Caddick: I'm better than those 'idiots' bowling for England

Andrew Caddick has had two back operations and lost £400,000 in business, but in his 18th season with his county he still dreams of his country. He talks to Stephen Brenkley
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The Independent Online

Andrew Caddick will not let go. He has spent five years, two complicated back operations and the loss of £400,000 refusing to let go. The surgery and the cash have helped to stiffen his resolve.

"I've still got a few things to prove to people," he said. "Such as that I can still play at international level. Why shouldn't I? The ball doesn't know how old you are, does it? I might not be able to sustain it as much as I used to but I can still do a lot of damage, I'm still consistent, I can still do a job and I can still do a damned sight better job than some of those idiots who are playing for England at the moment, but there you go."

This was vintage Caddick, railing against the world with all the logic and passion of a Hyde Park Corner orator. He has always had this streak. He means what he says but he does not say what he means. It is not that he thinks everybody bowling for England is hopeless, but that he has been unfairly overlooked.

Pinned down, he was complimentary about many of them individually – Ryan Sidebottom, Matthew Hoggard, Jimmy Anderson – but anybody who has seen England's seam bowling in the past year or so might think that to call them idiots needed the judgement of a kind man.

Caddick will be 40 in November and is desperate both to play Test cricket again and to propel Somerset to their first Championship. In his heart of hearts, he conceded, he may have to bow to the inevitable with regard to England, that the selectors will not come calling again, but he aired the prospect reluctantly.

"Probably not, no, but that's what drives me on," he said. "I don't understand how you can get rid of someone who has been doing well when there's nobody good enough behind you to take your spot. I am impressed with lots of them but I'd like to see a lot of those guys learning their trade by playing a lot more domestic cricket. I was discarded too quickly. The biggest problem with the England set-up is that when you're inside the bubble they love you, but as soon as you're outside it they couldn't give a shit. But I have always said that the day I retire from domestic cricket is the day I retire from international cricket, and that should be everybody's attitude."

Caddick is a gauche, endearing mass of contradictions, inconsistencies and antagonism. Mary could not have been as contrary. For instance, his England ambitions are matched by those for Somerset, where they cherish him as families cherish eccentric aunts. Throughout his England career he has divided opinion, partly, perhaps mostly, because he came to this country from New Zealand as a 19-year-old. His parents were English so he soon qualified, but Caddick always made it plain – then – that he would return to New Zealand one day. He won't now.

There were plenty who doubted his heart – pundits, the occasional team-mate – and they have been proved to be, to coin a phrase, idiots. They tended to adduce as evidence the fact that his second-innings performances in Tests (103 wickets at 20.82 runs each) were much superiorto his first-innings figures (131 at 37.06), which is where some say Tests are won.

Caddick has never quite been able to explain it, but his second-innings performances created some thrilling England victories: Australia at The Oval in 1997 and Sydney in 2003, West Indies at Lord's and Headingley in 2001. It looks as if Sydney will remain his final act as an England bowler. When, on an up-and-down pitch, he forced one through Stuart MacGill's defences, he had taken 7 for 94 and England had a consolation Ashes victory. Only a man of courage could have survived what Caddick has since, and with barely a whimper. Here he is, somehow, on the threshold of his 18th season for Somerset and apparently relishing the idea of coming in at Taunton once more on a pitch that is even now as flat as a Gordon Brown joke.

It has been a remarkable effort of will and self-belief to get this far. He missed most of the 2003 summer after back surgery but insisted he would return. The zip seemed to have gone when he did so, at 36, but Caddick kept coming in. Last season he took 70 wickets at 24.14 and Somerset walked away with Division Two of the Championship. The criticism spurs him. He is a man who will always have something to prove.

With his professional career restored, he and his young family have been badly affected by a business deal which went totally awry. It cost him £400,000. Caddick being Caddick, he set out to bowl some more. "Perhaps I shouldn't have got involved, but hindsight's wonderful. I had to lift myself back up."

He is an excellent craftsman, a natural engineer, a man who learned how to fly a helicopter in the whirr of a blade, but he worked out that bowling was what he did best. Then last winter another back injury surfaced, caused, of course, by years of bowling. He spent more than five hours in an operating theatre on Christmas Eve.

"I had three bulging discs, which happens to very few people," he said. "I had all my muscle cut from my back and fusions done. There's steelwork and screws in there and it was all reattached. It was a major op." There is no element of self-pity in the way Caddick talks about his back or his cash. Batsmen claim (quietly) that the bounce he extracts does not now have the old venom to accompany it but Caddick, of course, disagrees, and cites hitting new Somerset colleague Omari Banks on the helmet in the nets last week.

He may or may not play for England again but he will not be going quietly, and for the moment he is not going at all.