Giles' fortunes revived after 'breakdown' of Weakest Link

The battling left-armer was delighted to prove his critics wrong in England's Ashes success, says David Llewellyn
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The Independent Online

Giles accepted the invitation and, as the viewing public will learn later this autumn, he won it. He even appeared to have had a good time, despite the feisty presenter, Anne Robinson.

"She was great," said the 32-year-old prior to England's departure for the tour of Pakistan. "I enjoyed Anne. I thought she was quite sexy actually. There was plenty of banter, but I enjoyed it."

Yet three months ago, when various pundits and commentators were suggesting that Giles was the weakest link in the England Test side after the crushing defeat at Lord's, he criticised them in his newspaper column. He was clearly hurt at the public and media perception of him.

There is a fragility to the man, as seen by an earlier crisis of confidence suffered a year ago, which pushed Giles to the brink of quitting international cricket. His coach, Troy Cooley, told him there was nothing wrong with his bowling. "No," Giles is reported to have responded. "It's my head that's messed up."

So, between the second and third Tests against New Zealand, he slipped into a back-street coffee bar in Nottingham for a heart-to-heart with the sports psychologist Steve Bull, who persuaded Giles to fight on.

He did not just fight on, he fought back; since then his form has undergone a dramatic change. In the 35 Tests up to his "breakdown" Giles had claimed 92 wickets. In the following 15 Giles has picked up 49.

On top of that he is going to Pakistan with good memories of his last visit there, five years ago. "I had played one Test match and had taken one Test wicket and everyone had written me off, even before I had got on the plane," he recalled. But his response then was pretty emphatic - 17 wickets at 24.11 in what was a gruelling three-Test rubber, and he tasted his first series victory.

"This is an important tour for us, another stepping stone towards the place we want to get - No1 in the world. But it will need total refocus, and we will have to play some very good cricket to win the series."

At least he knows what awaits England. "The wickets are very different. You have to bowl at very different paces on the sub-continent. And I understand that a lot of the pitches have been re-laid and might have more bounce than the last time. The last series there produced real slow, turgid sort of cricket. It could be the same again. We are going to have to be prepared to work very hard. The Pakistanis are likely to try to wear us down, so we have to be patient."

There is the added pressure that Giles is not the only spinner in the party, He has the uncapped Shaun Udal, of Hampshire, and his Warwickshire team-mate Alex Loudon for company.

"We can do a lot of work together, which doesn't happen very often. We will be able to bowl in the nets together. I don't think anyone of us can be written off. I have to do my job, because I have two guys at my back who are looking to push me. I know Shaun from playing against him. I can learn from him as much as he might be able to learn from me, because he is a very experienced bowler. I think Loudon has an exceptional amount of talent. He has a very good head on him. He bats very well, too."

Yet Giles welcomes the challenge. "I have not been on the piss for the last six weeks. I have been working hard preparing for this trip. I've been a survivor and I still think I have a decent future in the England side."

His rivals, and the Pakistanis are going to have a tough time against the Strongest Link.

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