County news September 10, 2012

Carberry eyes England opening

David Lloyd
He tasted Test cricket briefly more than two years ago but, ahead of another Lord's final with Hampshire, Michael Carberry has not given up hope of playing for England again

Once upon a time - and not so long ago, either - Michael Carberry would have had one last chance to do some serious selector-nudging. But the days of players winning a tour place on the strength of an eye-catching performance in a Lord's final are now part of England's history. And no bad thing, most would say.

So, barring a late decision to postpone the naming of the Test squad to travel to India next month, Hampshire opener Carberry will walk into Saturday's CB40 final against Warwickshire knowing precisely what the future holds for him in international cricket. And, either way, he will be desperate to help his county land a second trophy in a fortnight after their T20 triumph.

Carberry's name has been regularly mentioned, in the same sentence as several other batsmen, ever since Andrew Strauss announced his retirement at the end of last month and thereby created a vacancy at the top of England's Test order. But, unlike many hopefuls, he already has a cap to his name and his dream is to add some more.

Two and a half years have not dimmed the memory of playing against Bangladesh at Chittagong, where he contributed 30 and 34 to a 181-run win. Carberry, it seems, can recall every little detail. But when he spoke this week at West End, his focus was very much on a huge game ahead and the task facing Hampshire.

"Finals at Lord's are arguably the most enjoyable days of your career," he said. "The home of cricket has a special place in every player's heart and finals there are a massive occasion."

Carberry, 32 at the end of September, has experienced both the misery of defeat (to Durham, in 2007) and the joy of victory (against Sussex, in 2009) as Hampshire reached two 50-over finals in the space of three seasons. But for many of his team-mates, a September showdown at Lord's will be a new experience.

"I have full confidence the young guys will step up to the plate," said Carberry, whose form in this summer's CB40 competition has been stunning - with 563 runs, and two hundreds, in eight innings at an average of 93.83. "I've told them to soak up the occasion but a lot of them seem to thrive under pressure, anyway.

"Our opponents, Warwickshire, have had an outstanding year and they will be very high on confidence after winning the county championship. But whatever you've done, it's all on the day when it comes to a Lord's final - names and past achievements go out of the window."

Carberry's name has not disappeared from the England frame since he played in that 2010 Test against Bangladesh. But, as a result of circumstances beyond his control, he is but one of several vehicles waiting hopefully in line rather than first cab off the rank.

Having deputised for the resting Strauss and opened with Alastair Cook, Carberry was left out of the second and final Test of that short tour because England felt the need to accommodate a fifth bowler in Dhaka. But it was later that same year when his world turned upside down: he suffered a blood clot in his lung, ruling him out of England's performance squad trip to Australia and putting his whole career in jeopardy.

It must have been a desperately worrying time for Carberry and it is hardly surprising that, having now fully recovered, he no longer wishes to talk about that illness at any length. It meant, though, that he missed the first three months of the 2011 season - and there was much happiness, in Hampshire and beyond, when he returned to Championship side in sensational fashion by scoring a triple century against Yorkshire.

Out of sight, though, can mean out of mind. And while England reassured Carberry that he was still on their radar by picking him for the Lions team to play West Indies earlier this season, a knee injury - requiring surgery - forced him to miss the middle chunk of this summer while other international candidates, like Somerset's Nick Compton and Yorkshire's Joe Root, were scoring heavily.

Thankfully, though, the left-hander is now fully fit and firing again. "I've been a little bit in and out this summer, but conditions have been pretty bowler-friendly," he said (Carberry has scored heavily in limited-overs contests but is without a century in the Championship going into the last game of the season, having missed five matches because of his knee problem). "I was very disappointed to get injured when I did, on the back of spending time out of the game last year as well. But these things happen, the rehab went well and now my knee is as strong as it's ever been."

And so is Carberry's health. The only hint of a cloud, during an otherwise sunny discussion, appeared when he was asked whether long-haul flights might be a problem after that serious lung condition.

"I've said for the last two years, and it has become a bit of a broken record, that I've been to pre-season with Hampshire [overseas] and I don't remember catching a bus," Carberry said. "I'm more than able to fly."

Asking Carberry to think back to 2010, and his England debut, is to tread on safer ground: "I don't think you ever forget your Test call up. It was something I had worked 13 or 14 years towards. I remember it like it was yesterday - getting my cap from Mike Atherton, then walking out to bat with Alastair Cook, getting my first run down to fine leg, itching to get one out of the middle of the bat and then getting a square cut away... I probably had a bit of a rush of blood on 30 but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's something I would like to do again."

And what of his chances of an India tour spot? "There has been a lot of speculation over the last couple of weeks, ever since a certain Mr Strauss decided to retire," Carberry said, with a smile. "I'm flattered that my name has come back around for that opening spot. I've played pretty well in the last few years and I've kept my performances to a high standard so I'm glad I'm back in the melting pot.

"England will probably be looking at all options. I'm two years older and probably at that stage where people will ask: do you take a 32-year-old? Hopefully they will, based on experience. But whoever gets the nod then the best of luck to them. And if it is me who misses out then at least I can look back and say I've achieved something I set out to do as a kid - and I've still got a lot to achieve in my career with Hampshire.

"I'll be brutally honest and say there will always be a little element of frustration because I feel over the last two years I've played some fantastic cricket for Hampshire, and scored a lot of runs, in and around some difficult personal times as well. But it's how the selectors view things - they're the ones who make the decisions. I've had to make peace with a lot of things - and one of those things is that I might finish with one Test cap. I would be a bit of a difficult pill to swallow but you learn to deal with these things."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on September 12, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    @SIRSOBERS on (September 12 2012, 10:57 AM GMT) OK but as this article is mentioning players to replace Strauss (who wasn't playing in T20s/ODIs anyway) then the shorter formats (which you gave no indication you were talking about) are irrelevant to this thread

  • o on September 12, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    Yeh I was talking more about past yrs and in particular the shorter format he never got a look in

  • John on September 12, 2012, 8:14 GMT

    @SIRSOBERS on (September 12 2012, 02:37 AM GMT) From similar amount of innings this season (17) Carberry has scored 407 runs at an everage of 27 (in division 2) - Compton (in division 1) has scored 1036 at an average of 86. Personally I think they'll go for neither and either put Trott or Bell up there or go for a younger guy like Root , but if Compton get an opportunity - well the figures speak for themselves.

  • o on September 12, 2012, 2:37 GMT

    Carberry should have been a part of the ENGLAND set up yrs ago he's a top class player sad it has taken so long for his acknowledgement and the ECB will probably still choose Compton over him.

  • John on September 11, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    A few months ago I'd have said Compton for sure. He had been magnificent for Somerset this season. However , thinking about it I'm wondering if not only the formation should change to 5/1/5 but maybe having a more aggressive player might be the way to go. Nick would be an ideal replacement for Trott or Cook but maybe have a more aggressive player coming in now. I'd like to see the whole set up change to a more aggressive approach as we are more the hunters than the hunted now. A bit more positivity. I also think Bell should go out and play some cricket somewhere in SC as he was thee worst of our shambolic batting line up in UAE. Also would not be at all surprised if Morgan is included. He was central contracted after all - even though I don't feel he warrants a central contract - judging by his form in the 1st class game. If he does play , I hope his approach is different to that in UAE and he plays more positively

  • Dummy4 on September 11, 2012, 9:04 GMT

    Would love to see him picked he deserves it.

  • Graem on September 11, 2012, 8:31 GMT

    The article states that Root has scored heavily this season, a dubious claim for someone who has only scored 700 odd runs in division 2 of the championship. England should stop picking players for the Test squad based on form in limited overs cricket, which rules out Carberry. The choice ought to be between Compton, Chopra and Nash, who have all scored heavily in Division 1 championship cricket. The fact that Nash is a more than useful spinner should mean that he gets the gig, not just as the specialist opener but as the spinning all-rounder ahead of Samit Patel, another player who seems to be in the Test selectors minds due to one day performances rather than his poor championship form.

  • Satish on September 11, 2012, 7:31 GMT

    Guess Compton and Carberry would be very good choices to tour India. England still have a couple of slots to be filled left over by Strauss and KP though Bairstow had offered resistance in one test against SA. Plus, the No.6 slot is also not yet fully settled. Only Cook, Trott , Bell and Prior are the settled folks. Rest all will be like thrown in to the tough conditions category only. One big advantage England have is their bowling. Even in UAE tour, bowling was excellent. Monty should play as No.1 spinner with Swann backing up him. Monty had already proved he is better spinner than Swann in the games they played together.

  • ian on September 11, 2012, 6:14 GMT

    If Carberry has the right character (and there is every reason to think that he has) I would have him on the plane to India like a shot. He brings maturity & aggression to the top of the order which England can certainly use for a tough tour and, as landl47 has already noted, he is a world class outfielder. Indeed, MC's presence in the deep would allow Trott (a very safe pair of hands) to field at slip where England has major issues. Above all, this is not Root's time. Taking him would do him no favours at this stage of his development, although long term, he will surely make the grade. but for now, it has to be Carberry. It really does, Mr Miller.

  • Randolph on September 11, 2012, 5:56 GMT

    At 31yo, the talent must be ultra thin if they are considering bringing another journeyman in.

  • No featured comments at the moment.