Graham Onions is drawing on the experience of his darkest hours as a cricketer in an effort to get over the disappointment of being left out of England’s Ashes squad for their tour Down Under.
The Durham pace bowler took 66 wickets at a cost of just 17 as Durham claimed their third County Championship in six years – but that was still not enough to earn him a ticket to Australia. Instead he is hoping to make a splash with the KwaZulu-Natal-based Sunfoil Dolphins in an attempt to remind England what they are missing across the Indian Ocean.
Onions is still clearly hugely disappointed at missing out on a first Ashes tour, but after not bowling a ball in anger between January 2010 and April 2011 as a result of a potentially career-ending back injury, the 31-year-old has maintained a sense of perspective that might have otherwise been lacking.
“There were a lot of times over that period when I was out of the game that were really, really dark times,” he told The Independent. “I’m happy to say now that everything has gone in the right direction and I can look back now and say that I’ve learnt a lot and taken a lot of positives.
“Unfortunately, that time out of the game has cost me a lot of appearances for my country but that’s professional sport, that’s something I’m going to have to live with.
“It’s funny, when I was doing my rehab I just kept saying, ‘All I want to do is play one more game for Durham.’ Now the frustration is not getting picked in an Ashes squad and I’ve really got to remember those tough times I had and remember what I said to myself. I need to keep thinking about how well I’ve done getting back from that injury.”
His performances since returning to the fray have been little short of remarkable, particularly this summer when he spearheaded Durham’s charge to another title and comfortably outbowled his main competitors for an England place.
Ultimately, though, it was a lack of inches, rather than a lack of wickets that led to him missing out.
“I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail, whatever was said was between me, the captain, the coach and the selectors but they basically said that when they picked the squad they went for the taller guys because that’s what they wanted in Australia,” he said.
“That’s the bottom line. That’s bitterly hard to take but I have to take it on the chin and force my way in. At the end of my career I’ll look back and be very proud of what I’ve achieved but at this stage in my career I feel like I can be doing bigger and better things.
“I feel like I could be playing for England because that’s what I would love to be doing. It’s everyone’s dream and I’m no different. I’m an ambitious guy and I want to compete against the best in the world and there’s no better place to do that than in international cricket.”
After his own experiences, Onions has no wish to see any member of England’s attack pick up an injury in Australia. But if they do, he is ready.