Case Study: Giles battles to return to the heights

'We thought it was under control. I was going to get through the Ashes'

On the long injury road that he has been travelling, Ashley Giles is now much nearer the end than the beginning. The optimism in his voice is patent, not least because there have been times during the past six months when that judgement could have been applied only to his career.

Giles first injured his right hip early in the 2005 season after he had enjoyed a start which bordered on the sensational. He took 27 wickets in Warwickshire's first four matches, including 24 in April, more than any bowler in history, seamer or spinner.

But then he was forced to miss the two Tests against Bangladesh. Rest, rehabilitation and cortisone injections seemed to work. After a slow beginning he played a prominent role in the Ashes. But the recovery had not been complete.

"We managed to get through the Ashes but even then it started to flare up again," he said. "We thought we had got it back under control but obviously we hadn't. But I was always going to get throughthe Ashes."

In Pakistan, on the first of England's winter tours, it was pretty quickly clear that all was not well. Giles's action was limp because the hip was barely allowing him to pivot in delivery.

"I had gone there feeling confident about my physical situation but I realised quite soon there was a big problem," he said. "It got to the stage where we could not manage it, and I felt I was letting the team and myself down more by playing than I would be by not playing."

Giles flew home on the second day of the Lahore Test and a week later underwent surgery. In a fit of misplaced idealism, the selectors picked him for the tour of India. But as Giles said: "It became apparent fairly quickly that this was an unrealistic target." His convalescence was then geared to a return at the start of the English season, but progress proved painfully slow.

"Every time I tried to come back and run I couldn't for more than five minutes. We could not understand what was going on, because before I had the operation I could at least run, although it wasn't particularly comfortable, whereas now I couldn't."

Giles went away for a fortnight with his family "to try and get my head together". He also had another injection in the hope of stimulating some repair. It was ineffective. His surgeon was on the verge of suggesting another operation, but before that decided to find out if there was some other impediment.

An appointment with the soft-tissue expert Jerry Gilmore in Harley Street was the turning point. Gilmore immediately diagnosed the condition which he had discovered in professional sportsmen 20 years ago and which is named after him: Gilmore's Groin.

Giles had another operation and is now running again. Whisper it, but he also bowled last week, albeit gently off two paces. He is fairly convinced that the groin injury grew worse during his recovery from the hip injury.

There might be a case for suggesting that he should have had the original hip surgery a year ago. "Certainly not," he said. "I'd have missed the Ashes, and that has changed my life."

And without him, England would not have won, so nobody else's life would have been changed either.

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