"Use your frustration as motivation." That was the simple advice Trevor Bayliss emailed to Steven Finn last month. Finn had received what might be described as a mild ECB ticking off for talking about missing the World T20 despite being, in his opinion, fit to play and England's head coach was keen to channel it into a positive response.
Finn's publically expressed disappointment barely qualified as an outburst but he has had his share of frustrations over the last few years, starting with the problems surrounding his run-up and action and then more recently through injury. Having made a triumphant comeback during last summer's Ashes, he was forced out of the UAE series with a foot problem, missed the final Test in South Africa with a side strain and then suffered a calf strain leading up to the World T20.
Instead of being part of England's run to the final in Mumbai, Finn was left to do pre-season with Middlesex, where he offered his thoughts in a couple of press engagements. He has since spoken to the "medical people, selectors, the people who made the decision" to clear up the matter and Bayliss will hope to have a bowler primed to make an impact when England begin their three-Test Investec series against Sri Lanka next week.
"I shouldn't have been as vocal as I was when I came out and said those things. I've accepted what's happened, I've had conversations with the people that I mentioned in that interview and it's all fine," Finn said. "I missed the World Cup because I was injured, you're disappointed when you miss out on world tournaments … I was in the wrong, I've accepted that, I've spoken to the people who were affected by the interview and everything is fine now.
"Trevor actually sent me an email, he said 'use your frustration as motivation to take wickets in the Test matches this summer', which I think was the perfect response to it. You can channel your frustration into the wrong avenues and it can affect you. If it's used in the right manner it can be a positive thing as well."
Despite a call-up for the uncapped Jake Ball, Finn seems set to return to the third-seamer's berth that has been his on a timeshare basis only since his debut six years ago. While Ball is the joint-leading wicket-taker in Division One of the Championship, with 19 at 21.15, Finn's 12 wickets have cost more than 30 apiece and he admits that it has taken a while to get his "competitive head back on" after a three-month lay-off following the Johannesburg Test in January.
"I've bowled some good spells this summer, I've bowled some not-great spells this summer," he said. "I know it's in there."
Finn's eight-wicket haul at Edgbaston last summer, having not played a Test in more than two years, was one of the highlights of England regaining the Ashes, as well as vindication for his own hard work with Richard Johnson, Middlesex's bowling coach, and the ECB's Kevin Shine. Further sessions with Johnson beckon before Finn joins up with England next week, as well as work at Loughborough with Raph Brandon, the ECB's head of science and medicine and the man who played a vital role in helping to re-groove Finn's run-up.
"I've learned a lot about myself over the last couple of years, I know a lot more," Finn said. "I'm more in tune with my game and what I'm trying to do to get people out, and with my action, etcetera, so I feel in a good place."
Headingley has not been an auspicious venue for England in recent times - they have won only once in their last six Tests in Leeds - and it was there, against South Africa in 2012, that Finn's habit of kneeing the stumps in his delivery stride became a problem that was soon to escalate. It is a ground where it can be "hard to find your rhythm" due to the slope but also offers extra pace (bowling downhill) and bounce (uphill) once mastered.
Those are the qualities Finn has always sought to bring to England's attack, while the addition of an outswinger has not harmed his cause. Even if there have been a few too many four balls in his early season outings for Middlesex, he appeared relaxed about everything clicking into place again.
Ball's elevation keeps the pressure on - Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett will all hope to provide further competition over the course of seven Tests against Sri Lanka and Pakistan - but, as Bayliss's email hinted, Finn remains the preferred candidate to support England's senior new-ball pair. This will be the latest in a succession of big summers as he tries to nail down his place for good.
"I think I went a little bit of a way towards doing that in South Africa, but unless you are a Stuart Broad or James Anderson you are never settled in that line-up," Finn said. "It's a big summer for me to try and cement that spot in the team but it's something that I'm not putting too much pressure on myself. If you put pressure on yourself it won't come, if I relax, play with a smile on my face and let the ball do the talking, it will look after itself."
Investec is the title sponsor of Test match cricket in England. For more on Investec private banking, visit www.investec.co.uk/banking