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
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links