Reece Topley wants to consign his injury woes to the past but admits there will be some trepidation at boarding the plane to India for the defence of England’s World Cup crown.
Having overcome four separate stress fractures in his back, Topley appeared primed for a leading role at last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia but he had to watch England’s triumphant campaign from afar.
A freak trip over a boundary cushion ahead of their final warm-up caused ankle ligament damage and, when he was on the comeback trail, Topley dislocated his shoulder at the Indian Premier League in April.
News we didn't want to bring you.
Reece Topley has been ruled out of the #T20WorldCup
We are all gutted for you and we are all here for you, Toppers
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) October 19, 2022
Despite returning to fitness and England duty, the 6ft 7in left-arm seamer remains understandably wary of a setback especially with the 50-over World Cup getting under way in less than four weeks’ time.
“You could say I have a bit of PTSD about getting on the plane again because it was pretty emotional coming back from the last (World Cup) injured,” the 29-year-old said.
“But injuries happen in sport. You can only do so much to prevent them. I don’t really think about it too much. It’s just the nature of it: you get good days and bad days at the minute.
“As you get older, the injuries do get a bit harder to come back from – just the nature of just being years older. It’s not like you won’t ever come back from it, it’s just always a bit trickier.
“I definitely wouldn’t say I’m out of the jungle in terms of my ankle and my shoulder but it’s a case of doing the right things. Hopefully, the bad days just become less and less.”
Topley owes his selection in England’s provisional World Cup squad to last summer’s stellar form, where he claimed 13 wickets in seven ODIs at an exceptional average of 16.38, going at less than 4.5 an over.
He is still getting back up to speed at international level again after a stop-start past year but after going wicketless in four ODIs, he impressed in Sunday’s series-levelling victory against New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl, taking three for 27 in seven overs.
After an economical first five-over burst, Topley dismissed Tom Latham, Glenn Phillips and Rachin Ravindra within seven balls in his second spell as New Zealand lost their last seven wickets in 39 balls to lose by 79 runs, leaving the four-match series delicately balanced at 1-1.
While drawing satisfaction from his impact in a contest reduced to 34 overs per side because of rain, Topley believes he is still a long way off his best.
“I’ve got to thank the guys for showing that what I did last year didn’t go unnoticed,” Topley said. “My record in the format is pretty good. I like to think that I can contribute whenever needed.
“It’s tricky playing and getting yourself back into it mentally and physically after some injuries. The game moves on and people move on and you obviously don’t get the chance to because you’re sidelined.
“It’s nice to be finding my feet again, hopefully just at the right time for India. It’s not the end of it now, it’s just another good day. It’s still a long way to go to be performing how I’d like to.”
Topley has opened the bowling in every one of his 24 ODIs but backs himself to “take wickets in all stages”, putting himself in the shop window for one of the fast bowling spots at the World Cup.
England have six specialist options, including three left-armers in Sam Curran, David Willey and Topley, who recognises competition is fierce.
“I can only do so much as a new-ball and death bowler that it’s hard to leave me out,” Topley added ahead of Wednesday’s third ODI against the Black Caps at the Kia Oval, his home ground.
“That’s what all of us in the changing room want to do is just to make those decisions tough, but with the talent that we have, it’s always going be a tough decision – for the 15, or the 11.”