Napier reflects on rapid rise
Graham Napier is still trying to come to terms with what has been a whirlwind year as he has gone from a bit-part county player to an England international with a stop at the IPL on the way.
Napier was one of two uncapped players named in England's ICC World Twenty20 as he gained reward for his memorable displays in last year's Twenty20 Cup where he hit 152 against Sussex. That innings was enough to earn an IPL deal with Mumbai Indians and on the same day he earned his international call he was also told he would make his first appearance for Mumbai.
"I got a phone call from the selectors on Thursday evening to notify me I would be in the squad," Napier told cricketheroes.co.uk. "Around about the same time I was told there was a possibility that I would play for Mumbai Indians the next day, which made for a very nervous evening. I didn't sleep well at all that night."
"Everything has happened very quickly; the last year has whizzed by in terms of where I'm going with my cricket," he added. "This selection [for the England Twenty20 squad] has capped off all I've been working towards. But the really hard work begins now."
The following day Napier hit 15 and took 1 for 27 as Mumbai beat Kolkata Knight Riders by nine runs, but he said his experience in South Africa would have been invaluable even if he hadn't managed to play a game before returning to England.
"I got to train and play with some of the best cricketers in the world for a month. When you mix with people like Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Harbhajan Singh, JP Duminy and Lasith Malinga you can only learn new things and get better.
"I was quite nervous, which is not normal for me," he added about his Mumbai debut. "I felt like a young lad again, playing for Essex in 1997 in a new side at a top level. It did bring back a lot of memories of that time. It wasn't my most spectacular performance but I feel I made an important contribution and was satisfied with the win."
Twenty20 has rejuvenated Napier's career at a time when he was threatening to drift out of county cricket, unable to secure a place in either the four-day or one-day team at Chelmsford.
"When I first set my heart on playing for England there wasn't the option of a Twenty20 squad to think about," he said. "Since that format came around I felt it was a game that suited me and was one where I could do well in."
Napier will join his Essex team-mates Ravi Bopara and James Foster in the England squad and he is looking forward to having a few familiar faces around when he meets up with his international colleagues in June. "I've never been part of the England set-up before so it will be good to be able to call upon the experience of two county team-mates who can guide and help me through."