Onions determined to justify selectors' faith
Graham Onions is determined to prove England's selectors made the right call in including him in the Test and ODI squads for South Africa. Putting faith in his skill and willingness to adapt to the team requirements, Onions has backed himself to do well after blooming late at the international level.
"I am 27. Some people ask me whether I wish I was 20 again but I don't," Onions told the ECB website. "I have worked hard, had a lot of ups and downs, and now I am playing for England. I'm absolutely loving the journey so far, and long may it continue.
"I would like to think I will not change as a person, whether I go on to play 100 Tests or 10. I will definitely play each game as though it's my last and that is the best way to do it, because if you go out there thinking, 'I've signed a central contract, it doesn't really matter for the first half of the year', it doesn't work. I want to play for England and make a difference. For me to make a difference I need to be fit, strong and take wickets."
Onions had been on the England selectors' radar for a few seasons but didn't break through until earlier this year. Onions' first England call-up, back in 2006, came as part of the ODI squad for the Pakistan series but he didn't make the team. He made his Test debut in May this year against West Indies, at Lord's, and he took 5 for 38 in the first innings and played three Tests in the Ashes series. He missed out on the first Test against Australia before being recalled to play at Lord's where he took three wickets in the first innings, a match he recently termed as "the biggest game I've ever played in".
Onions credited the role of England Lions coach Kevin Shine as instrumental in his development and indomitable spirit. "Kevin just told me I was good enough," he said. "You hear that a lot but when you start doing well you actually start to believe it. I got a lot of confidence from that. Then I started working with [England bowling coach] Ottis Gibson and everything started to click. It has taken me a long time to realise that it is not that hard a game, made slightly complicated.
"Of course, as you get older you learn about yourself and in county cricket the best players are slightly older. They know their game inside out. I am nowhere near completely knowing my game but I feel as though I am getting there. I am mentally a lot stronger than I was and my body is stronger as well, which is a massive bonus."
Ahead of what will be a tough series, Onions believed a positive attitude would keep him in good stead. "I have always known I can get better and that I am picking up wickets, which is a great feeling," he said. "If you feel good about yourself, you have a smile on your face, then you are going to be pretty positive. I used to be a bit of a sulker and get down quite easily but now I reflect on the fact I love doing this job."