Carberry eager for second chance
For any player, being selected for England Lions is a significant moment, marking them out as being in the selectors' thoughts for higher honours. However, Michael Carberry could be forgiven for feeling more satisfied than most by his appearance against West Indies this week after recovering from an illness that threatened his cricket career.
Shortly before he was due to depart for Australia with the Lions in November 2010, to be part of the squad shadowing the Ashes party, he was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism - blood clots on his lungs - which left him in hospital for two weeks and then on strong medication to thin the blood that left his career in doubt. But he returned midway through last season and finished the 2011 campaign with 793 runs from nine Championship matches, including a triple century against Yorkshire, which made him Hampshire's fourth-highest run-scorer, and is averaging 35 this summer.
Now he is potentially one injury away from being able to add to the single Test cap he won against Bangladesh in Chittagong in early 2010, where he replaced the resting Andrew Strauss on the Alastair Cook's first tour as captain. "It's nice to be back playing and to be back in the fold. It's been a long road," he said, conceding that his thoughts had turned to life after cricket. "As years tick over it's something I had in mind anyway, then with the illness it was something I had to look into. My club has been fantastic and my family, not to mention England as well. I've had a lot of support."
Future careers, though, can be put on hold again. It is by no means certain Carberry will ever increase his Test tally - at the age of 31, time is not really on his side - but to even be in the frame is a huge credit to his motivation and belief. "Where's there's a will there's a way," he said. "It's about a state of mind. There are always fears but when you cross the rope they have to go to the back of your mind."
Beyond Carberry's personal drive there is another factor in his favour. As an opening batsman by trade he fills one of the areas where England are not overrun with reserve options. When murmurings started in Sri Lanka about Strauss's future (a story that could develop again this season) one of the significant factors was who is actually around to replace him should the need arise. Jonathan Trott could be a short-term option if injury struck, but the selectors would be reluctant to move him from No. 3. With a summer filled with fast bowlers awaiting Strauss and Cook a broken digit or two is not out of the question although Carberry does not want to be typecast into one role.
"I'd like to think I can bat anywhere and have stressed that to the selectors," he said. "During my career I've batted in various different positions because I've played in some strong elevens and you've had to slot in where you can. I've batted in the middle order for the Lions and got a hundred and I feel I can bat anywhere."
Carberry's Test debut brought scores of 34 and 30 (and a superb run out as he displayed his brilliance in the field) before he was left out in Dhaka as England, on a rare occasion, opted for five bowlers. Strauss and Cook have not been separated since, so even without illness Carberry would most likely have been on the sidelines, but it was an experience he savoured.
"I didn't feel out of my depth, I played pretty well. I think everyone is allowed to be a little nervous, it was something I'd worked 13 years towards," he said. "I think I gave a reasonable account of myself without setting the world alight. I'd like another taste of it. I'd like to think I'm better than I was, that was nearly two years ago. I'm two years older and two years wiser."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo