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After more than a year out of the England set up Luke Wright has been recalled for the World Twenty20, but first there are domestic matters to deal with as Sussex prepare for finals day at Cardiff
August 22, 2012
It has been a long journey for Luke Wright, taking in Sweden, Australia, South Africa and India. But now the he is back where he most wants to be - in an England squad that, once this summer's business is done and dusted, will head for Sri Lanka next month to defend their ICC World Twenty20 title.
Saturday's domestic Friends Life t20 finals day, in Cardiff, should allow Wright, the Sussex allrounder, to re-introduce himself to a wide audience, especially if he can help his county to overcome Yorkshire in the semi and then play a starring role against either Hampshire or Somerset in the evening showdown.
But, until earlier this week when England's selectors named him in a squad for the first time in 14 months Wright, 27, was in danger of becoming something of a forgotten man in this country. And that would have staggered many cricket followers on other continents who were wowed last winter by Wright's big-hitting and waspish pace bowling in the shortest form of the game.
Blond of hair, bright of eye and with a bubbly personality that immediately endeared him to England followers, Wright was a breath of fresh air when he burst onto the international stage in 2007 following some explosive, top of the order innings for Sussex. And while the youngster never quite managed to produce a real blockbuster of a performance, with either bat or ball, he made himself a regular in both ODI (46 appearances) and T20 (30 matches) sides.
Best of all, Wright was an ever-present member of the team that won the World T20, in the Caribbean, during May 2010 - contributing quick runs from limited opportunities in the middle order and grabbing the vital wicket of Cameron White in the final as England ended their long wait for a first global title.
That, though, was as good as it got for Wright. So far. He barely figured in the ODI World Cup of 2011 and his chances of pressing on at T20 level were hit in the middle of last summer when he to admit that a persistent knee injury would need surgery. And so, in August, Wright took the first of several journeys into the relative unknown - to Sweden, for an operation that worked a treat but meant no more cricket for four months.
With the like of Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales and Ben Stokes, being given a go, Wright was losing ground in the T20 stakes. But far from sitting home feeling sorry for himself, Wright - as soon as his rehab was done - leapt at the chance to travel to Australia, post Christmas, to play for Shane Warne's Melbourne Stars in the 2012 Australian Big Bash T20 competition. Good for the bank balance, no doubt. And even better for the run account.
"It was something I spoke about to Andy Flower and to the selectors," Wright told ESPNcricinfo. "The Big Bash in Australia was a great chance for me to get back playing straight after my knee injury. As there were only seven games I knew I wasn't going to be putting a huge strain on my body - and luckily the cricket went better than I could have ever hoped."
The stuff of dreams, really. Wright finished the competition with an eye-catching strike rate of 145 and an average of close to 40. But it was one innings in particular, against Hobart Hurricanes, that had Australians purring their appreciation and convinced the big-hitting Wright he was back on the right track.
His 44-ball hundred remains the quickest in Big Bash history and by the time he reached 117, from 60 balls, he had belted nine sixes and eight fours.
"You're never sure how people will take to you, especially an Englishman playing in Australia," said Wright. "But the whole competition was absolutely amazing: the intensity, the crowds, the standard - everything.
"I think taking part in the Big Bash was a big thing for my career. You always want to do well in Australia and it gave me a lot of confidence, especially coming so soon after my injury. It made me think, 'yes, I can do this again and I can push hard for England selection - and then do well for England if the chance to play comes around again'.
"On top of that, playing, and doing well, in the Bash opened up opportunities around the world for me. And while I wasn't playing for England last winter it was a great chance for me to keep putting myself in the shop window."
The next window of opportunity, soon after the Big Bash, presented itself in South Africa, where Wright played for the Impi franchise captained by former England Twenty20 skipper Paul Collingwood. Wright could hardly top his Melbourne Stars performance but he won plenty more fans, especially during a knock of 75 from 39 balls.
And so it continued. In came Pune Warriors with a two-year, £250,000, contract that saw Wright enter the IPL in March. He played only one game, having to cut short his stay initially because of a family bereavement and then through illness, but he is adamant the experience was hugely beneficial because it allowed him to train and talk T20 tactics with many of the world's top players.
And it is not only Wright who has gained from a few months' globe-trotting in 2012. After nine T20 innings for Sussex so far this summer, he has helped his county to the tune of 309 runs at a sky-high strike rate of 161.78. No wonder he and they have big hopes for Saturday in Cardiff.
"Finals day is massive," said Wright. "When I finish playing I won't look back on my stats - I'll look back at what I've won. I've been lucky in my career so far to have won some great things with Sussex and with England. And that is what it's all about - not your average but those medals."
Wright could be a winner this weekend. And he may be a winner with England again next month. But having been named on Tuesday in the 15-man squad to defend the T20 world title in Sri Lanka, his spirits could not be much higher right now.
"Getting back in the squad has been a huge goal for me ever since I got injured," said Wright. "I felt like I'd given myself every chance by doing well in Australia, South Africa and in the T20s for Sussex this summer and I would have been disappointed if I'd not made the 15."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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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