James Foster, the Essex wicketkeeper, heads into the 2010 domestic season in a familiar position. Generally regarded as the finest gloveman in England, he is once again in the international wilderness having missed out on a spot in the preliminary 30-man squad for the World Twenty20.
Foster was his country's keeper in the previous tournament, last year in England, when he excelled behind the stumps but couldn't make much of impact with the bat in his limited opportunities. He is now well down the pecking order again with Matt Prior and Craig Kieswetter heading the list, while Steven Davies is the third option in the 30-man party which will be trimmed on Tuesday.
However, Foster wasn't surprised that he was overlooked despite gaining acclaim for his work last summer - particularly an outstanding stumping to remove Yuvraj Singh at Lord's - and didn't expect to get a phone call this time. But he refuses to dwell on the disappointment, instead focusing on his role with Essex.
"I don't want to sound bitter, no matter what team you are in coaching staff and selectors make decisions and go with what they think is right," Foster told Cricinfo. "Unfortunately I wasn't in their plans and you have to accept that. It wasn't unsurprising to be honest because getting left out immediately after the last one and not being picked to play the Australians I was pretty aware that I wasn't going to be involved in the squad.
"I would love to have been involved, but it was pretty clear from outset that it wasn't going to be. It was a seven-year gap between my previous appearances and I've always worked hard to try and get involved again. It worked last summer, but it didn't last very long. I'll just keep plugging away and try and enjoy myself down at Essex and what will be, will be."
Although it seems unlikely that Foster will be called upon by the selectors in the near future, he at least feels Essex's promotion to Division One of the County Championship will help him push his claims and he believes the selectors take more notice of the teams in the top nine. "I think it does it matter and I'm sure the hierarchy would probably say otherwise, but I think it does make a difference," Foster said as he prepared to play for MCC against Durham in Abu Dhabi.
And he believes Essex have the squad to ensure they don't become a yo-yo team that heads straight back down to Division Two. "It's going to be a challenge not just for myself but also the team," he said. "We've been dying to get back up there and it went down to the wire last season. I think we've got an excellent chance of not just staying up but doing a bit better than that."
On paper the Essex bowling attack looks short of the strike power needed to force results in the top flight, but Foster is excited by the winter development of Mervyn Westfield and Maurice Chambers, two young quick bowlers who have been highly rated around the County Ground for a number of seasons. Their chances have been limited by injury, but Foster feels they are now ready to play key roles.
"Watching them in Barbados I was impressed with them both," he said. "Mervyn has been in Adelaide and Maurice has been to Brisbane and they've worked exceptionally hard. They've had a few injuries over the last few years, but hopefully they have put that behind them and a promising sign in Barbados was their second and third spells were still very quick. I don't want to add too much pressure on them, but we are excited by their talents."