Brilliance of Bicknell finds little reward

David Llewellyn talks to the history man resigned to life in the shadows

He is the first bowler to take 50 wickets this season, but if England's selectors remain true to form, the name of Martin Bicknell will still be among the last on their list of candidates for the Third Test against the West Indies at Old Trafford in 12 days' time.

He is the first bowler to take 50 wickets this season, but if England's selectors remain true to form, the name of Martin Bicknell will still be among the last on their list of candidates for the Third Test against the West Indies at Old Trafford in 12 days' time.

It is no more than Bicknell expects. "It would not bother me if I were never considered for England again," said the 31-year-old, only hours after his heroics for his county Surrey at Guildford, where in destroying Leicestershire singlehandedly he produced the finest match return by an Englishman in this country - 16 for 119 - since Jim Laker claimed 19 Australian wickets at Old Trafford in 1956.

"I have got to the stage now where I think it has gone, even though things do seem to have been getting better and better in my career and I seem to be producing better things as time goes on."

When Surrey won their first Championship for 28 years last season Bicknell's 71 wickets at a top-class average of just 17.95 were as instrumental as anything else in helping them get their hands on the silverware. They did not impress the national selectors, though.

Bicknell is passionate about Surrey. He has been putting his body on the line - and the treatment table - with astonishing consistency for them since he first appeared for the Brown Hats as a 17-year-old.

"I am happy to be playing in a winning side," he stressed, adding, tellingly: "I am enjoying my cricket." This is no gnarled old pro whose views are wrinkling with cynicism as his loftiest ambitions remain unfulfilled, Bicknell is a genuine cricket lover. His approach to the game remains as fresh now as it was all those years ago. And so too does his cricket. He is no mean batsman and already this season he has scored three fifties in the common cause.

Given all that, and the fact that opponents and umpires are unanimous in their first-hand experience that he is the best bowler of his type around, it is surprising that he has represented his country only twice, during the 1993 Ashes series. He did not distinguish himself hugely in either Test, but then again, nor did he disgrace himself. England lost both matches, at Headingley and Edgbaston, and Bicknell was never seen again in an England sweater. "It has been that long now that it is not a great loss if I don't play for England," he said matter-of-factly.

Over the last few years the selectors have cited his propensity for injury as a reason for his omission. These days the player can refute the charge. In the last five years Bicknell has missed just four Championship matches. And should the selectors attempt to introduce the try the age clause Bicknell would be quick to point out that he is younger than Andrew Caddick, and only a few months older than Alan Mullally, while Angus Fraser was 33 when he played his last Test for England against Australia in Melbourne in 1998.

He is alleged to have been considered for the Second Test against Zimbabwe last month. But nothing came of it. "I think I am at the point now where if I haven't been considered, then I won't be," is his stoical response. "I am just very happy playing for Surrey." And they for their part are very happy to have Bicknell playing for them. While his nickname is Bickers, few would argue that Bicknell has been one of the most consistent seamers of the last five years.

In fact, a glance at his Championship record since his debut in 1986 says that he has been consistent from the outset. Since 1989, the year Surrey awarded him his cap and he repaid them with 65 wickets, Bicknell has passed 50 Championship wickets on eight occasions and been in the forties twice.

And had it not been for injury, those two summers - and the 1994 season when he captured a meagre 27 wickets - would have followed the usual course. In all, Bicknell has more than 800 first-class wickets to his name - a landmark he passed earlier this season.

"Of course it helps playing in a winning side. People talk about team spirit, but that rarely manifests itself in a losing side. But we now expect to win trophies at Surrey. If we were to finish second in the Championship this summer it would be a bit of a disappointment for the boys after experiencing winning the title last year. A year on we know what it takes and I think that makes us a better side.

"You get into the habit of winning. You recognise which are the important moments of the game. I think as a team we are doing that. We understand what is required and when and how to step up a gear and win matches."

And so to Wednesday and the big NatWest quarter-final against Lancashire - a side against whom Surrey suffered a dramatic collapse in a different cup competition a few years ago.

Bicknell acknowledged: "While we want to win the County Championship, and that remains the most important thing for us, we want to win the NatWest Trophy. It is a major trophy. We have won everything else."

And he is confident. "We are on a bit of a roll. I think as a side we have improved in the one-day game immensely. We will be looking to keep our form going in it.

"In Saqlain Mushtaq we have the best slow bowler in one-day cricket in the world. His variation makes him very difficult to score against. And we do bat all the way down the order."

They do indeed. Right down to this modest, unassuming, hugely talented man of Surrey. He cares for his county and is content to remain a fan of his country. But if he goes on in this rich vein of form he may well make his country a fan of him.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star