly, Caddick, in his earlier Test incarnations, was not warmly embraced by other observers, who were not won over by his seeming detachment. Both views have changed, or at least modified.

The selectors at last recognised that Caddick was not only a bowler of immense technical prowess but also one with heart - not sleeve-wearing, breast-beating, tub-thumping heart but a heart signifying effort, will and endeavour. The sort that calculates if Caddick does all right then so might the team. The public, in the form of Wisden Cricket Monthly readers, voted him player and bowler of the season for his efforts on behalf of England and Somerset. County supporters will certainly have recognised his status during his benefit year. Caddick, of course, denies that he has changed at all.

His progress as an integral member of the national side has gained momentum since the appointment of Duncan Fletcher as coach. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that neither is English - Caddick was born and brought up in New Zealand, Fletcher is Zimbabwean , so they have the natural empathy of perceived outsiders and a mutual recognition of the little ways of the English. But more likely it has to do with Fletcher's vigilance in spotting the strengths of each individual.

"I was chatting to him the other day and he agreed that I wasn't an experienced Test cricketer," said Caddick. "I've played 27 matches [and taken 98 wickets] but I made my debut back in 1993. I might have played 60-odd matches but instead it's all been patchy, which makes me not a widely experienced player." This seemed to be Caddick hinting that there were sound reasons if he sometimes misjudged a pitch or a batsman and that Fletcher agreed.

There are still those who find it difficult to come to terms with Caddick's blunt approach to the game. It is only cricket, only a game, only a job. There is a distinct lack of cricketing romance beating in the Caddick soul, yet nobody could accuse him of being a shirker. He bowled more overs than anybody else in England again last year, 763 of them in first-class matches, another 155 in one-dayers, a total which compares eminently favourably with the days of yore.

"I apply the same principles to bowling as I do to other things in life, such as when I was building," said Caddick. "I'm there to bowl, to work hard. I like bowling. Now I might not be the best netter in the world or runner of lap after lap round the pitch, but bowling is what keeps me fit."

Apart from underlining his work ethic, this summation of Caddick's attitude to his profession also raises an age-old point about what is the best preparation for bowling. Nobody has yet debunked the theory that it is bowling and still more bowling. As Caddick emphasised, it gets the body not only into a rhythm but accustomed to the peculiar demands being put on it. Certainly, his fitness record since suffering shin splints four years ago is admirable.

At 31, he is adding more little, telling skills to his repertoire. He is now adept at the off- cutter and is working increasingly on honing a slower ball. He would like to play more Tests with the ebullient Gough. "I think Darren may be lacking a bit of bowling at the moment," said Caddick. "But he's a heck of a bowler and I still think we can complement each other. I'd certainly like to go on to play another 40 Tests." He could do it too and, if so, he may not only have finished the excursion between troublesome and indispensable but another trek, tougher still, from zero to hero.