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September 30, 2008
Ottis Gibson, the England bowling coach, believes the axing of Steve Harmison during the tour of New Zealand in March was a crucial factor in Harmison's career-reviving form this summer.
Harmison was dropped after a poor performance during the Hamilton Test in March, along with Matthew Hoggard. Yet, after being told to "go back to Durham" and take wickets, Harmison responded in impressive style to pick up 60 Championship wickets in 12 games, and in doing so he helped the county to their first Championship title.
"He had a really tough time in New Zealand," Gibson told Sky Sports News. "He had a tough time in Sri Lanka before Christmas and then after Christmas he went to New Zealand and I imagine he was probably the lowest he ever has been in his career.
"Speaking and trying to keep him together as his coach on the tour was tough and quite a challenge and it ended up with him getting left out of the side.
"I think he will agree that it was the best thing for him at the time, it was the best thing for him, and certainly the best thing for England."
Harmison returned to the England fold for the fourth Test against South Africa at The Oval - Kevin Pietersen's first Test as England captain - and bowled with fire and pace. To complete his rejuvenation, he then reversed his one-day international retirement and played in each of the five matches against South Africa, though was quick to insist that he was not "coming back for financial reasons," ahead of the Stanford Super Series
Gibson said that although many questioned whether Harmison would ever return to the international fold, the bowler himself was adamant he would.
"What he has gained from that [being dropped] is he has gone away and he has thought about a few things and he's worked hard," said Gibson. "He said to me in New Zealand that he would be back, and he would be back better than ever.
"When he came back against South Africa this year he was fantastic and he's proved to himself that he has got what it takes to do well at international level again.
"He's been the number one bowler in the world before so it was just a case of him finding whatever it was inside himself to get that level of performance back again."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa