The England off-spinner Graeme Swann says he is so optimistic about making a full recovery following surgery on his troublesome right elbow that he believes he could be ready to resume his international career in time for the opening Test against New Zealand on 16 May.
There had been fears that the 34-year-old Nottinghamshire player might struggle to be ready for the Ashes series in July, but his rehabilitation work is progressing so well that he has pencilled in his county's four-day match against Durham, beginning on 29 April, as his comeback date.
Swann underwent his second operation on the elbow in America two weeks ago but, after subjecting himself to a day-and-night programme of mechanically induced extension exercises, he is on course to halve the normal recovery time.
"This machine I have to attach myself to is agony for the first week – it brings a tear to your eye," he said. "But that's stopped happening now, it feels great so it's definitely going in the right direction.
"I'll be badgering the physios and coaches here at Notts to let me bowl as soon as possible but they're the ones with qualifications to tell me when and where I can.
"I'd hope to be bowling competitively by the end of April. I don't know whether that's optimistic or not but that's how my mind works. I want to be back as soon as I can because I'm bored stupid already.
"The machine is at home in the attic room that I'm banished to every night. I've still got to wake myself up every couple of hours to do 50 minutes on this machine. It was quite handy while the Test match was on because I could watch that but now it's finished it's very boring.
"It's very important, though, because the machine keeps the range of movement in your arm and it aids your rehabilitation and it's supposed to halve the time you get back bowling."
If his return to action with Nottinghamshire results in no setback, Swann would be in contention for the opening Test against New Zealand at Lord's, having missed the away series against the same opponents.
He says the thought never seriously crossed his mind that the injury might spell the end of his England career after 50 Tests and 165 appearances overall, during which he has become England's most prolific off-spinner.
"It didn't really," he said. "The surgeon assured me it was a straightforward operation compared with my first one and it should be a matter of time before I'm bowling again.
"Last time, the operation was far more serious, but the recovery was so great that I've got every faith in the surgeon. I went for three and a half years bowling relatively pain-free. It was a lot more straightforward this time, basically just correcting little things that have gone wrong since then.
"Bowlers always have niggles here and there, and because of my elbow different parts of my body start taking over and aching, and that was one of the signs in New Zealand that something was wrong because all of a sudden I was getting a sore back and shoulder and all sorts of things, all down to the fact that the elbow wasn't working. Now it's cleared out all the other things should be all right.
"I think I could bowl now but I'd probably put myself back to square one. So the next couple of weeks are solely about fitness and getting my base levels back up to where they should be, and then I'll start bowling again.
"If I start back and there's any pain whatsoever I'm sure I'll want to play it fairly safe. But I'm not a conservative bloke by nature.
"I think it's going to kill me if I sit down and watch so much cricket at the start of the summer without being an active part of it, so I'll certainly be trying to be back fit and playing as much cricket as I can. I'd like to get a couple of games in for Notts before any England cricket starts so that's what I'll be aiming for."
Swann overtook Jim Laker as England's most successful Test off-spinner during the series in India that preceded the New Zealand tour and now has 212 Test wickets. Yet he claims he has a desire to add to that tally.
"The hunger's still strong to play Test cricket," he said. "I love the game, so I think I'll play for as long as the body can stand it. Whether that will be for 12 Test matches or 112 we will have to wait and see – but John Emburey played until he was 41 so there is hope for me yet."Reuse content