Australia in England 2013 September 9, 2013

Less gym, more swim helps Rankin


England think they might have found a new fast bowler in Boyd Rankin; now the task is to keep him on the field. On a day when another Australia quick, Mitchell Starc, looked likely to miss the return Ashes series because of back trouble, Rankin revealed the lengths that England have gone to in order to build up his fitness.

Starc and Rankin are at different stages of their careers. Starc, like several young Australian quicks before him, is still at the age when stress fractures of his back are the likeliest danger of a heavy international programme. Rankin's England career has begun at the relatively ripe age of 29, when back trouble is less common, but various ailments have necessitated that England put much thought into his individual training regime.

A succession of injuries over the past few years threatened to render his debate over whether he should make the switch from Ireland to England pretty meaningless, but after a foot injury early this season he has remained injury free and two strong performances in his first two England ODIs, against Ireland in Malahide and against Australia at Old Trafford, have raised the possibility that he will squeeze out the likes of Graham Onions and Chris Tremlett for a place in the Ashes Test party.

Before then, and a source of excitement, is a first England appearance on his home ground when the NatWest Series resumes at Edgbaston with Australia 1-0 up with three to play.

"I have been set back over the last couple of years having picked up a few injuries which has set me back from where I wanted to be," he said. "I have got over those injury worries now and it has enabled me to get a full season under my belt.

"That helps in terms of my fitness and my bowling form as well. It has all come together pretty well. I had that time off in the winter to get my body right. It has helped me to push on and hopefully I can keep going.

Watch England's budding young fast bowlers get put through their paces at the national performance centre at Loughborough and gym work is never far away. For Rankin, the individual programme drawn up in conjunction with England's strength and conditioning coach, Huw Bevan, is rather different. Rankin's gym bunny days have come and gone.

"It has been smarter in terms of the things that I do," he said. "It is probably the stuff that I have cut out that has helped me stay on the park. I was doing a lot of running, squatting and lunges and stuff like that - all on my feet. I have cut out a lot of that and doing more cycling and swimming and trying to take the force off my body.

"For a big lad I ought to be a quicker swimmer. Swimming is more for recovery and a bit of cardio-vascular as well: short, sharp, sprint stuff. I think in the past I have enjoyed going to the gym too much and that hasn't helped me."

At the start of the season, a foot injury struck him down, a stress response of the second metatarsal, potentially disruptive for longer periods. "But it feels good at the minute and I have pretty much played the full season," he said. "That is one of the things that the ECB have really helped with - getting the right bits for myself like a special insole and changing my boots."

It is not to denigrate Ireland to remark that the back-up Rankin gains from England's backroom staff is at a level he could never have imagined over the water. He does not regret for a moment his change of allegiance.

"It was a difficult decision," he said. "I had played quite a lot with Ireland over the last few years including in World Cups but for myself I always wanted to play for England and push myself and play Test cricket which is the main reason why I have done it.

"Everyone wants to play at this level and test themselves and I'm no different. I had got to the stage where I had to stop playing for Ireland and concentrate on playing for Warwickshire then force my way in to the England set up with good performances for them."

No sooner has he broken into England's one-day side, he finds himself one of the more experienced hands in an experimental and so far vulnerable attack. England's one-day coach, Ashley Giles, who made Rankin one of his first signings, from Derbyshire, when he took over as Warwickshire coach, will have observed his solidity and been grateful for that move six years ago.

"I have had quite a bit of experience with Ireland in terms of World Cup which helps whenever you come into this environment, so I suppose with myself and Steve Finn in terms of the new bowlers it puts a bit of responsibility on me," he said. "But I think I react well to that. When I was in Ireland I was the leader of their attack and I have done quite well when given the extra responsibility.

"I would hope to have the chance to push myself into Ashes contention. These ODIs are a great chance to show what I can do. I am just trying to put a good show on and hopefully that would put me in good stead for the winter. I haven't played in Australia before but I have heard really good things in terms of the pitches which should suit me."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • njr1330 on September 11, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Dear Vishnu 27.....Brendon Julian [born NZ]. He's a Moari, not aware of many Australian Maoris! ... Luke Ronchi [born NZ] ....Dav Whatmore [born SL] ...Moises Henriques [born Portugal (Madeira)] ...shall I go on?

  • Vishnu27 on September 11, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    BTW hhillbumper: don't even go there with Andrew Symonds. He came to this country as a three month old baby. He's an Aussie.

  • TheBigBoodha on September 11, 2013, 4:59 GMT

    Nothing wrong with gym work per se. But it needs to be moderated with body awareness. Yoga and stretching are really good complements to it. Most young guys don't know how to stretch. They force themselves against the muscle, using the same "no pain no gain" mentality they use when bench pressing or squatting. In fact you cannot stretch properly without relaxing and "letting go", so it is completely the reverse mindset to pushing weights. I still do weights and still play cricket in my 40s, and I have never had any major injury at all - and I am nearly as tall as Rankin. But I also do yoga and stretch and breathe a lot. I doubt James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and co understand these distinctions, nor many of their conditioning trainers. At least not fully. Swimming is good for big guys, because it is low impact.

  • Vishnu27 on September 11, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    @hhillbumper: name any foreign born player other than Fawad Ahmed that has played for Australia in the last 20 years. You can't, because there aren't any. Outside Kepler Wessels (who came to Australia as a young man starved of opportunity to play cricket in the apartheid era) playing the last of his 24 tests for Australia in 1986, this phenomena of naturalising international players is pretty much isolated to England. Time to climb down off that high horse.

  • shawnboomboomdeodat on September 11, 2013, 1:53 GMT

    England should invest more in Chris Tremlett more than Rankin. He has ashes in Austrilia experience, and i believe can be more lethal than anderson or Broad on his day when he is fit and firing at full throttle. Keep Rankin for ODI cricket..

  • Jazzbo on September 10, 2013, 14:17 GMT

    Rankin is a UK-born player (Derry/Londonderry) so arguably was playing for a 'foreign' country by playing for Ireland in the absence of a representative Northern Ireland team.

    I do not struggle with the concept that people emigrate from one country to another. However I struggle with notion that people emigrate entirely out of self interest to further their sporting career. I would be very disappointed if international cricket drifted towards a situation where the wealthiest countries attracted/nabbed the best players - seems to make a nonsense of having national teams. Hey, great idea, lets have international franchises instead -could make some vested interest an unimaginable amount of money!!?

  • hhillbumper on September 10, 2013, 13:32 GMT

    He chose to play for England and could have played for Ireland.He has qualified under the rules set by the ECB. Which are quite strict. Whereas Australia break theirs at a drop of a hat.

  • Yevghenny on September 10, 2013, 13:06 GMT

    zeyad, Rankin's international development is largely down to English cricket and the facilities, expertise the system provides

  • Usman_Jilani on September 10, 2013, 12:55 GMT

    Very interesting article. I think every athlete varies in terms of what suits them in the gym, but I have always been a fan of using Swiss balls for weights. Obviously using Swiss balls will improve a lot of your core and definitely give you great overall strength and conditioning. Definitely should be incorporated in your workouts as well as Swimming and Boxing!

  • dummy4fb on September 10, 2013, 11:34 GMT

    Slightly taller than Tremlett and Finn and broader than the latter he could be a threat on wickets with any hardness or life. As a Warwickshire supporter my worry is that we shall see less of him as with Bell, Trott and perhaps Woakes.

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