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July 23, 2002
"The more I get to bowl, the more excited I get."
That's New Zealand left-arm fast-medium bowler Shayne O'Connor's summation of where he is at in his recovery from a debilitating knee injury.
The 28-year-old is working out regularly at Dunedin's Edgar Indoor Centre to get himself back into shape for what he hopes will be a season to make up for the last two injury-plagued years.
"It seems to be going well," he said of his knee.
"The last two sessions of bowling have been as encouraging as any that I've ever had."
While not off his full run yet, he is building towards it.
The injury, which was in his landing leg, was thought to have been a slight tear in his patella tendon which had become inflamed. However, surgery showed no tear.
It was more of an over-use injury and because there was so little blood flowing through the tendon it was necessary to cut the tendon and create an injury to stimulate blood flow to help the recovery.
"The good thing was that when they operated they found there was no dead tissue in my knee. Apparently that is what they have found when others have had knee problems," he said.
O'Connor's injury stemmed from damage done while in Africa at the end of 2000. It involved four and a half months of continuous cricket - the perfect recipe for over-use injuries, especially when all the other members of the attack had fallen over beforehand.
The time between then and now had proven very frustrating and there were times when he wondered whether he might get back.
But then he countered that with how much more he wanted to achieve in cricket.
"It did make me spare thoughts for guys like Geoff Allott, Dion Nash and Chris Cairns. You felt so sorry for them at times that you wondered why they didn't just give up. But now I understand where they came from.
"And giving up is not an option. You want to keep on."
Little setbacks also became much bigger than they actually were and O'Connor said the last period of his life had been the toughest he had experienced mentally.
Seeing the New Zealand side doing so well also got him revved up.
"I know what it was like having the feeling of winning a series away, especially after you have been grafting towards it.
"If you have been dropped by the selectors you can feel disappointed in yourself that you are not there but if it is due to injury it does make it more frustrating."
The fact that more players had taken the chance and come into consideration did not worry O'Connor as he contemplates his comeback.
A player like fast bowler Shane Bond was in the freakish category, like Daniel Vettori, and would have emerged no matter who was playing, although he admitted it was his injury that gave Bond his chance.
"But there is competition around for places and that is good. Now I'll just have to believe in myself and use my experience," he said.
In analysing his injury O'Connor didn't think it was in anyway attributable to the slight change in action that resulted in him gaining more speed.
At the time of the change he said it was more like the way he used to bowl at school anyway.
It is all down to his timing and that is what he is working towards regaining.
"I have some huge desires still. I want to work towards the Indian series here. So far in my career my best form has been away from home and I would love to have the chance to show people here who have supported me what I can achieve," he said.
Making the World Cup side is another goal and while it was a cliche, he said, it was a huge desire for all players to play in the World Cup.
"I've got work to do. But if I keep believing and use my head then who knows?"
In his career to date, O'Connor has played 19 Tests and taken 53 wickets at 32.52 while in his 38 One-Day Internationals he has 46 wickets at 30.34. In first-class play he has taken 234 wickets at 24.22.
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