Tremlett blooms on Rose Bowl return
Chris Tremlett is back at the county where he began his career – knowing he would not be playing for England had he stayed there.
While the third and final npower Test marks the start of a new dawn for the Rose Bowl, which hosts Test cricket for the first time, for Tremlett it represents a homecoming tinged with nostalgia.
It was at Hampshire where he spent his formative years on the cricket field, progressing through the age-group sides and into the first team.
He was on the Hampshire staff when he made his England Test debut in 2007, but he broke with family tradition stretching back to 1976, the year his father Tim first played for the club, when he left to join Surrey last season.
He has no regrets. Indeed, he is adamant he would not be where he is now – Ashes hero and inked-in member of the Test attack against Sri Lanka this week – if he had not bid farewell to the county that he regarded as home since his teenage years.
“I wouldn’t have had a chance of playing for England again if I stayed at Hampshire,” Tremlett told ecb.co.uk.
“I needed a move, just to prove my desire was there – not just to other people but to myself as well. I needed a fresh start.”
The attributes that won him England selection against India four years ago – standing 6ft 7in, he is blessed with pace, bounce and an ability to move the ball laterally – had been gradually overshadowed by a succession of injuries.
His move to Surrey was motivated largely by a desire to win an England recall, which arrived – by his own admission, sooner than expected – during the Ashes.
It is with no little irony that injury to Stuart Broad paved the way for Tremlett’s return to the team in Perth. Three Tests later he could boast 17 wickets at 23.35 apiece, and a deserved share of the glory as England basked in an historic 3-1 series win.
By initiating Sri Lanka’s collapse at Cardiff in the opening Test of the summer, he enhanced his reputation and cemented his place in the team in equal measure.
If the move to the Kia Oval has been a huge factor in Tremlett’s welcome revival, he claims that only relatively recently has he reaped the benefits of a new approach to his fitness that began as many as five years ago.
“I’m a big guy. I’ve tried a few things – losing weight, putting on weight – and maybe in the past I trained too much in the season,” he revealed.
“But I’ve found a balance now for what works for me. Over the winter I train very hard. That’s what people don’t realise; I do put a lot of work in when I’m not playing cricket.
“So rather than sitting on my arse doing nothing, I’m building my strength and getting in running sessions, building up for next time I’m going to play. That’s my mindset.
“I’ve grown into my body more, I’ve had a change of luck with injuries and I seem to have found a method. It has all come together. Touch wood, it stays that way.”
Looking forward rather than back is something Tremlett – now 29 – is keen to do (sepia-tinted glasses are hardly standard issue amongst modern sportsman), but he accepts it has been nice spending time in familiar surroundings this week.
“This is where I grew up, came through the ranks and made my debut at 18,” he said, referring to Hampshire rather than the Rose Bowl, which was built in 2001, the season after he made his first-class bow.
“It’s nice to be back – there are plenty of familiar faces. I played a t20 game here with Surrey last year, but this is my first first-class game back here and I’m looking forward to it.”
In a fashion befitting his new-found approach to the game, Tremlett will be drawing on his memories for technical benefit rather than emotional succour.
“It helps when you know the surroundings, pitch conditions, where the wind’s going, those sorts of things,” he added.
“It helps when you feel comfortable at a place. I’ve spent a lot of time here and bowled a lot of overs. I know the conditions pretty well, so hopefully I can use that to my advantage.”
Tremlett will no doubt be passing his local knowledge on to his fast-bowling colleagues over the next five days, a theme in keeping with the openness in the England dressing room.
Such a welcoming atmosphere, fostered by captain Andrew Strauss and team director Andy Flower, is one of the key factors in Tremlett’s seamless passage back into the side, according to the man himself.
“Coming back was very easy,” he confessed. “It’s been a winning side for a while now; there’s a very good vibe.
“Training is very intense, as it was when I first came into the side, but there’s that balance of the relaxed atmosphere at the same time now.
“It comes with an honest changing room and good communication. That’s what I’ve found has changed – people can come in and not be afraid to speak their mind.”
While James Anderson admits his potential new-ball colleague at the Rose Bowl “does chirp up when necessary”, the quietly-spoken Tremlett, by his own admission, is not one to dominate dressing room conversation.
Like Anderson, however, his demeanour off the pitch bears no relation to his desire on it.
“People perceive you one way, but it’s not always the case,” Tremlett said. “When you go on the pitch and you’re in competition, you change.
“People are different outside of cricket to how they are in training and how they are in a game. Playing cricket is like being an actor going on stage – you act in different ways.”
Judging by his performances over the last year, Tremlett would be a worthy recipient of a cricketing BAFTA.