England news March 3, 2012

Tremlett bullish over fitness

Alan Gardner

Chris Tremlett is targeting a return to the England team in time for South Africa's visit later this year as he begins his rehabilitation following back surgery. Tremlett was forced out of England's tour of the UAE with a bulging disc in his spine - the same problem that limited his appearances last summer - and will miss the two-Test series in Sri Lanka as he works to regain fitness but he is confident that he can return to the highest level.

With Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn both pressing for inclusion as England's third seamer behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad, questions have been raised about Tremlett's ability, aged 30, to resume an international career that has been punctuated by injury problems. He could also face competition from another man to have recently battled injury in Graham Onions. However, Tremlett believes the setbacks he has dealt with have made him mentally stronger and hopes the operation can help prolong his England involvement for a few more years yet.

"I think long-term wise it's the right thing to do and hopefully with the fitness I've had over the winter it shouldn't take me too long to find my feet and recover quickly," Tremlett told ESPNcricinfo. "I've had injuries in the past, which in some regard mentally has actually helped me at this stage of my career because I know what it's like. I know I do bounce back strong and I do work very hard when I'm coming back from an injury.

"I'm not trying to get too down about it, I'm just trying to concentrate on training hard, getting back playing for Surrey, and not think too much about playing for England at the moment. That's the long-term goal, to get back as soon as I can but if you want it too much and push it too hard - and I come back too quickly - that's when the injury could reoccur."

For the moment, Tremlett is focused on preparing for Surrey's Division One campaign, for which he will be one of the senior members of the bowling attack. He is unlikely to play during the first few weeks of the season but aims to return to action in May and while the visit of West Indies may come too soon, proof of his form and fitness with Surrey could bring him back into England contention for the South Africa series, which begins in July.

"In my mind, around May time is when I'm trying to get back," Tremlett said. "Who knows whether I'll be able to get back in time for the West Indies series, I'm not really thinking about that too much. It's about just getting myself fit and thinking about long term, getting my body right and getting myself fit and strong for hopefully injury-free seasons to come.

"If I'm fit and strong and playing cricket regularly and bowling overs then I back myself to be as good as anyone."

With an advance party from the England squad set to depart for Sri Lanka on Monday, Tremlett also had encouraging words for his international team-mates. England were criticised for being underprepared for the Tests in the UAE and their 3-0 series defeat to Pakistan opened the door for South Africa to overtake them ahead of what is likely to be a clash of the top two this summer. But, his own involvement aside, Tremlett believes the squad is now better prepared for the challenges to come.

"People can say we were undercooked and we didn't prepare [for Pakistan] but myself, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson went away for two weeks to bowl," Tremlett said. "Some of the batsmen went away and practised spin, so it wasn't like we did nothing. It's just trying to find the balance of rest and preparing the right way.

"I think long-term the rest is probably beneficial. I think it showed in the one-day series with some of the guys who were involved in the Test series, and their performances have got better the more they've got into the groove and started playing again. From now on, there isn't much of a break, so I expect high performances from all those guys."

Chris Tremlett supports NatWest's Biggest Little Cricket Club campaign, a nationwide search to find the most loved NatWest CricketForce club. For more information and to vote for your club visit www.natwest.com/cricket before 23rd March 2012.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo