Reprieve offers much for Sidebottom
Ryan Sidebottom recognises that he has a battle on his hands to stave off the challenge posed by the young pretenders to his England position.
The 32-year-old suffered the latest in a catalogue of fitness problems when he was forced to return home barely a week into the tour of Bangladesh with a thigh injury.
He then watched from the sidelines as Steven Finn - his replacement - and fellow young seamer Tim Bresnan performed admirably on totally unresponsive wickets.
Sidebottom appears to have been handed a reprieve with his inclusion in England’s 15-man squad for the World Twenty20, and he intends not to waste the opportunity.
He said: “There’s nothing I have to prove as a player or a bowler; I’ve proved that I’m good enough to play at the highest level.
“It was quite hard to take (in Bangladesh). It’s frustrating because that could easily have been a stepping stone to getting a place back in the team again.
“If you bowl well out there, everyone’s talking about Ryan Sidebottom again.
“The likes of Finn and Bresnan have come in and done pretty well, so I’ve got to keep going and try to push them out of the side.
“Everybody knows what I’m capable of. I’m not the fastest bowler, but I offer accuracy and swing, and I put batsmen under pressure. If (England) need my experience then I’m here.”
Sidebottom has played just a solitary Test in the last 12 months, a surprise call-up for the final Test in South Africa in place of Graham Onions.
He refutes the suggestion, made by some observers at the Wanderers, that his pace was significantly down from when he led England’s attack with such venom in 2008.
Instead, he believes any inconsistency is down to the disruption caused by the various back, hip, groin and Achilles injuries he has endured.
“Nothing has changed in my action and my pace hasn’t changed,” he said. “I just need to get back into (match) action.
“I don’t think there’s much difference at all. What I have found tough is constantly stopping and starting again with injuries.
“As a bowler you need rhythm. When I was playing regularly for England, I didn’t worry about anything.
“But recently, I’ve played one game, been 12th man and then tried to get back in the team. It’s not been easy to find rhythm.”
A notable supporter of Sidebottom has been the England team director, Andy Flower.
Sidebottom admits that it might have been easier for Flower to disregard him from England’s agenda when injuries began to take their toll 18 months ago.
Sidebottom said: “He’s been great. He’s supported me wholly.
“It could be quite easy to think, ‘why should we keep picking him if he keeps getting injured’.
“But he saw what I could do when he was assistant coach and I’ve got to keep repaying that faith.”
With the World Twenty20 on the horizon, it is more than likely that Sidebottom is being lined up to shoulder the burden of bowling at the death in the West Indies.
England’s most recent Twenty20 assignment, back-to-back clashes with Pakistan in Dubai, witnessed them lose a tight encounter at the hands of the big-hitting Abdul Razzaq, who struck the crucial blows off Ajmal Shahzad.
Sidebottom said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to get selected in the World Twenty20 squad again, which is great.
“I love that side of the game, bowling yorkers at the death in Twenty20. I did it even when I first started at Yorkshire.
“I learnt from a legend in Darren Gough. He was often playing for England and so the ball was thrown to me. I suppose I’ve practised ever since and I really enjoy that aspect of the game.”
Sidebottom hopes to take some momentum into the World Twenty20 by bowling plenty of overs for Nottinghamshire this month.
The ECB has released him to play in Notts’ LV= County Championship opener against Kent at Trent Bridge from Thursday, and are yet to decide on his participation in the match against Somerset next week.